Originally posted on Forbes.com:
The IRS wants you to know that retirees may be targets of scams that relate to economic impact payments (EIPs). EIPs were authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
The U.S. Treasury is in the process of paying EIPs to U.S. citizens and U.S. resident aliens. Payments are being made by direct deposit into the recipient’s bank account, checks, and even debit cards.
That can cause confusion. And, if someone calls offering to help, that can seem like a lifeline to seniors in particular. But that “help” may not be from official sources.
There has been a wave of “new and evolving phishing schemes,” relating to EIPs according to an IRS release. “Seniors should be especially careful during this period.”
Here are examples of what scammers might try to do:
- Ask you to sign over your EIP to them.
- Tell you that they need personal or banking information in order for you to receive your EIP.
- Offer to expedite your EIP by working on your behalf.
- Mail a bogus check to you, opening the door for you to “correct” your personal information online.
Caution When Someone Else Initiates
As I see it, it’s best to avoid contact with anyone who initiates a conversation or a request for information about the EIP, whether it be in person or by phone, email, text, mail or social media account.
Hang up if someone calls by phone. Don’t interact if contacted in any other way.
There is good reason for my going this far: If you are contacted, it’s not official.
The IRS will not be reaching out to you.
IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig made that clear. “The IRS isn't going to call you asking to verify or provide your financial information so you can get an economic impact payment or your refund faster. That also applies to surprise emails that appear to be coming from the IRS. Remember, don't open them or click on attachments or links.”
What To Do If You Are Contacted
If you are contacted, don’t engage with the potential scammer. Instead, tell the IRS about it.
“Those who receive unsolicited emails, text messages 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Two additional IRS resources are Report Phishing and Online Scams and “IRS issues warning about Coronavirus-related scams; watch out for schemes tied to economic impact payments.”
As IRS Criminal Investigation Chief, Don Fort said, “history has shown that criminals take every opportunity to perpetrate a fraud on unsuspecting victims, especially when a group of people is vulnerable or in a state of need. While you are waiting to hear about your economic impact payment, criminals are working hard to trick you into getting their hands on it. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division is working hard to find these scammers and shut them down, but in the meantime, we ask people to remain vigilant.”
How do those EIP payments reach recipients? That depends.
Eligible retirees and recipients of Social Security retirement, survivor, or disability benefits (SSDI), Railroad Retirement benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and VA Compensation and Pension (C&P), who don’t file tax returns receive the EIP automatically. For more information, read Social Security, Railroad Retirement and Department of Veteran Affairs benefit recipients.
What about other non-filers? They need to register with the Non-Filer tool on IRS.gov.
Those who filed tax returns in 2019 or 2018 receive payments automatically, either by check or if the IRS has a record of the taxpayer’s banking information, by electronic deposit.
For more information on the EIP, this is an excellent IRS resource: Economic Impact Payment Information Center.
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