Scams Regarding Stimulus Payments to Be Aware of

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The IRS issued a warning in the summer of 2021 about a fresh wave of stimulus scams, this one coinciding with the completion of the American Rescue Plan’s third batch of payouts. Fraudsters were sending out messages and emails informing their victims that they were entitled to a “stimulus payment,” and that all they had to do to get it was click a link with a suspicious URL and provide personal information.

In actuality, it was nothing out of the ordinary.

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Since the CARES Act issued the first wave of payments in 2020, some form of that ruse has been going on. However, the American Rescue Plan Act was the largest spending bill in history, making it appealing to thieves, and as the pot became larger, so did the number of con artists looking to steal every penny.

Now that it’s time to pay your taxes for 2021, it’s more crucial than ever to stay watchful as cybercriminals launch a new wave of attacks that combine old-school IRS scams with new-school stimulus fraud.

The Last Two Years Have Been a Gold Mine for Scammers

Over the last two years, there has been an enormous movement of wealth from the government to the people — and innumerable con artists have positioned themselves in the midst to siphon off as much money as possible.

According to CNBC, by the end of 2021, scammers had taken more than a half-billion dollars — $586 million to be exact — since the start of the pandemic. The average victim suffered a loss of $392.

While epidemic scams have been on the rise, the advent of tax season has given fresh life to the criminal forces hiding in the internet shadows, with intentions to take your name, money, and benefits – but they start by stealing your trust.

These are the kind of scams to avoid.

Scams involving text messages are very common.

The IRS updated its warnings about the most common scams taxpayers are expected to encounter during tax season in early February, and the most popular of them all comes by text message. Criminals are currently sending texts to smartphones that contain the words COVID-19, “stimulus payments,” or both. A false link that pretends to be an IRS URL is frequently included in the texts.

Taxpayers are also being conned by old-fashioned phone scams.

Incoming calls with spoof IRS phone numbers on the victim’s caller ID have also been reported, according to the IRS. The caller claims to be an IRS agent and delivers an angry or threatening message demanding immediate payment for an unpaid tax bill or a stimulus payment that was received incorrectly. They may even threaten to arrest you.

Scammers have also pretended to be from local sheriff’s departments, your state’s department of motor vehicles, or a federal agency over the phone.

Scams via email Run the gamut while keeping common elements in mind.

Throughout the pandemic, fraudsters ran email phishing efforts posing as the IRS or other government institutions, claiming to be sending COVID-19 stimulus money. The message’s language and pretext varied, but these scams all included an urgent tone, an attempt to persuade recipients that they owe money or are due money and must act immediately, and a link claiming to be from the IRS or another well-known agency.

Scammers Claim Unemployment Benefits on Your Behalf

From the start of the epidemic, the extended unemployment payments that were part of the COVID-19-relief programs proved to be a particularly juicy target for scammers. Workers should be on the watch for Form 1099-G documentation detailing unemployment compensation they didn’t file for or receive this year, according to the IRS.

Unemployment fraud is particularly dangerous since unemployment benefits are taxable income. If identity thieves apply for and obtain benefits on your behalf, you’ll be responsible for paying taxes on the funds they stole.

Scammers are after your Social Security number.

The Social Security number fraud is another typical tax-time warning from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Fraudsters may use text messages, emails, phone calls, or a combination of all three to trick you into giving up your Social Security number, but the goal is always the same. They’ll frequently claim that your Social Security number was used in a crime and that they need it to keep you safe, or that they need it to help you access stimulus money that you’re entitled to.

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