New Orleans – The U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Louisiana and the Internal Revenue Service –Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) warned Louisiana taxpayers to be alert about possible scams relating to COVID-19 economic impact payments.
U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser and Demetrius Hardeman, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CI Atlanta Field Office, jointly made the announcement today to prevent taxpayers in need from being victimized by criminals using the recently approved payments as an opportunity to commit a crime.
“During a crisis, criminals do not scale back their efforts to take advantage of unsuspecting citizens; rather, criminals relish the opportunity. The upcoming COVID-19 economic impact payments offers a perfect scenario for scammers to conduct schemes designed to separate personal information — such as a Social Security number or bank account information — from members of our community. Scammers will prey on our vulnerabilities. We are strongly encouraging everyone to be wary of potential fraudulent schemes, both before and after the payments arrive, and contact law enforcement to report illicit any activity,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Peter G. Strasser.
“This is a time when ruthless criminals might seek to take advantage of this opportunity to prey upon unsuspecting individuals in an effort to line their own pockets by stealing your money or your personal information,” said Demetrius Hardeman, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CI Atlanta Field Office
COVID-19 economic impact payments will be on their way to taxpayers in a matter of weeks.
For most Americans, the payment will come in the form of a direct deposit into your bank account. For the unbanked, elderly or other groups who have traditionally received tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their economic impact payment in the same manner as they have received their income tax refund.
Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them or use this as an opportunity to get you to “verify” your filing information as a ploy to steal your identity, and then use your personal information at a later date to file fraudulent tax returns.
Because of this, everyone receiving money from the government as a result of the COVID-19 economic impact payment is potentially at risk. United States Attorney Peter G. Strasser and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Demetrius Hardeman offer the following information to help taxpayers understand how the COVID-19 related economic impact payments will be issued, as well as offer some helpful tips to arm taxpayers against possible scams and fraud:
· 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’s necessary to get your check. It’s a scam.
· If you receive a call, don’t engage with callers/potential scammers or thieves. 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. Don’t click on any links in those emails or texts.
· Reports are also circulating about bogus checks. If you receive a “check” in the mail now, it’s a fraud – it will take the Treasury a few weeks to get the payment process underway. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fraud.
In these uncertain and trying times, we need to stand together united with purpose. Don’t become a victim by allowing criminals to exploit the current need for economic assistance. Be vigilant about protecting your tax dollars! Stay strong, America; and tell your family, friends and neighbors about these scams.
Report fraud related to the COVID-19 crisis to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or email tips to the United States Attorney’s Office at USAOHN.COVID19@usdoj.gov.
For more information, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov/coronavirus.