The IRS is seeing a significant increase in scams as it relates to criminals trying to gather information needed for the stimulus payments.
What are they seeing?
As the media has reported, the goal with the stimulus is to issue as many of those payments via direct deposit and use tax information from 2019 or 2018. They are seeing phone calls, text messages, and e-mails phishing for this information not only to individual citizens, but a large uptick in preparers being targeted.
The messaging includes variations of language such as “in order to receive your/your client’s stimulus payment via direct deposit, we need you to confirm the banking information,” and they are gathering that information via telephone or directing victims to click on a link that takes them to a website where they enter their banking information.
It’s bad that individual citizens are being targeted, but when preparers are targeted, they have the potential to disclose the personal information of many individual taxpayers all at one time.
Other things you may want to be on the lookout for:
The stimulus payments along with extension due dates, and just the general change in behaviors right now are creating some great opportunities for criminals. A few things to be on the lookout for include:
• Increase in phishing schemes from criminals looking to gather information. These may come through the call centers pretending to be the taxpayer, phishing emails designed to look like they are coming from agency executives to gather large sets of taxpayer or employee data etc.
• Could be an increase to phishing schemes in other state agencies who hold data that would be valuable to assist a criminal in gathering additional personal information that can help them file returns and/or get stimulus payments.
• The extension period may provide an opportunity for criminals to take advantage of identity theft because there’s an expanded time frame before the real taxpayer files. It’s going to be a balance between encouraging people to file by the due date if they can and watching for the criminals who will use that window to their advantage to file fraudulent returns.
• Increase in fraudulent zero balance returns if it’s determined people who don’t normally file need to file a return in order to get the stimulus payment.
• Possibility of criminals filing returns with a low balance due so that they have a filing record that can be used to allow them access to the stimulus funds. A small balance due is worth it for a larger stimulus payment.
These are just a few examples of how criminals may test the system. Whatever they do this year can also set the stage for more refund fraud in future years if it’s not detected.
Please help spread the word that the IRS will not call, text, or email you to verify your banking information for stimulus payments.
The FTC has a great resource on their website as it relates to the stimulus payment we are sharing for you as a possible resource. Click here to see the FTC information on checks from the government.
A special thank you to Jennifer Hudson at the Division of Revenue for alerting us to this new development.
And again we thank the DSCPA for sharing it with us and allowing us to share it with you. Please know that we remain vigilant at Santora CPA Group regarding the security of our client’s information! If you have any questions, please contact our office.