COVID relief measures target of online scams

While Covid has changed just about everything, scam artists remain up to their old tricks. Some of their tactics may have changed, but at their core, con artists attempt to take advantage of uncertainty and fear surrounding the pandemic to separate their victims from their money.

The IRS released its list of Dirty Dozen tax scams of 2020, and unsurprisingly, schemes related to Covid tax relief, including Economic Impact Payments, top the list.

The complete list can be found here, but below is a snapshot of some of the most common scams:

  1. Gone phishing: The IRS has reported an increase in the number of phishing schemes using emails, texts and links using keywords such as “coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” and “stimulus.”
  1. Keep it real: When disaster strikes, there is always a large number of people who immediately want to help others – and scammers know this. Unsolicited calls, texts and emails to donate to an organization with a name similar to a legitimate charity are hallmarks of this scam.
  1. Who is this? IRS impersonation scams are on the rise. These occur when someone claiming to be from the IRS calls either to collect a “delinquent payment” or to get information to send an unexpected refund or economic impact payment. Note: The IRS never demands immediate payment nor asks for financial information over the phone.
  1. Social cues: Con artists troll social media posts to gather personal information about potential victims. Make sure whatever is shared on social media is shared only with trusted people you know.
  1. Basic theft: The one-time Economic Impact Payments through the CARES Act provided a new avenue this year for criminals to use stolen information to file false tax returns or supply other bogus information to the IRS to divert refunds or EIPs to the wrong address.
  1. Respect your elders: Older Americans can be more susceptible to scams, particularly as they become more comfortable using social media and have had limited personal interaction with others due to quarantines.
  1. Fear and confusion: Con artists also are taking more advantage of Americans with limited English proficiency. Scammers will use threats of jail time or deportation to extort personal information from their victims, claiming they owe money to the IRS.
  1. From the C-Suite: Ransomware is a growing cybercrime. Criminals get access to a victim’s computer, network or server by sending a link – often seeming to come from a company’s executive or accountant and directed to a member of the staff – that downloads invasive software. The financial data and information is then held ransom by the thieves until the victim pays a sum of money.

Rules of thumb:

  • The IRS will not contact a person by phone to demand payment or advise of a refund.
  • The IRS will not contact a person by phone and threaten criminal action.
  • Do not respond to unsolicited requests for money. Reach out personally to a charity you are interested in supporting.
  • If you receive an email asking for sensitive personal or financial data, it’s best to verify by first calling the sender to make sure it is a legitimate request.

Contact us immediately if you receive communication – either written or verbal – from the IRS.

Our IT Department is available to help you with your technology needs and provide multiple technology solutions for your business. Call 770-785-7855 to talk to IT Director Mat Payne. Mat can also be reached at mrp@antarescpas.com