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11 Call For Action Special Edition: IRS tracks scams during pandemic

Warning signs you might be dealing with a scammer.
Warning signs you might be dealing with a scammer.(KKTV)
Published: Nov. 26, 2021 at 8:10 AM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - 2021 saw a record number of scams tied to economic impact payments.

The IRS tells 11 Call For Action investigator Katie Pelton that this is a rate not seen in more than a decade.

Pelton spoke with Assistant Special Agent in Charge Amanda Prestegard on how citizens can avoid falling victim to one of these scams?

Pelton: “First, let’s talk about what the IRS criminal investigation handles and how you’re involved in bringing criminals to justice.”

Prestegard: “The IRS Criminal Investigation is the investigative arm of internal revenue service and we work on investigating financial crimes, mainly related to frauds against taxpayers and income tax and corporate and other types of tax fraud. We also investigate other financial crimes and refer prosecutions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

Pelton: “This year, far and away the biggest scam you’ve seen at the IRS has to do with the economic payment scams. What does the scam look like?”

Prestegard: “We’re seeing a lot of identity theft unfortunately related to that. People filing returns on behalf of others, and we’re also seeing people file returns that are not correct in order to get or maximize that impact payment. Also, we’re seeing a lot of people fall victim to -- whether it’s text scams, calls, or emails related to asking for personal identifiable information to help them get those economic impact payments. One thing I want to make clear is you can work directly with the IRS to get your payments. You don’t need a go between -- there’s nobody that should reach out to ask for your information.”

Pelton: “It’s really important to recognize red flags.”

Prestegard: “We will never ask for payment over the phone. We will never demand payment. If you ever have an issue you’re dealing with with the IRS, most likely you’ll deal with them through the mail. Any type of communication that’s not through the mail, you can ask to be verified with a followup letter through the mail. ... We are never going to rely on the assistance from any other outside source to help you facilitate getting your economic impact statements or filing your tax returns to get those payments.”

Pelton: “I know you said another scam you’ve really seen this year has to do with small business loans.”

Prestegard: “There’s the paycheck protection program and the economic impact disaster loans. Both of those have been wonderful programs for small business. Unfortunately, they were rolled out so quickly and there were so many people that applied that it was a crime of opportunity. Like a lot of disasters we’ve seen in the past, when the relief efforts opened up, there are fraudsters waiting to take advantage, so if anybody is reaching out to say, ‘I can facilitate you and your small business and help you apply for these loans,’ unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of false applications or identity theft, people applying on behalf of businesses that did not apply or do not exist. The bottom line is protect your information.”

Taxpayers can report fraud or theft of their Economic Impact Payments to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Reports can be made online at TIPS.TIGTA.GOV.

Click here to watch the 11 Call For Action half-hour special edition: Top scams and consumer issues of 2021.

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