With cybercrime on the rise in the wake of COVID-19, people should be on high alert against tax fraud and other related financial scams. In the last few months alone, the IRS Criminal Investigation division has seen a significant increase in crimes related to Economic Impact Payments (EIP) and other tax-related schemes looking to take advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers.
Don’t Let Your Guard Down
Scams related to COVID-19 are not limited to stealing EIPs from taxpayers. We have been seeing some creative schemes related to selling fake at-home test kits, offers to sell fake cures, vaccines, pills and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19. Other scams are aimed at trying to sell large quantities of medical supplies through the creation of fake online stores, social media accounts and email addresses where criminals fail to deliver promised supplies after receiving funds.
Some criminals are even offering opportunities to invest early in companies working on a vaccine for the disease promising that the "company" will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often presented as "research reports" or make predictions of a specific "target price" related to low-priced stocks issued by small companies with limited publicly available information.
There has also been a tremendous increase in phishing scams utilizing emails, letters, texts and website links aimed at tricking unsuspecting taxpayers into giving up their personal and financial information. These phishing schemes are using keywords such as "Coronavirus," "COVID-19," or "Stimulus Payments" and are being blasted to large numbers of people in an effort to get account numbers and passwords.
How to Report a Crime
If you receive an email, letter or phone call that looks suspicious, we recommend calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or opening a case through their 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, such as COVID-19.
Taxpayers can also report phishing attempts directly to the IRS. Those who’ve 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, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), should forward it to email@example.com.