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INDIANAPOLIS — The Internal Revenue Service is seeing an uptick in scams related to the coronavirus and stimulus payments.
As many people are still waiting on their money to arrive from the federal government, Call 6 Investigates found these scams could take your money instead.
Here’s how the scam typically works — you get a text, email, or social media message that looks like it’s from the IRS about your stimulus check, also known as an economic impact payment.
But it’s not the IRS.
When you click on the link, you could be allowing scammers to download malware onto your computer, or they could trick you into giving up your social security number or bank account information.
These types of scams are on the rise, Candace Kowal, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Office, which includes Indianapolis, says.
"We are seeing an overabundance of criminal activity that's really taking advantage of the fear and uncertainty that people are feeling as a result of COVID-19," Kowal said.
Scammers are also sending fake stimulus checks in the mail.
Typically, they will tell you they sent you too much and ask you to send them the difference in the form of a gift card or wire transfer. When the check bounces, you’re out that money.
The IRS also warns against other COVID-19 related scams that involve setting up fake charities soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by the disease.
Some criminals are offering opportunities to invest early in companies working on a vaccine for the disease promising the “company” will dramatically increase in value, according to the IRS.
Call 6 Investigates found the IRS will not reach out to taxpayers via email, phone, or social media — especially with promises to get people their money faster.
IRS communications typically will come via snail mail.
The Internal Revenue Service wants you to report these scams so they can investigate.
Violators will face prison and hefty fines, Kowal said.
"We are committed to finding them regardless of where they are,” Kowal said. “We have partnerships with domestic investigating agencies and overseas law enforcement as well, so there's really no place for them to hide anymore. We find the perpetrators and we bring them to justice."
If you’re not sure whether a phone call or email is actually from the IRS, hang up or delete the message.
If you want to talk to the IRS directly, you can call 1-800-919-9835.
They’ve recently added 3,500 phone operators to help answer questions about stimulus checks and tax returns.
"Our big concern is to bring these people to justice," Kowal said. "That's what we do. We trace the money. We find the perpetrators and we bring them to justice."
The IRS encourages the public to report coronavirus-related scams to the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or to submit the schemes through the NCDF Web Complaint Form.
Also, taxpayers can always report phishing attempts to the IRS.
If you receive unsolicited emails or social media attempts to gather information appearing to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, you should forward it to email@example.com.