SoCal Taypayers Warned of New Round of COVID-19 Scams

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Internal Revenue Service today warned Southland taxpayers about a new wave of COVID-19-related scams as the agency delivers the second round of Economic Impact Payments.

In the last several months, the IRS-Criminal Investigation Division has seen a variety of EIP scams and other financial schemes designed to steal money and personal information from taxpayers. Criminals are taking advantage of the second round of payments -- as well as the approaching filing season -- to trick honest taxpayers out of their hard-earned money.

“Fraudsters beware! The IRS-CI Los Angeles field office is on high-alert regarding the recent Economic Impact Payment scams designed to steal money from American taxpayers who are in need of the ongoing COVD-19 economic relief efforts,'' said Ryan Korner, special agent in charge with the IRS-CI L.A. field office.

“We will work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to identify the perpetrators of these schemes and they will be brought to justice,'' he said. “We ask all California taxpayers to remain vigilant and spread the word to avoid becoming the victim of these criminal schemes designed to steal your money and personal information.''

Some common COVID-19 scams include:

-- text messages asking taxpayers to disclose bank account information under the guise of receiving the $1,200 EIP;

-- phishing schemes using email, letters and social media messages with key words such as “coronavirus,'' “COVID-19'' and “stimulus'' in varying ways. These communications are blasted to large numbers of people and aim to access personally identifying information and financial account information (including account numbers and passwords);

-- the organized and unofficial sale of fake at-home COVID-19 test kits (as well as offers to sell fake cures, vaccines, pills and professional medical advice regarding unproven COVID-19 treatments);

-- fake donation requests for individuals, groups and areas heavily affected by the disease; and

-- bogus opportunities to “invest'' in companies developing COVID-19 vaccines while promising that the “company'' will dramatically increase in value as a result.

Although criminals are constantly changing their tactics, taxpayers can help protect themselves by acting as the first line of defense. The best way to avoid falling victim to a scam is knowing how the IRS communicates with taxpayers. The IRS does not send unsolicited texts or emails. The IRS does not call people with threats of jail or lawsuits, nor does it demand tax payments on gift cards.

COVID-19 scams should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or submitted through the NCDF Web Complaint Form. The NCDF is a national coordinating agency within the Department of Justice's criminal division dedicated to improving the detection, prevention, investigation and prosecution of criminal conduct related to natural and man-made disasters and other emergencies.

Taxpayers can also report fraud or theft of their EIP to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Reports can be made online at TIPS.TIGTA.GOV.

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

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

Photo: Getty Images

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