Tax-Related Cyber Scams

Top 3 Tax-Related Cyber Scams During the Pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic has forced major changes to the way in which we work and carry out day-to-day activities. Cyber criminals love a crisis, especially when social distancing. Limitations on in-person meetings have created heavier-than-usual reliance on virtual and electronic communication. Panic-inducing events are lucrative opportunities for the unscrupulous to capitalize on fear.

Here are 3 tax-related social engineering attacks exploiting public unease:

1. PHISHING SCHEMES

The IRS and its Criminal Investigation Division have seen a wave of new and evolving phishing schemes against taxpayers. Do not respond if you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the IRS or the Treasury Department and offering COVID-19 related grants or stimulus payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee, a charge or a gift card.

Also, some recent phony emails conceal malware designed to steal personal information. Be especially wary of text messages, websites and social media attempts that request money or personal information.

2. STIMULUS PAYMENTS

The biggest target for scams so far is economic impact payments (EIP), also referred to as advance rebates or stimulus payments. Regardless of EIP eligibility, do not provide direct deposit or banking information to others, whether by phone or email. In most cases, the IRS will deposit EIPs into the direct deposit account previously provided on tax returns. Those who have previously filed, but not provided direct deposit information to the IRS, can provide their banking information to a secure online portal at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment.

Other helpful links on the newly designed website are here: www.irs.gov.  Any other website or link is very likely to be fraudulent.

3. SENIOR SCAMS

Seniors should be especially careful during this period. The IRS reminds retirees that no one from the agency will be reaching out to them by phone, email, mail or in person asking for any kind of information. The IRS is sending EIP payments automatically to retirees – no additional action or information is needed on their part to receive the rebate.

As with any financial questions, consult your financial, tax, and legal advisors to help you evaluate potential risks. Feel free to reach out to Oleg Ikhelson, J.D., CPA, Director of Tax Services at PagnatoKarp with any questions at 703-468-2730 or oikhelson@pagnatokarp.com.

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