IRS warns against COVID-19 fraud

Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 5:00 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A warning from the Internal Revenue Service for Alabamians about a new wave of COVID-19 scams. It comes as the second round of stimulus checks are delivered and filing season soon begins.

Special Agent James E. Dorsey said so many people are experiencing heart ache, job loss, and tough times. Dorsey said all that together is a recipe for disaster for scammers to swoop in and steal your cash and identity.

“This is the first pandemic in 100 years,” said Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey. “We haven’t had a situation where we had a pandemic, the economy is down, and so much loss of life and jobs all at the same time. It is as perfect storm, if you will.”

Agents with the IRS are preparing for things to get even worse as tax filing season approaches.

“People are looking for ways to make quick hits, score large sums of money by whatever means.”

Last year, the IRS investigated almost two thousand identity scams, sentencing 500 people across the country. 2020 was a big year for COVID-19 scams, investigators believe these types of scams will carry over to 2021.

Some of the most common COVID-19 scams included a text message asking to disclose bank information, social media messaging to include words such as “stimulus” and “coronavirus” and bogus opportunities to invest in companies developing the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We become numb to the little things we normally do every day. We bank on our phones. We send information over our phone. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think ‘oh we can give someone who we think we trust our information.’ Again, if we are in a pressure situation, we need money quickly and people are promising it we kind of let our guard down. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Criminals are constantly changing their tactics, but the IRS never sends texts or emails and the department doesn’t call people with threats of jail or lawsuits nor does it demand tax payments on gift cards.

“You should ask yourself ‘have they been doing this before in my neighborhood? Have they promised me this before at my return prepare?’ All those questions because it only takes a moment and you release that information and it is out there and they just use it in all the wrong ways.”

If you do become a victim to fraud, you need to fill out a local police report and then go here and fill out an identity theft affidavit.

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