As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Congress provided financial relief for many taxpayers through “Economic Impact Payments” (EIP). The IRS began issuing these tax credits as cash payments earlier this month.
EIP: What’s Included
- Eligible individuals with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 will automatically receive the full $1,200 payment.
- Eligible married couples filing a joint return with adjusted gross income up to $150,000 will automatically receive the full $2,400 payment.
- Additionally, eligible parents also get $500 for each eligible child under 17.
- Most taxpayers don’t need to take any extra steps to receive a payment. The IRS will use information from a taxpayer’s 2019 tax return if they’ve filed it, or their 2018 tax return, if they haven’t.
To get the word out about Economic Impact Payments (EIP), the IRS compiled a variety of information and outreach materials that can be shared with your families, friends, partners, and clients. It can also be posted to your website, included in your employee emails, and shared on social media.
Phishing Season: Avoid EIP Scams
Sadly, these payments have also led to a slew of new phishing schemes. Following the announcement of the stimulus checks, scammers jumped on the opportunity to use EIP as a cover to steal money and personal information from hard-working families for financial gain.
Beware of Scam Artists
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has communicated that scammers are viewing the COVID-19 outbreak as an opportunity for increased fraud attempts. Additionally, the FBI has issued public service announcements cautioning that cyber attackers are looking to exploit the increased use of virtual environments and leverage uncertainty and fear to take advantage of potential victims.
It is important to be aware of the following scams currently being perpetrated by malicious parties:
- Text messages pretending to be from the U.S. Department of Health claiming you need to take a mandatory online COVID-19 test in order to receive a stimulus check
- Fake emails from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claiming to offer information on the virus
- Phishing emails claiming to be from the IRS or other government agencies informing you that you qualify for an immediate stimulus payment and to click on a link to receive payment
- Fraudulent charitable organizations asking for donations
- Social media messages and posts claiming you can receive additional stimulus payments to help pay medical bills if you verify personal information
- Phone calls claiming you can pay a small processing fee to expedite stimulus payments by providing personal banking information
While this list is not all-inclusive, it does provide some insight into some of the scams going on right now. We strongly advise being skeptical of any emails, text messages, and phone calls claiming to be from government agencies as these are often scams to steal money, obtain personal information, or install malware on your devices.
Tips to Avoid Scams
Remember the following tips to help protect yourself from potential COVID-19 related scams:
- Don’t give out any bank or personal information over the phone. Remember: government agencies will never call to verify personal information such as banking or payment details.
- Do not engage! If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from a government agency, simply hang up.
- Delete any texts or emails from individuals claiming to be from a government agency. Do not click links or download files in emails or text messages claiming to be official requests to verify information as this can install malware on your device.
- Don’t enter login credentials after following links in emails. Instead, go to the site directly or with a known bookmarked link.
- Only follow email links if everything is consistent and correct in the email.
- Always double-check the sender’s email address in suspicious emails. Fraudsters will often emulate email addresses with a slight change or misspelling.
- Only rely on trusted sources such as IRS.gov.
One way to protect your company from these scams is to have a policy of never emailing sensitive employee information. In addition to making employees aware of the rampant EIP scams going on right now, the language below may be an effective reminder:
“Employees should not under any circumstance email sensitive employee information. For example, W-2s, benefit enrollment forms, completed census forms, or anything with social security or credit card numbers. Email is inherently insecure, and scammers may pose as company executives or employees to steal information. If you receive a request to email any such sensitive information, do not respond to it. Instead, inform your manager immediately.”
You can visit www.IRS.gov/coronavirus for the latest information on EIP and other Coronavirus Tax Relief updates. Additionally, check out SDP’s COVID-19 Business Resources Hub for even more Coronavirus resources for employers.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at (866) 946.2032 or by emailing our support team. And don’t forget to follow us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for even more Coronavirus and business updates!