Beware of scammers posing as feds handing out cash

Always be cautious when someone emails or calls you requesting personal or financial information.

By Dan McDermott
WFC Report

Virginia’s Coronavirus Task Force and the Internal Revenue Service are urging citizens to be especially alert to scammers hoping to take advantage of the whirlwind of payments and assistance being sent out during the current pandemic.

“Assume all unsolicited phone calls and emails regarding IRS or COVID-19 refunds are potentially fraudulent. Do not respond and report them to law enforcement,” said United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen.

“In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 economic impact payments will be on their way. For most Americans, this will be a direct deposit into your bank account. For the unbanked individuals who have traditionally received tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their economic impact payment through the mail,” said a press release from the Va. State Police.

“Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them or get you to “verify” your filing information in order to steal your money. Your personal information could then be used to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme. Because of this, everyone receiving a COVID-19 economic impact payment is at risk.”

IRS Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson offers the following information and tips to spot a scam and understand how the COVID-19 related economic impact payments will be issued:

  • The IRS will deposit your payment into the direct deposit account you previously provided on your tax return (or, in the alternative, send you a paper check).
  • The IRS will NOT call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do NOT give your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information to anyone – even if someone claims it’s necessary to get your check. It’s a scam.
  • If you receive a call, do NOT engage with scammers, even if you want to tell them that you know it’s a scam. Just hang up.
  • If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal identifying information or clicking on links, delete these texts and emails. Do NOT click on any links in those texts or emails.
  • Reports are swirling about bogus checks. If you receive a “check” in the mail now, it’s a scam. It will take the Treasury a few more weeks to mail out the COVID-19 economic impact payments. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires you to verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a scam.
  • Remember, the federal government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get a legitimate benefit. No fees. No charges. Anyone who asks for an up-front payment for a promised benefit is a scammer.

The Virginia Coronavirus Task Force can be reached at this website.

As U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger points out, there is much truth in the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

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