WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today kicked off the week with the 5th item on its annual 2022 Dirty Dozen Scams Warning List, with a sad reminder that criminals are still using the COVID-19 pandemic to steal the money and people’s identities with fake emails, social media messages and unexpected phone calls, among other things.
These scams can take a variety of forms, including using unemployment information and fake job offers to steal money and information from people. All of these efforts can result in sensitive personal information being stolen, used by scammers to attempt to file a fraudulent tax return and harm victims in other ways.
“Con artists continue to use the pandemic as a way to scare or confuse potential victims into handing over their hard-earned money or personal information,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said. “I urge everyone to be wary of suspicious calls, texts and emails promising benefits that don’t exist.”
The IRS has compiled the annual Dirty Dozen list for over 20 years to alert taxpayers and the professional tax community to scams and schemes. The list is not a legal document or a literal list of agency law enforcement priorities. It is designed to educate a variety of audiences who may not always be aware of developments involving tax administration.
“Caution and awareness are our best lines of defense against these criminals,” Rettig added. “Everyone should verify information on a trusted government website, such as IRS.gov.”
A common scam that the IRS continues to see during this time is to use crises that affect all or most people in the country, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the scams people should continue to be on the lookout for include:
Economic Impact Payments and Tax Refund Scams: Identity thieves attempting to use Economic Impact Payments (EIPs), also known as stimulus payments, pose an ongoing threat to individuals. Like tax refund scams, taxpayers should watch out for these telltale signs of a scam:
Any text messages, random incoming phone calls, or emails requesting bank account information, asking recipients to click a link, or verify data should be considered suspicious and deleted without opening. This not only includes stimulus payments, but also tax refunds and other common issues.
Remember that the IRS will not initiate contact by phone, email, text, or social media requesting Social Security numbers or other personal or financial information related to Economic Impact Payments. Also watch out for mailbox theft. Check your mail regularly and report suspected mail losses to postal inspectors.
Reminder: The IRS issued all economic impact payments. Most eligible people have already received their stimulus payments. People who miss a stimulus payment or who received less than the full amount may be eligible to claim a Salvage rebate credit
on their 2020 or 2021 federal income tax return. Taxpayers should remember that the IRS website, IRS.gov, is the agency’s official website for information on payments, refunds, and other tax information.
Unemployment Fraud Leading to Inaccurate 1099-G Taxpayers: Due to the pandemic, many taxpayers have lost their jobs and received unemployment compensation from their state. However, scammers have also taken advantage of the pandemic by filing fraudulent unemployment compensation claims using personal information stolen from people who did not file a claim. Payments made on these fraudulent claims went to identity thieves.
Taxpayers should also be on the lookout for a Form 1099-G
declare unemployment benefits that they have not received. For people in this situation, the IRS urges them to contact their appropriate state agency to obtain a corrected form. If a corrected form cannot be obtained so that a taxpayer can file a tax return on time, taxpayers should complete their return claiming only the unemployment benefit and other income they actually received. See Identity theft and unemployment benefits for tax details and DOL.gov/fraud for information about State-by-State reports.
Fake job postings on social media: There are many reports of fake job postings on social media. The pandemic has created many new unemployed people eager to seek new employment. These bogus messages trick their victims into providing their personal financial information. This creates additional tax risk for individuals, as this information can in turn be used to file a fraudulent tax return for fraudulent reimbursement or used in another criminal enterprise.
Fake charities stealing your money: Fake charities are always a problem. They tend to pose a bigger threat during a national crisis like the pandemic.
Taxpayers who donate money or property to a charity may be able to claim a deduction on their federal income tax return. Taxpayers must donate to a qualified charity to get a deduction. To check the status of a charity, use the IRS Tax Exempt Organizations Finder.
Here are some tips to remember about fake charity scams:
- Individuals should never allow a caller to pressure them. A legitimate charity will be happy to get a donation anytime, so there’s no rush. Donors are encouraged to take the time to do the research.
- Prospective donors should ask the fundraiser for the charity’s exact name, web address, and mailing address, so they can be confirmed later. Some dishonest telemarketers use names that sound like large, well-known charities to confuse people.
- Pay attention to how a donation is paid. Donors should not work with charities that ask them to pay by giving numbers from a gift card or by transferring money. This is how scammers ask people to pay. It’s safest to pay by credit card or check — and only after doing some research on the charity.
For more information on how to avoid fake charities, visit Federal Trade Commission website.