Millions of cash-strapped Americans would love to get their hands on another round or two of stimulus checks.
But there are now fraudsters trying to take advantage of such sentiments by sending out emails or text messages that appear to be from the Internal Revenue Service about government-issued direct payments or unemployment claims.
“With filing season underway, this is a prime period for identity thieves to hit people with realistic-looking emails and texts about their tax returns and refunds,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement.
Don’t Fall Into Trap
According to Alicia Adamczyk at CNBC, it’s best to ignore such communications as they are likely scams.
“The IRS will not initiate contact with you over email or text, unless the text message is related to IRS Secure Access, a two-factor authentication process,” she writes. “A text about a bills or refunds is someone impersonating the agency. The IRS says it also will never send taxpayers messages on social media [sic].”
“These scams are perpetuated to steal your identity information, money from you directly or, at this time of year, your tax refund. The texts often include links to fake IRS websites or tools, and reference COVID-19 or stimulus payments,” she continues.
For those taxpayers who do receive such unfortunate communication, the IRS urges them to take a screenshot of the text message and email it to [email protected].
“Phone scams are also common, but it is unlikely that the IRS will call you directly. If someone saying they are an IRS agent calls and demands you pay a bill over the phone, hang up. The agency will not solicit payment that way,” Adamczyk notes.
Furthermore, the tax agency will never leave “pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages.”
Mailed IRS Notices
Taxpayers should also be aware of one mailed IRS notice that is legitimate but is confusing many individuals. According to CNBC, “some taxpayers who sent last year’s return and paid their balance have received a CP80 notice saying they may lose their credit for payment if they don’t file their 2020 tax return.”
The IRS has confirmed that a large portion of these automated notices were sent out due to a massive backlog of unprocessed tax returns from last year. The notice might tell the taxpayer to refile their return, but the agency’s website now states not to resubmit it.
“We have already decided to suspend notices in situations where we have credited taxpayers for payments but have no record of the tax return being filed,” the IRS said in a statement. “In many situations, the tax return may be part of our current paper tax inventory and simply hasn’t been processed.”
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.