IRS Criminal Investigation sees surge in scams tied to Economic Impact Payments

DALLAS — The Internal Revenue Service received a record number of complaints about Economic Impact Payment scams in June and July 2021 not seen in more than a decade.

“The alarming amount of complaints about these scammers imitating the IRS in an attempt to gain taxpayers personal information is outrageous and we need to get the word out about these criminals to help stop them in their tracks. Taxpayers should be aware of these text, email, and social media phishing scams and continue to be vigilant against any unsolicited requests for information from these imitators,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher J. Altemus Jr., Dallas Field Office.

“Unfortunately, scammers are all too eager to capitalize on the pandemic at the expense of American taxpayers. We’re grateful to Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations for their relentless investigation of these schemes, and are committed to prosecuting any wrongdoing they uncover,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah. “In the meantime, we urge everyone to be wary of unsolicited messages purporting to come from the IRS.”

Phishing scams attempt to mirror legitimate IRS communications with the goal of convincing unsuspecting taxpayers to enter personal information or submit a payment. This information is then exploited by scammers.

Recent scam reports include:

• Text messages stating that a taxpayer is eligible for a “stimulus payment” and they must click on a link to complete the necessary information to claim it.

• Phishing emails claiming the IRS has calculated a taxpayer’s “fiscal activity” and they are eligible for an Economic Impact payment in a specific amount.

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 threaten individuals with jail or lawsuits, nor does it demand tax payments on gift cards or via cryptocurrency.

Taxpayers should be on the lookout for grammatical, capitalization and spelling errors in emails and texts, which serve as fraud indicators. Taxpayers should also exercise caution when clicking shortened URLs, which can lead to fraudulent web pages.

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 phishing@irs.gov. Taxpayers are encouraged not to engage potential scammers online or on the phone.

Taxpayers can 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.

If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft as a result of a scam, visit the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft to know what steps to take.

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

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