The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) are cautioning taxpayers of the opportunity for criminals to steal economic impact payments through various means of deception.
U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph and James E. Dorsey, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CI Atlanta Field Office, jointly made the announcement Monday April 13, 2020, in an effort to prevent taxpayers from falling victim to criminals using the recently approved economic impact payments as an opportunity to commit a crime.
“Fraudsters will exploit any opportunity – including a global pandemic - to con their victims,” said U.S. Attorney Joseph. “I urge citizens to be vigilant to protect themselves and to tell their family, friends, and neighbors about these scams. My office is working with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute those who use the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to steal from the American taxpayer.”
“This is a time when ruthless criminals might seek to take advantage of this opportunity to prey upon unsuspecting individuals in an effort to line their own pockets by stealing your money or your personal information,” said James E. Dorsey, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CI Atlanta Field Office.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law on March 27, 2020. Under the CARES Act, millions of Americans will start to receive COVID-19 economic impact payments from the IRS in the upcoming weeks. For most Americans, this one-time direct payment will be delivered primarily through direct deposit into their bank account. Those who did not identify a bank account on their tax returns or who have traditionally received tax refunds via paper check will receive their economic impact payment in that manner.
In a release, the Western District of Louisiana says that criminals have already begun deceiving taxpayers through unsolicited phone calls, emails, text messages or other communications purporting to be from the IRS in attempts to steal these payments. Scammers are also trying to get taxpayers to sign their checks over to them through various means.
United States Attorney Joseph and Special Agent in Charge Dorsey offer the following information to help taxpayers understand how the COVID-19 related economic impact payments will be issued, as well as offer some helpful tips to taxpayers about possible scams and fraud:
- The IRS will deposit your check into the direct deposit account you previously provided on your tax return (or, in the alternative, send you a paper check).
- The IRS will NOT CALL and ask you to verify your payment details. Do NOT give out your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information - even if someone claims it's necessary to get your check. IT'S A SCAM!
- If you receive a call, DO NOT 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 you can get your money faster by sending personal or banking information or clicking on links, DELETE them. Do NOT click on any links in those emails or texts.
- Scammers may also emphasize the words “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment.” The official term is economic impact payment.
- There are no fees to receive payment. The government is not asking citizens to pay anything up front to receive an economic impact payment. If someone contacts you asking for any form of payment in order to receive an economic payment, please contact law enforcement.
- If you receive unexpected emails, text messages, or social media messages with attachments or website links, DELETE them. Do NOT click on, download, or open any of the above, as you may be opening malware on your electronic device that can help criminals steal your information.
- Reports are also circulating about bogus checks being distributed. If you receive a “check” in the mail now, it’s a fraud. It will take the Department of Treasury a few weeks to mail the legitimate checks to taxpayers. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), a check that requires you to verify the check online or by calling a number, its’ a fraud.
To report a COVID-19 fraud scheme or suspicious activity, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or send an email to email@example.com.
The Western District of Louisiana Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, AUSA Seth Reeg, can be reached at: (318) 676-3600.
For more information, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov/coronavirus.
To find out more about Department of Justice resources and information, please visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus.