Beware of COVID-19/Economic Impact Payment Scams

Friday, April 3, 2020 - 4:21pm

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will begin distributing COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments in the next few weeks. IRS – Criminal Investigation and the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of North Carolina continue to warn North Carolina taxpayers to be alert about possible scams relating to these payments as well as other malicious attempts to defraud people relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For most Americans, the Economic Impact Payment will be distributed automatically and result in a direct deposit into the bank account designated by their 2018 or 2019 federal tax return. For eligible recipients who have traditionally received tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their economic impact payment in this manner as well. The IRS will calculate and automatically send the Economic Impact Payment with no action required by most eligible recipients.

Please note the following tips to avoid becoming the victim of a scam:

  • The IRS will not contact you to ask you to pay a fee or confirm personal information prior to receiving the Economic Impact Payment.

  • If you receive a phone call, text, or email asking for payment or confirmation of personal or financial information, it is a scam. Do not give out your bank account, debit account or PayPal account information, even if the caller claims it is necessary to get your check or that by doing so you can receive your payment faster.

  • Additionlly, don’t click on links in texts or emails relating to Economic Impact Payments, as this could allow scammers to place tracing devices on your electronic devices and gain access to your personal information for later use.

  • Don't engage with scammers or thieves, simply hang up or delete texts/emails.

It will take a few weeks before the Treasury sends the Economic Impact Payments. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount, for instance $1,322.48, or a check that requires you to verify the check online or by calling a number, it is a fraud.

In addition to the warnings issued by IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is also actively formulating an investigative and legal response to fraud relating to COVID-19. United States Attorney’s Offices have developed task forces and appointed Coronavirus Fraud Coordinators to serve as the legal counsel for the federal judicial district on matters relating to the Coronavirus, direct the prosecution of Coronavirus-related crimes and to conduct outreach and awareness activities.

Any Wake Forest resident who believes they are a victim or have been targeted as a victim of a pandemic-related fraud is urged to report it by calling the Wake Forest Police Department at 919-554-6150. Victims are also urged to contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721 or email them at disaster@leo.gov.

The following are examples of COVID-19-related scams:

  • Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.

  • Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Malicious websites and apps that appear to share Coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.

  • Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.

For more information, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov/coronavirus.