HUNTSVILLE, Ala — There will always be people looking to take advantage of others during hard times, and the coronavirus pandemic is no exception.
A poll by NPR found nearly half of households in the U.S. faced lost jobs or pay cuts during the pandemic. Scammers are taking advantage of this, sending phony claims to people struggling the most.
Scammers are hiding behind their screens to "catch" your information and guess what they’re using as the bait? Stimulus checks.
We met with James Dorsey, Special Agent in Charge with the IRS. He tells our reporter, “It may be enticing to see that you can get a bigger refund, that you can get Economic Impact Payments sooner or you can get more than the average person. Listen, those things just can’t be.”
Dorsey says those are just a few of the fake promises scammers are using to reel you in and steal your information. He adds, “Fake sites for donations… Emails stating that you can get on the front end of a vaccine and you’ll make a lot of money. Those things are not legitimate.”
Nine out of 10 coronavirus domains are scams. Dorsey says, “They’re using codewords ‘coronavirus’, ‘COVID’, ‘stimulus payments’. They’re trying to elicit information from taxpayers and individual is general to get your information so they can use that information later to somehow proliferate their scheme and get your money.”
There are some tips to tell if you’re talking to someone pretending to be the IRS. There are some things the IRS just won’t do, like send you a text or email about tax issues or stimulus checks. Dorsey says, “We won’t call you in regards to the Economic Impact Payment.. We won’t ask you for credit card information, social security, or anything like that.”
Scammers are facing harsher punishments during the pandemic.
Agent Dorsey explains, “You will see increased sentencing. And there will be nothing that will stop us from going after those individuals…”
If you do suspect you’re being scammed, act quickly.
Dorsey has a message for scam victims. He says, “The first thing you do if you do fall victim, is file a police report. The second thing, you’ll find on IRS.gov. It’s a form 14039, which is an identity theft affidavit. Those two items will help us work a little faster with victim assistance to get you back together in some form or fashion. It’s going to take some time, if someone steals your information, to correct that. But, this will definitely assist in that effort.”
- Report phishing emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Coronavirus-related scams should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or submitted through the NCDF Web Complaint Form.
- Taxpayers can also 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.