Montezuma County residents are reporting an unusually high number of instances of unemployment fraud in the first few weeks of 2021, with 10 reports being filed to the Sheriff’s Office so far, compared with six in all of 2020.
Just about all the instances of unemployment fraud this year have been perpetrators using another person’s identity (name and or Social Security number) to file for unemployment payments. It’s not just Montezuma County, however. According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, in just the first week of January – 16,000 of the 41,000 unemployment claims in the state appear to be fake.
The Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division also sent out a release last week warning Colorado taxpayers about a new wave of COVID-19-related scams as the agency delivers its second round of economic impact payments. The agency believes criminals are looking to take advantage of this new round of payments, as well as the upcoming filing season.
“Money derived from the CARES Act is meant to assist those in our nation that have been seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Andy Tsui, special agent in charge of the Denver Field Office for the IRS division. “But criminals think that these funds have become an easy source to line their pockets through deceit, trickery and fraudulent activity. We at IRS-CI remain dedicated to finding the lawless that prey on our public and hold them accountable for their actions.”
Some of the common COVID-19 scams include text messages asking taxpayers to disclose bank account information to receive $1,200 checks, phishing schemes using email and social media, bogus opportunities to invest in companies developing the vaccine and the organized and unofficial sale of fake at-home COVID-19 test kits.
COVID-19 scams should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or submitted through the NCDF web complaint form.
To learn more about COVID-19 scams and other financial schemes, visit IRS.gov.