The Internal Revenue Service in an April 7 press release advised Delawareans to be vigilant in protecting their upcoming COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments from scammers.

In just a matter of weeks, the Internal Revenue Service will begin distributing COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments. The payment will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most Americans.

For most Americans, the Economic Impact Payment will be deposited directly into the same banking account reflected on the most recent tax return they filed for either 2018 or 2019. For the unbanked, elderly or other groups we have traditionally seen receive tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their economic impact payment check in this manner as well.

This also presents an opportunity for scammers to prey on the American public.

“Unfortunately there are fraudsters out there who will attempt to victimize vulnerable people during these trying times,” said Michael Montanez, acting special agent in charge of IRS-CI. “Everyone should be wary of swindlers trying to steal their COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment, as well as crooked individuals trying to take advantage of the crisis by tricking people into unnecessarily turning over their personal, sensitive information. All Americans should be cautious in this regard and it is asked that everyone also be on the lookout for the interests of the elderly and other susceptible family members and friends.”

“The IRS will begin distributing economic impact funds shortly,” said U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss. “Unfortunately, whenever money changes hands, fraudsters are standing by to intercept your money and get your personal information. Don’t fall for it. If they call, hang up. If you receive an email, delete it. And if you’re victimized, report it to the IRS. Together, we will hold these scammers accountable.”

Scammers may try to get people to sign over their checks, or use this as an opportunity to get people to “verify” their filing information in order to receive the money, using that personal information at a later date to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme. Between these two schemes, everyone receiving money from the government from the COVID-19 economic impact payment is at risk.

Here are some key things to keep in mind:

— The IRS will deposit checks into the direct deposit account previously provided on tax returns or, in the alternative, send a paper check.

— The IRS will not call and ask recipients to verify payment details. Do not give out bank account, debit account or PayPal account information, even if someone claims it's necessary to get the check. It's a scam.

If texts or emails are received claiming that recipients can get their money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them. Don't click on any links in those emails.

— Reports are also swirling about bogus checks. If a “check” is received in the mail now, it’s a fraud; it will take the Treasury a few weeks to mail those out. If such a check is received for an odd amount, especially one with cents, or a check that requires online or over-the-phone verification, it’s a fraud.

Anyone with information about fraud in this area or any other tax related fraud is asked to email philadelphiafieldoffice@ci.irs.gov.