Police, IRS warn scammers targeting unemployment claims, stimulus checks

Brandon Addeo
York Dispatch
Scam alert

The May 17 tax filing deadline has long passed, but the IRS says scammers try to steal tax-related personal information year-round. 

A local police department and the IRS called on people to stay guarded against scams, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. The IRS identified common schemes con artists use and gave tips on how to prevent oneself from being victimized. 

“Even though the initial (tax) filing season may be over, criminals are still out there committing fraudulent acts and looking to steal your personal information,” Joleen Simpson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation's Philadelphia office, stated in a news release. “We urge all taxpayers and citizens to remain attentive and alert not just during tax filing season, but throughout the entire year.”

Unemployment fraud: The IRS said people should watch out for any tax-related paperwork involving unemployment benefits that they did not file for. 

"Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many taxpayers lost their jobs and received unemployment compensation from their state," the release states. "However, scammers also took advantage of the pandemic by filing fraudulent claims for unemployment compensation using stolen personal information of individuals who had not filed claims. Payments made on these fraudulent claims went to the identity thieves."

IRS tax Form 1099-G lists any unemployment benefits a taxpayer receives. If someone receives that form and it reports benefits they didn't get, that person should request a corrected form.

Local law enforcement has also taken reports of unemployment fraud. 

Carroll Township Police Department has received "numerous reports of fraudulent unemployment claims being filed in victims names," according to a news release from the department. They gave this advice for protecting personal information:

  • Do not click links in suspicious emails and texts from unknown numbers
  • Do not provide personal information or bank account information over the phone 
  • Check credit reports regularly to look for suspicious activity. 
  • People who are victims of unemployment fraud will likely be notified of the fraud by their employer.

Carroll Township Police said people in their jurisdiction should file a report with them, and that report can then be used to report the fraud to Pennsylvania's Department of Labor at this website, uc.pa.gov/Pages/Report-Fraud-Here.aspx.

Stimulus scams: During COVID-19, scammers have also been targeting victims' stimulus checks. 

The IRS said people should be aware of these ways scammers can get access to someone's stimulus payments:

  • Be wary of scammers posing as members of the IRS to steal personal information. "The IRS won't initiate contact by phone, email, text or social media asking for Social Security numbers or other personal or financial information related to Economic Impact Payments," the release states. 
  • Phone calls seeking someone's bank account information should be ignored, as should any text messages or emails asking a person to click a link to verify any information. 
  • Be aware of thefts from mailboxes. Check mail regularly and report any suspected theft to the U.S. Postal Service's Postal Inspectors.

"Taxpayers should remember that the IRS website, IRS.gov, is the agency's official website for information on payments, refunds and other tax information," the release states.