Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it appears that tax scams did not take a breather. With this in mind, the Internal Revenue Service has announced its “Dirty Dozen” list for tax scams for the year 2021.
“We provide this list to alert taxpayers about common scams that fraudsters use against their victims. At the IRS, we are dedicated to stopping these criminals, but it’s up to all of us to remain vigilant to protect ourselves and our families,” he added.
Take note that this year’s “Dirty Dozen” was separated into four distinct categories: pandemic-related scams like Economic Impact Payment theft, personal information cons including phishing, scams focusing on unsuspecting victims like fake charities and senior/immigrant fraud, and schemes that persuade taxpayers into unscrupulous actions.
“The IRS urges all taxpayers to be on guard, especially during the pandemic, not only for themselves but also for other people in their lives,” the agency adds.
A continuing threat over the past year is from identity thieves who try to steal stimulus checks. The IRS has said that most eligible Americans will receive their payments automatically from the agency—but did note to watch out for some “tell-tale signs of a scam,” such as “any text messages, random incoming phone calls or emails inquiring about bank account information or requesting recipients to click a link or verify data should be considered suspicious and deleted without opening.”
The IRS is adamant that it “won’t initiate contact by phone, email, text or social media asking for Social Security numbers or other personal or financial information related to Economic Impact Payments.”
According to the law office of Stechschulte Nell, there are severe penalties awaiting those who try to deposit stimulus checks that aren’t theirs.
“If you have tried to deposit a dead or fraudulent COVID-19 stimulus check you may be charged with a federal crime such as bank fraud, mail fraud, or wire fraud. All of these are serious crimes, with long sentences of imprisonment or large fines,” the law office writes.
“There are serious consequences for committing check fraud. This can include a fine of up to $1 million, or you can be imprisoned for up to thirty years (or both). If you have been charged with depositing a dead or fraudulent COVID-19 stimulus check, this may be one of the charges you are faced with,” it adds.
Many taxpayers lost their jobs and received unemployment benefits from their respective states because of the ongoing pandemic. The IRS contended that this has created the opportunity for thieves to steal that cash.
“Scammers also took advantage of the pandemic by filing fraudulent claims for unemployment compensation using stolen personal information of individuals who had not filed claims,” the agency says.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-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.