Every year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) comes out with its list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams. This year, several scams feature a connection to the coronavirus pandemic or tax relief.

Scam artists use the public interest in the pandemic to steal money or information from taxpayers. The $1,200 Economic Impact Payments and other stimulus money available earlier this year also provided new sources for criminals to target. The great economic need from the pandemic’s disruption to the economy has also allowed fake charities to collect from generous individuals.

Phishing

Everyone must be vigilant to avoid potential fake emails or websites that are seeking to steal personal information. Earlier this year, scammers targeted customers with an Amazon Prime Account (1). An email was sent about an issue renewing the Prime account membership. The attached instructions would encourage you to provide personal information to try to fix the issue, but it was actually a method to steal information.

Just as there are many Amazon Prime customers, there are many people interested in collecting their Economic Impact Payments or taking advantage of other stimulus funds. With Congress considering additional stimulus, there may be renewed interest over the coming months and more chances for scammers to try to trick you.

The IRS never begins contact by email about a tax bill, refund, or Economic Impact Payment. The scammers are sending emails to many people using keywords such as “coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” and “stimulus.” If you receive an email that appears to be from the IRS, do not follow any links or provide personal information.

See our previous article about Phishing and Online Scam Tax-Time FAQs with more information about what to do if you suspect an email is phishing: https://monetagroup.com/phishing-and-online-scam-tax-time-faq/

Threatening Impersonator Phone Calls

Criminals also use phone calls that threaten arrest, deportation, or license revocation to get the victim to pay a fake tax bill to the scammer. The IRS never demands immediate payment over the phone. The IRS is also not calling taxpayers to collect personal or bank account information in order for them to receive their Economic Impact Payment.

For more information about Economic Impact Payments, see the IRS’ page at: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center

Fake Charities

The COVID-19 pandemic is another opportunity for criminals to create fake charities to steal donations. It may be prudent to be wary of unsolicited contact by email, telephone, text, or social media asking for donations. Criminals can create fake websites that use names similar to legitimate charities in order to trick people. It is best to use other sources besides the initial request that can confirm you are giving to the intended charity. The IRS has a search tool that can be used here: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search

Other “Dirty Dozen” Scams

The other nine scams featured for 2020 are:

  • Social Media Scams
  • EIP or Refund Theft
  • Senior Fraud
  • Scams targeting non-English speakers
  • Unscrupulous Return Preparers
  • Offer in Compromise Mills
  • Fake Payments with Repayment Demands
  • Payroll and HR Scams
  • Ransomware

See the complete 2020 IRS News Release here:

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-unveils-dirty-dozen-list-of-tax-scams-for-2020-americans-urged-to-be-vigilant-to-these-threats-during-the-pandemic-and-its-aftermath

Link to past years’ scams:

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/dirty-dozen

Another IRS News Release about COVID-19 fraud:

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-warns-against-covid-19-fraud-other-financial-schemes

(1) Source: https://www.wandtv.com/news/police-warn-of-amazon-phishing-scam/article_00156af6-9a21-11ea-ade3-6be077270851.html

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