ROANOKE, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations departments are urging taxpayers to be extra cautious when it comes to economic impact payments given due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As payments will likely begin in the coming weeks, an announcement was made on Sunday in an effort to prevent taxpayers that are experiencing financial hardships from becoming victims. Criminals may use this as an opportunity to take advantage by using the payments to commit fraudulent acts.

“During this time of crisis, scammers and thieves prey on those most vulnerable in our community in an attempt to personally benefit by stealing their money and personal identifying information,” Special Agent in Charge Jackson said in a release. “Please help us protect everyone in your community by telling family, friends and elderly neighbors to be on the lookout for these potential scams.”

Some tactics the scammers may use is trying to get you to sign over your check or trying to get you to “verify” your filing information. Then the personal information may be used to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme.

In the statement released, Special Agent in Charge Jackson offers tips on spotting scams along with helpful information on how the checks will work.

  • 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).
  • 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 personally 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 upfront to get a legitimate benefit. No fees. No charges. Anyone who asks for an up-front payment for a promised benefit is a scammer. 

“As we have seen over the past few weeks, the worst among us are finding new ways to exploit a global pandemic and prey upon the vulnerable,” said U.S. Attorney Cullen. “Americans need to be extremely vigilant in protecting their personal, financial, and tax information. Assume all unsolicited phone calls and emails regarding IRS or COVID-19 refunds and are potentially fraudulent. Do not respond and report them to law enforcement.”

Officials said that anyone receiving a coronavirus economic impact payment is at risk.

Checks are expected to be deposited via direct deposit into your bank account or a mailed paper check.

Learn how to report price gouging, other scams during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more on the DOJ Coronavirus Fraud Task Force that formed to protect Virginians from scammers.

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