Public Targeted in COVID-19 Stimulus Scams
March 25, 2020
The Montana Department of Revenue is warning all Montanans to watch out for scams related to the recently announced federal stimulus package.
With recent news of direct payments to Americans based on their 2018 or 2019 tax information, scammers are already contacting individuals, and especially tax preparers, by phone, email, and text, trying to solicit personal, financial and tax information that can be used for identity theft and financial fraud.
"It's tragic that even during a national crisis, criminals are taking advantage of fear and uncertainty to try to steal from hard-working people and the professional tax preparers they trust with their financial information," said Gene Walborn, director of the Montana Department of Revenue. "I urge everyone to be vigilant with their information and check with authorities if they get inquiries about their personal data."
A typical scam might involve language such as, "In order to receive your/your client's stimulus payment via direct deposit, we need you to confirm the banking information." It might also include a link to website where the taxpayer is encouraged to leave personal financial information.
Especially troubling is that tax preparers, with access to large volumes of personal information, have already been targeted.
Extensions in the deadlines to July 15 for federal and Montana individual income tax filing and payments are also adding to the opportunity for scammers. The department advises Montana taxpayers to file their taxes as soon as possible, and to file electronically, to narrow the opportunity for fraudulent activity related to their information.
Montanans should visit MTRevenue.gov/fraud and http://www.irs.gov for more information.
Montanans who receive a suspicious call from someone claiming to be with the Montana Department of Revenue should contact the department at MTRevenue.gov/contact to verify the source. Neither the department nor the IRS will call taxpayers asking for personal information such as Social Security Numbers or banking information.
The Montana Department of Revenue will continue working with the IRS and local tax preparers to detect and stop fraud, and will continue to notify the public as new kinds of fraud appear.