security, tax tips — April 12, 2021

Students and Faculty Beware—Stimulus Scam on the Rise

by Susannah McQuitty

Scammers pose as the IRS to get student and faculty COVID stimulus.

As if the last stretch before finals wasn’t enough, university students now have the added stress of a stimulus scam targeting them and their COVID-19 relief payments.

And it’s not just the students—faculty members are on the hit-list, too. Many who have an “.edu” email address have been targeted by fraudsters posing as the IRS (even though the IRS never requests personal information via email).

What does the stimulus payment email scam look like?

False emails proudly display the IRS logo and blast subject lines like Tax Refund Payment or Recalculation of your tax refund payment. Potential victims are directed to click an internal link and submit a form to claim their refund, which is never a good sign.

The emails request personally identifying information like:

  • Social Security Numbers
  • First names
  • Last names
  • Dates of birth
  • Prior year annual gross income
  • Driver's license numbers
  • Current address, city, state/U.S. territory, ZIP code/postal code
  • Electronic filing PINs

Again, the IRS never requests this sort of information online or over the phone, and fraudsters can do a lot of damage with information like the above.

What do I do if I get an email from a scammer?

First, make sure not to click anything in the email, and report the scam to the IRS. Save the email and send it as an attachment to phishing@irs.gov, or forward the email as an attachment to phishing@irs.gov.

Next, be sure to get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN), especially if you think you might have provided identity thieves with your personal information. This is a voluntary opt-in program provided by the IRS that helps prevent identity thieves from filing fraudulent tax returns in the victim’s name.

What if I already gave my information and can’t file my taxes now because someone else has filed in my name?

You’re going to need to report identity theft as soon as possible. File a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit to report yourself as a possible identity theft victim. You can also read more on Identity Theft Central, a page provided by the IRS, to learn about the signs of identity theft and actions to take.

If I want to find the real info, where can I check on my stimulus payment?

There are places to do this online—just not via email. Taxpayers who believe they have a pending refund can easily check on its status using the Where's My Refund tool on IRS.gov.

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