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IRS sees bump in scam complaints

by WILL LANGHORNE
The Western News | September 24, 2021 7:00 AM

The Internal Revenue Service has seen a record number of complaints related to Economic Impact Payment scams in recent months.

In June and July, the volume of complaints regarding the coronavirus relief funds reached levels the federal agency hadn’t seen in more than a decade, according to a press release from the IRS Denver Field Office.

“Criminals are relentless in trying to victimize the public during this pandemic and are after your economic impact payments, which are intended to help those in need,” said Andy Tsui, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent for the state of Montana.

Recent phishing scams related to Economic Impact Payments include text messages that claim a taxpayer must click and link to fill out information or submit a payment to receive a “stimulus payment.” Some taxpayers have received emails claiming the IRS has determined they qualify for an Economic Impact Payment based on their “fiscal activity.”

The best defense against the scams is understanding how the IRS interacts with taxpayers. The agency doesn’t request financial information via texts, emails, phone calls or social media messages. IRS officials do not threaten people with jail or lawsuits nor do they demand payment on gift cards or via cryptocurrency.

Grammatical, capitalization and spelling mistakes in texts or emails can tip taxpayers off to fraudulent messages. Shortened URLs can be a sign the link leads to a fraudulent website.

Taxpayers who receive unsolicited messages from a sender that claims to be the IRS or an organization closely related to the IRS should send the message to phishing@irs.gov. The IRS recommends taxpayers don’t engage with possible scammers on the phone or online.

Taxpayers should report fraud or the theft of their impact payments to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at TIPS.TIGTA.GOV. Suspected victims of identity theft as the result of a scam can visit the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft page (www.irs.gov/newsroom/taxpayer-guide-to-identity-theft) to figure out what steps to take.