New Jersey Society of CPAs Cautions Individuals and Small Business Owners to Watch for Coronavirus Scams
ROSELAND, N.J. – The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJCPA) cautions individuals and small business owners about various scams related to coronavirus relief. Scammers have used phone calls, texts, emails and social media to request money, steal identity or falsely trick recipients into believing it is coming from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the Small Business Administration (SBA).
According to the IRS, taxpayers should be on the lookout for a “surge of calls and email phishing attempts about the coronavirus, or COVID-19.” Scammers routinely ask for verification of personal or banking information; suggest that they can get someone’s tax refund or Economic Impact Payment faster with their help; or issue a bogus check, often in an odd amount, and/or tell them to call a number to verify information online to cash it.
Taxpayers should know the following related to the IRS:
- The IRS will not call, email or text to verify or request financial, banking or personal information.
- The official website is IRS.gov. Watch out for websites and social media attempts to request money or personal information.
- Do not open surprise emails that look like they are coming from the IRS or click on attachments or links.
- Do not provide personal or financial information or engage with potential scammers online or over the phone.
- Forward suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, then delete.
- Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information.
Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an Economic Impact Payment of up to $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples and up to $500 for each qualifying child.
Taxpayers should understand the following about the Economic Impact Payments:
- The IRS will automatically deposit Economic Impact Payments into the bank account taxpayers provided on their 2019 or 2018 tax return for a direct deposit of their tax refund.
- Those without a direct deposit account on file may be able to provide their banking information online through a new secure tool, Get My Payment.
- Anyone who is eligible for an Economic Impact Payment and does not provide direct deposit information will receive a payment mailed to the last address the IRS has on file.
- The IRS does not charge a fee to issue the payment.
Retirees are particularly targeted over their $1,200 Economic Impact Payment, which requires no action on their part to receive. Payments are automatic for eligible retirees who do not normally file a tax return, such as those who receive Social Security retirement, disability, survivor benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Railroad Retirement benefits.
Scammers have also used the SBA name to commit lending fraud associated with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Small business owners need to be aware of any phishing attacks or scams to obtain personally identifiable information (PII) for banking access; requests for upfront payments; the use of emails other than those ending in sba.gov in correspondence with the SBA; the lack of the presence of an SBA logo; being proactively contacted by someone from SBA on disaster loans or grants as it is likely fraudulent; and being charged higher fees than typical SBA lenders are offering (3 percent for loans $50,000 or less and 2 percent for loans $50,000 to $1,000,000 and an additional ¼ percent on amounts over $1,000,000.)
Small business owners should visit sba.gov for guidance and loan assistance.
“All taxpayers need to be on watch for scams in these unprecedented times. Individuals and business owners can always turn to CPAs for advice on what qualifies under the relief packages and how they can access financial assistance,” said Ralph Albert Thomas, CPA (DC), CGMA, CEO and executive director at the NJCPA.
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The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants, with more than 14,000 members, represents the interests of the accounting profession and advances the financial well-being of the people of New Jersey. The NJCPA plays a leadership role in supporting the profession by providing members with educational resources, access to shared knowledge and a continuing effort to create and expand professional opportunities. Visit njcpa.org.