The IRS has seen a rise in the number of scams and fraud related to US citizens' coronavirus stimulus money. The pandemic has kept people in their homes for months, with some in the government trying to ease burdens by providing money. Unwittingly, the government is also opening the door for criminals and con-artists to take advantage.
"We urge people to take extra care during this period," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig told people according to AARP. "The IRS isn't going to call you asking to verify or provide your financial information so you can get an economic-impact payment or your refund faster. That also applies to surprise emails that appear to be coming from the IRS. Remember, don't open them or click on attachments or links."
According to AARP, the IRS has seen several new methods pop up in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, specifically aimed at people with stimulus checks coming. The methods are mostly the same as we've seen in past years, including taking advantage of the elderly. But with government funding, some criminals are trying harder to defraud people.
"While you are waiting to hear about your economic-impact payment, criminals are working hard to trick you into getting their hands on it," Don Fort, IRS criminal division chief, said. "The IRS criminal investigation division is working hard to find these scammers and shut them down, but in the meantime, we ask people to remain vigilant."
Ways that the IRS confirms criminals are attempting to gain access to the government funds include phishing emails, offers to get payments to people faster, fake checks that require a phone call to cash and any attempt to obtain banking or personal info over the phone or email to speed up payment. None of these are proper ways the IRS will contact you and the government even uses the term "economic-impact payment" over "stimulus payment" or "stimulus check."
If you have filed taxes in 2018 or 2019, the IRS will use that information to direct deposit the funds into your bank account on file. Social Security recipients and railroad retirees are also in this camp, according to AARP. And even if you didn't file, you are still eligible. This is especially true for those who are past retirement age.
IRS officials have many methods to make the process as easy as possible for American citizens. They urge people to call the official number or visit a local office in the IRS system. The agency also stresses that they will never call or email, adding that you should never give out banking information to strangers. This is especially so for those who offer to put the information in the IRS database.