However, it appears that criminals have also ramped up their game to get their hands on the government-issued funds.
The Internal Revenue Service recently stated that it has received a record number of complaints about Economic Impact Payment scams this summer at levels not seen in more than a decade.
Types of Scams
The 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” and “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,” according to the tax agency.
“Even though taxpayers have received multiple rounds of Economic Impact Payments, we saw phishing scams surge this summer,” Jim Lee, chief of the criminal investigation division, said in a news release.
“The number of reported scam attempts reached levels we haven’t seen in more than a decade. More than ever, it is important for taxpayers to continue to protect their personal information and not fall victim to these scams,” he added.
The IRS also noted that one of the best ways to avoid falling victim to such scams is to understand how the agency communicates with taxpayers.
“The IRS does not send unsolicited texts or emails,” it says. “The IRS does not threaten individuals with jail or lawsuits, nor does it demand tax payments on gift cards or via cryptocurrency.”
Any individual who does receive unsolicited communication that appears to be from the IRS or a similar agency should forward the message to firstname.lastname@example.org. People can also report fraud or theft of their stimulus payments online at TIPS.TIGTA.GOV.
Other Payments Targeted
The recently rolled out expanded child tax credit payments haven’t been immune from scams as well, with criminals utilizing similar strategies from their stimulus check schemes.
“We continue to see scam artists use the pandemic to steal money and information from honest taxpayers in a time of crisis,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement.
The IRS’ recently released “Dirty Dozen” list for tax scams was separated into four distinct groups: pandemic-related scams like stimulus check theft, personal information cons including phishing, scams that target unsuspecting victims like fake charities and senior/immigrant fraud, and schemes that persuade taxpayers into unscrupulous actions.
“The IRS urges all taxpayers to be on guard, especially during the pandemic, not only for themselves, but also for other people in their lives,” the agency warned.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.