Beware of COVID-19 taxpayer payment scams, experts warn

Beware of COVID-19 taxpayer payment scams, experts warn

St. LOUIS – Taxpayers waiting for their COVID-19 economic impact payments need to be wary of scam artists trying to steal personal information and money.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI), St. Louis Field Office, issued a warning Wednesday.

Jeff Jensen, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, and Karl Stiften of the IRS’s Criminal Investigation unit for the St. Louis office, issued the warning Wednesday.

Automatic COVID-19 economic impact payments started being deposited into taxpayers’ accounts on April 11.

“Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them or use this as an opportunity to get you to ‘verify’ your filing information in order to receive your money, and then use your personal information at a later date to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme,” the experts warned.

Stiften offered tips to understand how the payments will be issued and how to spot a scam.

  • The IRS will deposit your check directly into the account you previously provided on your tax return, or send you a paper check.
  • The IRS will never call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do not give out your bank account or any other account information – even if someone claims it’s necessary to get your check. It’s a scam.
  • If you receive a call, don’t engage with scammers or thieves, even if you want to tell them that you know it’s a scam, or you think that you can beat them. Just hang up.
  • If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, don’t click on them. Delete them.
  • If you get a check with a note that says you have to verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s bogus.

The officials stated: “Do not become a victim by allowing criminals to exploit your emotions. Stay strong; tell your family, friends and neighbors about these scams.”

Jensen added, “We need the public to partner with us by following the simple IRS guidance for protecting privacy and guarding against fraud.”

Stiften reminded, “Remember, go directly and solely to IRS.gov for official information.”

For more information, visit the IRS website at irs.gov/coronavirus.  Report potential scams to the IRS on the website at irs.gov/privacydisclosure/report-phishing

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