Cybersecurity Threats Rise During Covid-19 Outbreak

As millions of Americans follow social distancing advisories by working from home, and federal and state governments rush to provide financial relief for the economic disruption, online criminals are attempting to take advantage of the situation. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued a warning that a surge of scam phone calls and email phishing attempts centered on Covid-19.

The IRS warns that taxpayers should watch for phone calls, emails, text messages, websites and social media attempts that request money or personal information. In some cases the contact offers to assist with or speed up application for government loan programs from the recently enacted CARES Act, including emergency loans and the Payroll Protection Program, which is being administered by the SBA. Other scams involve requests for information about tax returns, or demanding personal financial data in order to secure an economic impact payment.

Economic impact payments will be deposited automatically into the direct deposit account a taxpayer has previously provided on tax returns. Taxpayers who have previously filed but not provided direct deposit information to the IRS will be able to provide their banking information online through a newly designed secure portal on IRS.gov in mid-April. If the IRS does not have a taxpayer’s direct deposit information, a check will be mailed to the address on file. Taxpayers should not provide their direct deposit or other banking information for others to input on their behalf into the secure portal.

Seniors should be especially careful during this period. Retirees who are not normally required to file a tax return do not have to take any action to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. The IRS is sending these $1,200 payments automatically to retirees.

IRS officials say one tip-off of a scam is the mention of a “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment.” The official term for the program is “economic impact payment.” Taxpayers should be aware that the IRS does not call or email asking to verify financial information or ask for direct deposit information.

Official IRS information about the Covid-19 pandemic and economic impact payments can be found on the Coronavirus Tax Relief page on IRS.gov.  You can also gain a better understanding of the tax relief program and cybersecurity threats presented by our Director of IT, Bobby Garrett, during a recent webinar by clicking here.

As always, questions about tax issues, Covid-19 relief programs, and guidance on managing your business through the current downturn are welcome. Please contact us at (781) 407-0300 or visit our website at www.gggcpas.com for the latest updates.

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