The COVID-19 outbreak has ignited a frenzy of scamming attempts as about 90% of Americans are ordered to stay at home and are navigating how to work remotely and keep themselves and their loved ones safe. Our recent bulletin discussed attempts bad actors are using to try to steal personal information through email phishing attacks and ransomware, as well as efforts to ransack bank accounts through donations to fake charities and orders for goods that never arrive. Government officials warn that the scams will not stop there. To be sure, during any year these tactics are often seen during tax season when taxpayers are receiving their refund from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These scams can also be aimed towards tax professionals and payroll and human resources departments. This year, with the CARES Act authorizing $1,200 stimulus checks to many Americans, scammers will be searching for opportunities to cash in.
With that in mind, the United States Attorney’s Office and the IRS offered the following tips and information to identify when a bad actor is trying to steal your information and how these stimulus checks will be issued:
- 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 is 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, delete them. Do not click on the links.
- Bogus checks may also exist. If you receive a “check” in the mail now, it is not legitimate. Treasury checks have not yet been mailed. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a “check” requiring you to verify the “check” online or by calling a phone number, it is a fraud.
- The IRS will not ask you to send money before it will issue your economic impact payment. If someone asks you to send money to get your payment, do not send money.
As we have written before, these scams are not limited to using the government as part of the bait. Half the battle is just being aware! It is important that individuals and companies, alike, stay diligent in safeguarding personal information to avoid falling victim to cyber attacks and scams. Taft’s Privacy and Data Security team stands ready and will continue to provide updates via the COVID-19 Toolkit to keep you apprised of new developments.