COVID-19-Related Identity Theft Scams on the Rise by Joseph L. Saka, CPA/PFS

Posted on February 08, 2021 by Joseph Saka

The IRS warns taxpayers to be on alert to a rise in identity-theft schemes related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including phony offers for government-backed economic relief, access to FDA-approved vaccines or other products falsely marketed as virus cures.

In one scam, thieves are directing victims to click on a link in a text message to receive a $1,200 Economic Impact Payment (EIP). The text reads “You have received a direct deposit of $1,200 from COVID-19 TREAS FUND. Further action is required to accept this payment into your account. Continue here to accept this payment …” The text includes a link that appears to come from an official government agency or relief organization but is a fake phishing web address. If you click on the link, you will be taken to an official-looking website and asked to enter your personal details and financial account information, which the scammers will collect and use to steal your identity.

Another scheme making its way across the country involves criminals posing as representatives from the Social Security Administration and encouraging victims to share personal information to sign-up for a coronavirus vaccine. Scammer may trick victims into providing their credit card numbers, their bank account information or buying gift cards to ensure their names are added to a vaccine waitlist.

To avoid falling victim to these and other scams, remember that government agencies will never send unsolicited texts or emails to taxpayers nor will they call taxpayers with threats of jail or lawsuits or demand tax payments on gift cards.

According to the IRS commissioner, given the current health crisis and more people working remotely, consumers at greater risk of letting their guards down and having their identities stolen. At a minimum, the IRS recommends taxpayers employ the following basic steps to better protect themselves and their personal information:

About the author: Joseph L. Saka, CPA/PFS, is CEO of Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs, where he provides entrepreneurs, high-net-worth families, family companies and business executives in the U.S. and abroad with a full range of income and estate planning services; tax, business consulting and compliance services; and financial planning expertise. He can be reached at the CPA firm’s Miami office at (305) 379-7000 or via e-mail at