U.S. attorney, IRS warn residents of COVID-19 scam

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The Internal Revenue Service and the region’s U.S. attorney are warning residents not to share any personal account information so they don’t fall prey to scammers who may want to steal their stimulus checks.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge and Sarah Kull, special agent in charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) in Detroit, on Thursday issued a statement warning West Michigan residents to watch out for scammers attempting to steal COVID-19 economic impact payments.

“With relief payments coming soon, we want people to be mindful that scammers are out there looking for ways to get their hands on those checks and personal account information. Remain vigilant, warn your friends and family about COVID-19 scams and report suspected fraudulent activity to the federal hotlines,” Birge said.

Kull added: “I urge the public not to fall victim to fraudsters attempting to steal economic impact payments being sent out. The IRS will not call, text, email or otherwise contact you to ask for your information. This money is meant for you. Don’t fall victim to scammers.”

The Treasury Department and the IRS announced that the distribution of economic impact payments will begin in the next three weeks and will be distributed automatically with no action required for most people.

Information from the 2018 or 2019 tax return, if filed, will be used to calculate payment. Most individuals do not need to take any action. Social Security beneficiaries who are not typically required to file tax returns will not need to file to receive a payment. Instead, payments will be automatically deposited into their bank accounts.

The IRS will calculate and automatically send payment to those eligible. The IRS will deposit the economic relief check into the direct deposit account previously provided in the tax returns. If banking information was not provided, the IRS will send a check via mail.

The IRS will not contact anyone to request banking information and will not ask for confirmation of personal information to send or expedite an economic impact payment or require payment of a fee.

If anyone receives a call claiming to be from the IRS or any entity related to the economic impact payment, the call is a scam, and recipients should not engage with the scammer and absolutely should not give out bank account, debit account or PayPal account information — even if the person claims it is necessary to get the relief check, Birge and Kull said.

It will take a few weeks before the Treasury mails out the economic impact payments. If a person receives a “check” for an odd amount or a check that requires verification of the check online or by calling a number, it is a fraud, they said.

Birge and Kull said it’s important people promptly collect mail from their mailbox to prevent the theft of any economic relief checks delivered there.

The IRS has set up a hotline email address for Michigan residents to report fraud to the IRS, at detroitfieldoffice@ci.irs.gov.

Residents also can report suspected fraud to the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline, at (866) 720-5721 or disaster@leo.gov.

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