The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warned American taxpayers on Monday that scammers are still using the COVID-19 pandemic stimulus funds to steal people’s money and identity, and called on taxpayers to stay vigilant to such criminal activities.
In a bulletin, the IRS said that criminals are using stimulus payments, or economic impact payments (EIPs), as well as unemployment information and fake job offers to gain access to people’s personal information and then using this to file tax returns, among other things.
“Scammers continue using the pandemic as a device to scare or confuse potential victims into handing over their hard-earned money or personal information,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a bulletin. “I urge everyone to be leery of suspicious calls, texts, and emails promising benefits that don’t exist.”
The IRS said that American taxpayers should treat any type of communication—including text messages or phone calls that ask for bank account information or request that the individual click a link or verify data—as suspicious and delete it without opening it.
That applies not just to stimulus payments, but to tax refunds and other common issues, the government service said while reminding taxpayers that the IRS does not contact anyone by phone, email, text, or social media asking for social security numbers or other personal or financial information related to stimulus payments.
“Caution and awareness are our best lines of defense against these criminals,” Rettig added. “Everyone should verify information on a trusted government website, such as IRS.gov.”
The warning comes after a watchdog report in March found that the IRS had granted more than 1 million payments to potentially ineligible people, including those who aren’t U.S. residents, totaling more than $1.8 billion. It also paid roughly $64 million in stimulus checks to deceased individuals, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (pdf).
In that same month, the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) said it had uncovered $1.8 billion in fraudulent activity related to COVID stimulus funds.
Elsewhere on Monday, the IRS urged Americans to be vigilant to unemployment fraud scams in which criminals are using stolen information to file for jobless benefits in the victim’s name after stealing their information.
“Taxpayers should also be on the lookout for a Form 1099-G reporting unemployment compensation they didn’t receive. For people in this situation, the IRS urges them to contact their appropriate state agency for a corrected form,” the IRS said.
The IRS has issued all stimulus payments and most eligible Americans have already received the checks, according to the IRS. Americans who have missed a stimulus payment or got less than the full amount may be eligible to claim a recovery rebate credit on their 2020 or 2021 federal tax return.
Officials also warned that fake charities are also an issue and scams using them tend to pose more of a threat during times of a national crisis, like the pandemic. They warned donators to do their research and make sure that the charity is registered and official before giving them money.
From The Epoch Times