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Coronavirus Scammers Abound, according to Federal Authorities

— April 14, 2020

Officials warn consumers to be on the look out for COVID-19 scammers.

The Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Attorney’s Office have issued a warning to consumers about coronavirus scammers potentially attempting to steal stimulus checks.  The checks, recently approved by the federal government, will be deposited into bank accounts listed on the previous year’s tax returns.  If no account was listed, the checks will be mailed instead.

“The people of Michigan will soon be receiving coronavirus relief checks and scammers are ready to take advantage of us,” stated United States Attorney Matthew Schneider. “I urge everyone to protect themselves by hanging up on robocalls, ignoring online offers and fact-checking information before giving out any personal information.”

The cons, according to officials, will likely be claiming they are from the IRS and asking for personal financial information, including bank routing and account numbers so they have instant access to the funds.  The IRS will not be contacting residents over the phone to verify accounts.  Other signs of fraud are a check for an odd amount or one that requires verification online or by phone.  Officials are warning consumers to hang up on any suspicious calls received.

Coronavirus Scammers Abound, according to Federal Authorities
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

“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,” said Sarah Kull, IRS special agent-in-charge. “This money is meant for you.  Don’t fall victim to scammers.”

“We are seeing fraud across the board, everything from low-tech to very sophisticated schemes,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.  “The pandemic has affected so many people in so many different ways, it just allows the fraudsters to have their buffet, as it were, to prey upon vulnerable people.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) previously sent out a warning to the public not to be scammed by criminals preying on their fears when it comes to coronavirus.  Using false information, the department reported that scammers used the coronavirus to sell fake products, and steal consumers’ money and personal information through online correspondence, such as emails and social media posts.

“We got a call from one of the elementary schools in Marshall saying they had received word there was coronavirus in the school,” Brigette Reichenbaugh, the Deputy Health Officer for the county department said. “We don’t know where the text came from and then they received another text that said anyone with coronavirus should contact a local hospital.”

Nessel’s office stated, “Regardless of who they claim to be, people who text or email asking for personal or financial information should be treated as potential thieves who may be trying to steal someone’s identity.  Resist their believable scenarios and confirm the identity of a contact by independently speaking with the identified source.  Do not provide any personal information to people who call or email seeking it. Remember, identity thieves are crafty, and they may attempt to contact people numerous times using various aliases.”

The maximum stimulus payment is expected to be $1,200 for single filers with an annual gross income (AGI) below $75,000 or single parents with an AGI below $112,500. Married couples who file jointly and have an AGI below $150,000 will get a total of $2,400.


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