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By Hartsville Vidette Staff Reporter

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service will begin distributing COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments in the next few weeks. IRS – Criminal Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Tennessee are warning Tennessee taxpayers to be alert about possible scams relating to these payments as well as other malicious attempts to defraud people relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For most Americans, the Economic Impact Payment will be distributed automatically and will result in a direct deposit into the bank account designated by their 2018 or 2019 federal tax return. For eligible recipients who have traditionally received tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their economic impact payment in this manner as well. The IRS will calculate and automatically send the Economic Impact Payment with no action required by most eligible recipients.

The IRS will not contact you to ask you to pay a fee or confirm personal information prior to receiving the Economic Impact Payment. If you receive a phone call, text, or email asking for payment or confirmation of personal or financial information, it is a scam. Do not give out your bank account, debit account or PayPal account information, even if the caller claims it is necessary to get your check or that by doing so you can receive your payment faster.

Additionally, don’t click on links in texts or emails relating to Economic Impact Payments, as this could allow scammers to place tracing devices on your electronic devices and gain access to your personal information for later use. Don’t engage with scammers or thieves, simply hang up or delete texts/emails.

It will take a few weeks before the Treasury sends the Economic Impact Payments.  If you receive a “check” for an odd amount, for instance $1,322.48, or a check that requires you to verify the check online or by calling a number, it is a fraud.

Some examples of these schemes include:

  • Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
  • Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Malicious websites and apps that appear to share Coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
  • Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.

In these uncertain and trying times, we need to stay strong and stand together united in purpose. Don’t become a victim by allowing criminals to exploit your emotions. Stay vigilant and tell your family, friends and neighbors about these scams.

For more information, visit the IRS website at irs.gov/coronavirus.