ATHENS, Texas -- Athens Police Chief Buddy Hill is warning residents to be on the lookout for scam attempts connected to COVID-19. These scam attempts could lead to tax-related fraud and identity theft, he said.
“The most important thing to remember is the IRS will never call you, email you, or send you anything in the mail asking you to provide your bank account number, Social Security Number, or other personal information,” Hill said. “That’s a sure sign of a scam. Do not respond.”
Taxpayers should watch not only for emails but text messages, websites and social media attempts that request money or personal information.
The IRS and its Criminal Investigation Division have seen a wave of new and evolving phishing schemes against taxpayers. In most cases, the IRS will deposit economic impact payments into the direct deposit account taxpayers previously provided on tax returns. Those taxpayers who have previously filed but not provided direct deposit information to the IRS will be able to provide their banking information online to a newly designed secure portal on IRS.gov in mid-April. If the IRS does not have a taxpayer's direct deposit information, a check will be mailed to the address on file. Taxpayers should not provide their direct deposit or other banking information for others to input on their behalf into the secure portal.
The IRS says scammers may:
- Emphasize the words "Stimulus Check" or "Stimulus Payment." The official term is economic impact payment.
- Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
- Ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
- Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer's behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.
- Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.
If you get contacted about the stimulus payment and you are not sure about the legitimacy of the contact, please contact the Athens Police Department at 903-675-5454.