Despite the fact that the government has issued all three rounds of stimulus checks to those eligible as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers are still using them as a way to lure unsuspecting victims into providing personal information, according to a recent bulletin issued by the IRS.

Along with false stimulus payments, job and tax return scams are also ways that thieves are collecting personal information and data, using it to create fake identities and fraudulent unemployment benefits, says the report.

“Scammers continue using the pandemic as a device to scare or confuse potential victims into handing over their hard-earned money or personal information,” says IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

The numbers associated with these thefts are unbelievably high. It’s estimated that by the end of last year, scammers stole more than $586 million over the course of the pandemic, with the average person losing $392.

Scams Come in Many Forms

The potential scams come about in the form of questionable texts, calls, or emails that promise non-existent benefits, encouraging recipients to provide their personal information in exchange.

These communications will often request bank information or require recipients to click on suspicious links that lead to data collection forms. Because the IRS will never contact anyone by phone, text, or email to ask for sensitive personal data or other financial information related to stimulus payments, these requests are a major red flag.

Fake job postings on social media present another opportunity for scammers to collect personal data that can be used to steal identities or create fake tax returns in the applicant’s name. of any job posting that seems suspicious, including those that ask for highly personal information right off the bat.

How to Avoid Stimulus, Job, and Tax Return Scams

Be vigilant about protecting your personal information to avoid falling victim to stimulus and tax return-related scams.

Be suspicious of any call, text, or email that promises benefits that sound too good to be true or that you know for which you’re probably not eligible.  If you’ve engaged with a potential scammer, immediately terminate contact as soon as you suspect a problem. To avoid falling victim to a scam, avoid:

  • Giving out your bank or credit card number to someone who claims to have a payment for you
  • Paying anyone who insists on a gift card or money transfer
  • Providing your Social Security number to anyone
  • Click on links in suspicious texts or emails

If you have doubts about the communication that you’ve received, contact the IRS to verify the information.  And if you do believe that you still have yet to receive a stimulus payment, you can request and track your refund on the IRS “Where’s My Refund” page.

If you received a 1099-G tax form that indicates unemployment benefits you didn’t receive or were not eligible for, you should contact your local agency to report unemployment identity theft. They will provide an amended tax form and update your IRS record.

Does your business have concerns when it comes to data security or scams? Ameritech Data Solutions can help. We’re up to date on the latest advances in cybersecurity. Call us today for information on how can keep your organization safe.