Catch Of The Week: IRS Economic Impact Scams

By BECKY RUTHERFORD
Los Alamos

Got an email from the “IRS” about your child stimulus or other Economic Impact payments? Don’t open it!  This week the IRS released a warning about scams relating to Economic Impact payments. The IRS received a record number of reports about Economic Impact scams in June and July.

What’s the latest to watch out for?

–Text messages claiming the taxpayer is eligible for a “stimulus payment” and must click a link to claim it.

–Phishing emails claiming the IRS has calculated a taxpayer’s “fiscal activity” and they are qualified for a stimulus payment.

Good news – the IRS will never email or text you about any of the Economic Impact payments. Chances are you got a letter in the mail about it, and that’s it. If you requested a change, you might have gotten more letters. The IRS will never email or text about any official business; they like to do things the old-fashioned way – snail mail for the win. 

The IRS will also never threaten you with jail or other punishment, and they do not accept payment via cryptocurrency or gift cards. Which is a darn shame because I’ve got a stack of Red Lobster gift cards I was seriously hoping to use to pay my taxes, but oh well.

Keep in mind ways to spot a phishing email:

  • Email is unexpected
  • Email has a sense of urgency and asks you to act now, or something bad will happen
  • Email has typos, capitalization, grammatical errors, and other red flags.
  • Links may be shortened, so like irs080890[.]bit[.]ly using a link shortening service like bitly.
  • If an email or text claims it is from the IRS, it is a scam! They never communicate via text or email.

What should you do if you get an IRS-themed phishing email or have other concerns?

From the IRS website:

Taxpayers who receive unsolicited emails or social media attempts to gather the information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS should forward the message to phishing@irs.gov. Taxpayers are encouraged not to engage potential scammers online or on the phone.

Taxpayers can report fraud or theft of their Economic Impact Payments to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Reports can be made online at TIPS.TIGTA.GOV.

If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft as a result of a scam, visit the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft webpage to know what steps to take.

To learn more about COVID-19 scams and other financial schemes, visit IRS.gov. Official IRS information about COVID-19 and Economic Impact Payments can be found on the Coronavirus Tax Relief page, which is updated frequently.

More information can be found here: https://www.irs.gov/compliance/criminal-investigation/irs-criminal-investigation-sees-surge-in-scams-tied-to-economic-impact-payments

Stay aware of the latest phishing scams, and don’t click that link or reply to a phishing email!

Editor’s note: Becky Rutherford works in information technology at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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