If You Get This Message From the IRS, Don't Open It, Experts Warn
A new tax credit from the agency has scammers clamoring to take advantage of you.
Scam callers claiming to be from the IRS are a dime a dozen. While tax season has come to an end, you might be gearing up to receive the IRS' child tax credit starting in July—which could leave you vulnerable to criminals. Experts are warning that this new tax credit from the agency has scammers clamoring to take advantage of you by sending emails, texts, or even direct messages on social media. Read on to find out what you need to be on the lookout for.
If you get a message from the IRS about your child tax credit, don't open it.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) released a statement on June 23 warning adults in the U.S. that scammers will try to take advantage of the IRS' new child tax credit. The IRS will be sending qualified adults payments from July 15 to Dec. 2021 through the American Rescue Plan. But if you receive a text or email about this credit claiming to be from the agency, don't open it—because it's not really the IRS.
"The IRS doesn't initiate contact by email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal or financial information—even information related to advance Child Tax Credit payments," the agency said in a FAQ statement posted June 14. If you receive a suspicious IRS-related email, the IRS says that you should not open any attachments, click on any links, or reply.
Be suspicious if you're offered help to get your payments earlier or get more money.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says U.S. adults eligible for the child tax credit will receive automatic monthly payments around the 15th of each month. This means no action is needed from you, but scammers may try to convince you otherwise. "When money from the government is in the news, we know scammers are about to run their standard playbook. They may call, email, text, or DM you," the FTC warns. The agency says that scammers will likely say they can help you get your payments earlier or get you more money—neither of which is possible.
"Only the IRS will be sending these payments. Anyone trying to 'help' you get your child tax credit is really after your money," the FTC says.
The IRS has opened its own portal to help families manage their child tax credit payments.
If you do need help with the child tax credit, you can use one of the two new online tools the IRS has created. On June 22, the agency released a statement about these new tools: the Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant and the Child Tax Credit Update Portal. The eligibility assistant tool will allow families to answer a series of questions to see if they qualify for the credit, and the portal will help families to not only verify their eligibility, but also to unenroll or opt out of the monthly payments, if they choose. Both tools are available through the IRS' official website, IRS.gov.
"Anyone who lacks internet access or otherwise cannot use the online tool may unenroll by contacting the IRS at the phone number included in your outreach letter," the agency explained in its statement. The IRS started sending letters at the beginning of June to more than 36 million U.S. families that qualify for the credit.
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The IRS asks that you report any scams involving the agency.
If you do receive an IRS message you suspect to be a scam, the agency asks that you report it. The IRS says you should forward texts with the originating number to 202-552-1226. For emails, you can forward the email as-is to firstname.lastname@example.org. The IRS requests that you forward the email "preferably with the full email headers," and not as a scanned image, because this "removes valuable information." Once you forward the message, you can delete it from your inbox or phone.
"The IRS urges everyone to be on the lookout for scam artists trying to use advance Child Tax Credit payments as a cover for schemes to steal personal information and money," the agency warns.