The global COVID-19 pandemic has not only killed hundreds of thousands of individuals and sickened countless others, it has also spawned a host of scams, with criminals hoping to capitalize on people’s fears and the uncertain economic times.
The Internal Revenue Service is cautioning taxpayers to be alert to fraud attempts and other financial scams associated with the coronavirus.
A number of scammers have zeroed in on stimulus checks, according to the IRS. The scam asks people to share their personal information and a “processing fee,” to get a bigger check and/or get their check faster. Neither of these efforts is true and no shortcuts to stimulus money exist, said the IRS.
“Criminals seize on every opportunity to exploit bad situations, and this pandemic is no exception,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, in a statement. “The IRS,” he said, “is fully focused on protecting Americans while delivering Economic Impact Payments (stimulus checks) in record time.”
Phishing schemes are also being used through texts, emails and U.S. mail. The IRS said, these scams use keywords such as “Corona Virus,” “COVID-19,” and “Stimulus.” The scheme asks people for personal information, including banking information, using the keywords to attract reader’s attention.
Tax professionals and financial advisors report fielding many questions about a second stimulus check. Rumors to that effect are unfounded, experts agree. There is no second stimulus check in the works, they insist.
The IRS points out that criminals are also attempting to sell fake at-home COVID-19 test kits, fake cures and vaccines, among other schemes.
Don Fort, Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation, said thieves prey on the most vulnerable. “But, because we have seen many of these criminals and schemes before. We know how to find them, and we know how to expose them.”
Another way that criminals try to lure people into a scam is by offering people opportunities to “invest” early in companies working on vaccines and medication to treat the virus, they entice people to send money and/or personal financial information, the IRS said. Be wary, officials said, of any company that contacts you directly, asking you to invest.
To report scams, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or through the department’s online complaint form.
Please note, authorities warn, if you’re uncertain, assume it’s likely a scam.
Please contact if you have questions or concerns about a call, text, or email you have received pertaining to stimulus checks or investment opportunities. We are here to help.