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IRS warns Americans about coronavirus-related scams

The IRS's Criminal Investigation Division said it has seen a wave of new and evolving phishing schemes against taxpayers.

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service on Thursday urged taxpayers to be on the lookout for a surge of calls and email phishing attempts about the coronavirus pandemic. 

Some of these scams can lead to tax-related fraud or identity theft. The IRS said everyone should be on the lookout for not only emails but text messages, websites and social media posts or messages that request money or personal information. The IRS's Criminal Investigation Division said it has seen a wave of new and evolving phishing schemes against taxpayers.

"We urge people to take extra care during this period. 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," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "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."

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In most cases, the IRS will deposit economic impact payments into the direct deposit account taxpayers previously provided on tax returns. 

Any taxpayers who have previously filed, but did not provide direct deposit information to the IRS, will be able to provide their banking information online to a newly designed secure portal on the IRS's website in mid-April. (Note: The portal has not been released yet.)

However, if the IRS does not have a taxpayer’s direct deposit information, a check will be mailed to the address on file. Taxpayers should not provide their direct deposit or other banking information for others to input on their behalf into the secure portal.

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The IRS is also reminding retirees who don’t normally have a requirement to file a tax return that no action on their part is needed to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. 

Seniors should be especially careful during this period. The IRS reminds retirees, including recipients of Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099, that no one from the agency will be reaching out to them by phone, email, mail or in-person asking for any kind of information to complete their economic impact payment.

The IRS plans on sending the $1,200 payments automatically to retirees.

The IRS said scammers may:

  • Emphasize the words “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment.” The official term is economic impact payment.
  • Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
  • Ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
  • Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer’s behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.
  • Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.

Report a coronavirus-related phishing attempt:

Anyone who has received unsolicited emails, text messages or social media requests should gather as much information as they can and report the claim to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.