Taxpayers warned of scams related to upcoming government stimulus checks

Rio Grande Valley residents waiting for COVID-19 economic impact checks from the IRS may be susceptible to scammers seeking to collect bank account information through phone calls and fake checks mailed to residents, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas (USAO) on Thursday.

“While the nation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, criminals see an opportunity to enrich themselves through fraudulent schemes,” warned Acting Special Agent in Charge Rodrick Benton of IRS – Criminal Investigation (CI) in the release.

“With the public’s awareness, we can combat these scammers and cease their exploitation of the American taxpayer during these trying times,” he stated.

The release explained that COVID-19 economic impact checks will be on their way from the IRS in “a matter of weeks. Most Americans will receive the check via direct deposit into their bank accounts. Those that did not identify a bank account on their tax returns will receive a paper check from the agency.

U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick wrote that the office wants people to be alert. “Do not give our personal information to people who claim they are with the government,” he warned.

“The IRS will NOT CALL and ask you to verify your payment details. Do NOT give out your bank account, debit account or PayPal account information – even if someone claims it’s necessary to get your check. IT’S A SCAM!” USAO wrote.

“If you receive a call, do NOT engage with scammers or thieves, even if you just want to tell them that you know it’s a scam or you think that you can beat them. Just HANG UP. If you receive texts or emails claiming you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, DELETE them. Do NOT click on any links in those emails or texts,” officials warned.

The office specified that bogus checks are also being distributed. Officials said if you receive a “check” in the mail now, “IT’S A FRAUD – it will take the Department of Treasury a few weeks to mail the legitimate checks to taxpayers. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, IT’S A FRAUD.”

The USAO referred questions about the coronavirus tax relief and economic impact payments to the IRS website. More information about coronavirus-related fraud can be found on the DOJ website.