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Stimulus Check Scams During COVID-19

BEWARE: The IRS Is Cracking Down on COVID-19 Fraudsters

As the pandemic continues to derail the US economy and livelihoods of millions of Americans, the federal government is continuing to send economic stimulus payments to eligible individuals and families.

However, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning people to beware of fraud involving COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the IRS will continue sending economic impact payments of $1,200, but fraudsters are reportedly tricking people into disclosing their back account details under the impression that they will receive the $1,200 in return.

According to the IRS, these scams are committed through text messages, reading: “You have received a direct deposit of $1,200 from COVID-19 TREAS FUND. Further action is required to accept this payment into your account. Continue here to accept this payment …" The URL included in these text messages directs victims to a fake phishing web address.

If they click on it, victims will land on a fraudulent website that impersonates the IRS.gov Get My Payment website and be promoted to input their financial account information. As such, the IRS is avidly investigating these scam text messages and encouraging people to report incidents with the following information included in their emails to phishing@irs.gov:

  • Screenshot of the text message
  • Date/Time/Time zone that they received the text message
  • The number that appeared on their Caller ID
  • The number that received the text message

With this in mind, you may face serious legal consequences if convicted of fraud. As a federal crime, fraud by wire, radio, or television is punishable by steep fines and/or up to 20 years in prison. If the crime occurs in relation to, or involves any benefit authorized, transported, transmitted, transferred, disbursed, or paid in connection with, a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency (i.e. the COVID-19 pandemic), you may be sentenced to 30 years in prison/or pay up to $1,000,000 in fines.

Common Types of Scams the IRS Is Investigating

To give you a better understanding of the precise acts and conduct related to COVID-19 scams, we advise you to read the common scams currently being investigated by the IRS below:

IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams

  • These telephone scams involve aggressive and sophisticated calls targeting taxpayers. Scammers use fake names and IRS identification badge numbers, and typically later the caller ID to give the impression that the actual IRS is calling.
  • Victims are informed that they owe money that must be paid immediately through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If victims refuse to cooperate, they may experience threats of arrest, deportation, or suspension of a business or driver’s license.
  • Scammers may reference a stimulus check amount and ask victims to pay a fake debt with their checks.

Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes

  • Scam emails involve asking taxpayers about a range of topics to obtain information related to refunds, filing statutes, personal information, transcripts and PIN information. These phishing schemes trick taxpayers into thinking they are real emails from the IR, tax software companies or other entities in the tax industry.
    • These scams may occur through texts as well
  • Links included in email and text scams may direct victims to official-looking websites, which prompt victims to input their SSN and other personal details. These fake sites often carry malware, infecting people’s computers and allowing criminals to access files or track keystrokes.

Update Your IRS e-File

  • Other email phishing scams include “Update your IRS-e-file” in the subject line, and, upon clicking the bogus links, victims are taken to an official-looking IRS website and directed to update their IRS e-file immediately

Our Columbia White Collar Crime Attorney Is on Your Side

If you have been accused of a white collar crime, such as fraud, we strongly advise you to protect your legal rights and freedom right away. Federal agencies such as the IRS have an enormous collection of resources and prosecution strategies to use against fraud suspects, and can be relentless in their attempts to put defendants behind bars. That’s why you need a Columbia white collar crime lawyer who will go the distance to defend your case and champion your best interests at every step of the way.

Please don’t hesitate to contact Masella Law Firm, P.A. online or at (803) 938-4952 to begin your case!