Federal Grand Jury Indicts 27 Individuals for Roles in a Fraudulent Scheme to Obtain COVID-19 Relief Funds
San Juan, Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow and Special Agent in Charge Michael J. De Palma of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) today warned taxpayers to be alert about possible scams relating to COVID-19, especially in connection with economic impact payments. The announcement is an effort to prevent taxpayers in need from being victimized by criminals using the recently approved payments as an opportunity to commit a crime.
U.S. Attorney Muldrow stated, "Our office and our law enforcement partners are committed to bringing to justice fraudsters who are preying on vulnerable citizens during this unprecedented public health crisis. We will also continue our outreach efforts to make the public aware of scams and frauds. I urge citizens to remain vigilant and to be skeptical of any telephone calls, e-mails, or websites that request personal information or banking information, while promising money or services that seem too good to be true."
Michael J. De Palma Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CI Miami Field Office warned, "Even as our Nation is enduring a State of Emergency, criminals will continue to engage in heinous acts to further enrich themselves demonstrating no sympathy by exploiting you during your most difficult circumstance."
In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 economic impact payments will be on their way. For most Americans, this will be a direct deposit into your bank account. For the unbanked individuals who have traditionally received tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their economic impact payment through the mail. The Treasury Department from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will also be providing assistance to individuals and small businesses via checks and direct deposits.
Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them or get you to "verify" your filing information in order to steal your money. Your personal information could then be used to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme. Because of this, everyone receiving a COVID-19 economic impact payments is at risk.
U.S. Attorney Muldrow offers the following information and tips to spot a scam and understand how the COVID-19 related economic impact payments will be issued.
In these uncertain and trying times, we need to remain vigilant. Please help law enforcement protect your community by telling family, friends, and elderly neighbors to be on the lookout for these potential scams. You work hard for your money, do NOT become a victim of these scams. If something sounds too good to be true, it is probably fraudulent.