Scam warning: Fraudsters use COVID-19 pandemic to steal personal data

Local News

(WTAJ) — Pennsylvanians who are expecting a COVID-19 stimulus check from the government should be cautious of scammers trying to steal their information, announced the Department of Revenue and Department of Banking and Securities Tuesday.

The IRS would like to remind everyone that the stimulus payments will be distributed automatically. In most cases, the payments will be directly deposited into the bank accounts that people have listed on their tax returns.

However, a surge of cases has been reported in which the scammer poses as the government, trying to trick people into giving their bank information. The consequences can range from identity theft to fraud.

“As we all work together to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, this unprecedented situation has created new opportunities for criminals to target Pennsylvanians, including those who are vulnerable or struggling,” Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell said. “We want to remind everyone that they should not provide their direct deposit or other banking information to anyone who contacts them on the phone, through email or text messages, or on social media.”

The government will never ask you for your personal information over the phone or via email, and officials warn to delete any messages that ask otherwise.

According to the IRS, some of the emails that have been sent indicate that the person won’t recieve a check until they release their banking information.

The IRS states several warning signs to look out for, in which the 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 are a victim of identity theft or discover a fraudulent Pennsylvania personal income tax return was filed using your identity, please contact the Fraud Detection and Analysis Unit by emailing RA-RVPITFRAUD@pa.gov.

For more information on how to protect yourself from fraud, visit Pennsylvania Revenue’s website.

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