Top IRS scams include ‘aggressive and evolving’ stimulus check grabs
In 2020 thieves are going after more than just tax refunds
Just days after this year’s extended tax deadline, the IRS is warning Americans to be on the lookout for a dozen scams that have been particularly prevalent in 2020.
Not only do individuals have to worry about thieves trying to steal their identities and refunds, but the government has also been cautioning people to be wary of new efforts to steal economic impact payments, which are being issued by the IRS to boost household income during the coronavirus pandemic.
Stimulus payment scams are “aggressive and evolving,” the agency said.
"Tax scams tend to rise during tax season or during times of crisis, and scam artists are using pandemic to try stealing money and information from honest taxpayers," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement.
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Here’s an overview of this year’s “Dirty Dozen” scams:
There has been a tremendous uptick in fake emails, letters, text and links, often using the words “coronavirus” and “stimulus," sent as a means to obtain people’s personal information.
The IRS will never contact taxpayers over text or email about a tax bill, refund or stimulus check.
Unsolicited contact is being made by fake charity groups that are seeking to trick taxpayers into “donating.”
Fake charities often use names that are similar to well-known, legitimate groups.
Phone calls where criminals threaten individuals about a bogus tax bill are prevalent year-round, the IRS says.
The IRS will never demand immediate payment, threaten, ask for financial information over the phone or call about a refund or stimulus payment.
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These schemes typically occur as a criminal convinces a victim that he or she is dealing with someone close to him or her over messaging, text or email. Sometimes the criminal sends a malware link that will give him or her access to the data on the victim’s phone.
During most tax years, criminals try to file a fraudulent return on behalf of a taxpayer to steal their refund.
But this year, that scheme evolved to include economic impact payments as well.
Elderly individuals are more susceptible to fraud than other demographics and can be taken advantage of by friends and family members.
Scams targeting non-English speakers
Criminals often use robocalls to threaten people who have limited English-speaking proficiency as a means to obtain personal information that can be used to carry out fraud.
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Unscrupulous return preparers
Some taxpayers have been cheated out of money by dishonest tax return preparers who commit fraud and harm victims.
Offer in compromise mills
These “mills” charge taxpayers a high fee on the promise of helping them reach an agreement to settle a debt with the IRS – which victim is probably unlikely to qualify for.
Individual taxpayers can use the IRS’ free online Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool to see if they qualify.
Fake payment and repayment demands
These schemes occur when a criminal steals a person’s personal information and files a return on their behalf. Once the refund check hits the victim’s bank account, the criminal calls and impersonates an IRS employee to say the money needs to be returned (often in the form of a gift card).
Payroll and HR scams
These involve phishing emails designed to steal tax information from businesses.
These attacks involve invasive software that is often inadvertently downloaded by the victim, which locks critical data with encryption. Criminals then demand ransom.