Stimulus payments have aided millions of Americans over the last year after the heavy financial burden brought on by the pandemic. But while the promise of more money from the government is enticing to anyone, experts have long cautioned that the chances of a fourth stimulus payment nationwide are slim to none. That doesn’t mean con artists aren’t trying to capitalize on people’s hopes that more money is on the way, however. The IRS is now warning taxpayers that scammers have been on the move with promises of additional payments, trying to reach people through their email. Read on to find out how to know if you’re being targeted.
On Aug. 30, the IRS released an announcement, warning U.S. adults not to open emails about upcoming stimulus checks. According to the agency, there have been recent reports about stimulus-related scams directed through email, in which con artists try to pose as the IRS and convince taxpayers to enter personal information or submit a payment.
“Recent scam reports include phishing emails claiming the IRS has calculated a taxpayer’s ‘fiscal activity’ and they are eligible for an Economic Impact payment in a specific amount,” the agency explains. Per the IRS, scammers may also try to contact you via text, sending a message claiming you’re eligible for a “stimulus payment” and must click on a link to enter information in order to claim it.
“Even though taxpayers have received multiple rounds of Economic Impact Payments, we saw phishing scams surge this summer,” Jim Lee, the chief of IRS Criminal Investigation, said in a statement. “The number of reported scam attempts reached levels we haven’t seen in more than a decade. More than ever, it is important for taxpayers to continue to protect their personal information and not fall victim to these scams.”
According to the IRS, the best line of defense in avoiding falling victim to this scam is knowing how it will actually communicate with taxpayers. “The IRS does not send unsolicited texts or emails,” the agency warns. You should also be wary of any grammatical, capitalization, and spelling errors in emails and texts, as this will let you know that you are likely dealing with a fraud and not the real government agency. If you receive an IRS-related email you believe to be a scam, do not reply, open any attachments, or click on any links, the agency advises.
The IRS asks that you report any messages that seem suspicious. If you “receive unsolicited emails or social media attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS,” the agency says you should forward the message to email@example.com. The email should be forwarded as is with full email headers. Once you do that, you should delete the original version from your inbox. “Taxpayers are encouraged not to engage potential scammers online or on the phone,” the IRS warns.