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Beware scammers as IRS sends coronavirus ‘Economic Impact Payments’

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image of text avoid covid scamsAs the IRS gets ready to send out millions of coronavirus Economic Impact Payments in mid-April – not to mention that we’re in the height of tax return season – it’s a good bet that scammers are working on ways to separate you from your personal information.

The U.S. Secret Service is already warning about email “phishing’’ scams by con artists impersonating medical organizations. Now is the time for all of us to put our “BS detectors” into high gear. Especially as the IRS will soon launch a portal for you to receive your Economic Impact Payments faster.

Always remember: The IRS and other federal agencies do not call, text or email to get information or to threaten enforcement action. Go to for more info.

Economic Impact Payments – A Refresher

Anyone earning up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income and who has a Social Security number will receive a $1,200 payment. That means married couples filing joint returns will receive the full amount — $2,400 — if their adjusted gross income, which what you report on your taxes, is under $150,000. Parents will also receive $500 for each qualifying child.

The payment steadily declines for those who make more. Those earning more than $99,000, or $198,000 for joint filers, are not eligible. The thresholds are slightly different for those who file as a head of household. Forbes has a useful calculator for determining what you may get here:

  • Getting your check: If you ever gave the IRS your bank account information for a refund or to pay taxes, they will use that information and directly deposit your impact payment check. All others will get a check mailed to them at the address used on your tax return. The IRS will base how much you receive on your 2019 tax return or, if you haven’t filed yet, your 2018 return.
    • Note: The Treasury expects direct deposit stimulus checks will hit American bank accounts around April 15. Paper checks will go out by April 24, with low-income individuals and families receiving priority. Some checks may not arrive until September, according to the IRS.
  • Updating info or arranging for direct deposit: Once it is available, the IRS portal will allow you to upload your bank account information for direct deposit. Keep checking for updates. If you visit the site, you’ll also find more information on the homepage under “Get Coronavirus Tax Relief.’’
  • Social Security beneficiaries: Individuals who receive Social Security benefits and do not typically file tax returns do not need to do anything to get their impact check. According to a statement from the U.S. Treasury and IRS:
    • “The IRS will use the information on the Form SSA-1099 and Form RRB-1099 to generate $1,200 Economic Impact Payments to Social Security recipients who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019. Recipients will receive these payments as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their benefits.”

Avoiding scammers and knowing the ‘red flags’

If you get an email, text or phone call from anyone saying they need personal information from bank account numbers to email login credentials, the best advice is to say no and don’t click on any links. You can always independently call the agency or business – making sure not to use the phone number link the suspected scammer provides.

Red flags that may indicate an email is a phishing attempt:

  • Poor spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Unknown sender or origin.
  • The email isn’t explicitly addressed and asks for personal information through a reply instead of a secure portal.
  • Hyperlinks to unknown sites.
  • The email prompts the recipient to “enable macros.”
  • Urgent tone.

Scammers may set up websites with URL addresses that are similar to real sites. Here some red flags that may indicate a scam website:

  • On webpages asking for personal information, the URL address doesn’t have “https” at the start – the “s” shows it is secure.
  • The website contains hyperlinks to outdated sites.
  • Unprofessional websites that seem either too simple or overly complicated.

Here’s a recent warning from the U.S. Treasury:

“Cybercriminals are exploiting the coronavirus through the wide distribution of mass emails posing as legitimate medical and or health organizations. In one particular instance, victims have received an email purporting to be from a medical/health organization that included attachments supposedly containing pertinent information regarding the coronavirus. This led to either unsuspecting victims opening the attachment causing malware to infect their system or prompting the victim to enter their email login credentials to access the information resulting in harvested login credentials.”

For more information, go to

Bottom line

Especially when dealing with the IRS and other federal agencies, look for the “.gov” at the end of an online address to make sure it’s legit.

Although most of the year the IRS is an entity that we want to avoid communicating with, in this economic time, they are certainly a go-to source for anything stimulus-related.

Mark W. Banks, CPA, MAFF, is a member of Boyer & Ritter’s Forensic, Litigation and Consulting Group. Contact Mark at 717-761-7210 or

Lisa A. Myers, CPA, CFE, MAFF, CGMA, is a principal of Boyer & Ritter and leads the firm’s Forensic, Litigation and Consulting group. Contact Lisa at 717-761-7210 or

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