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The U.S. Treasury Department reports that nearly 16,000 American have been taken in by scams involving criminals falsely claiming to be employees of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The scams have resulted in losses of more than $80 million.

The scams frequently involve individuals who claim to be IRS agents making threatening calls to taxpayers claiming that the taxpayers must make immediate payments or suffer penalties. The scammers often demand that taxpayers make payments using pre-paid debit cards, money orders, or wire transfers.

The calls have targeted taxpayers in every states, but the top five states in terms of losses to this type of fraud are California, New York, Texas, Illinois, and Florida.

The IRS says that it generally make first contacts with taxpayers via the U.S. mail, not by phone; it never demands payment via pre-paid debit cards, money orders, or wire transfers; and it never asks taxpayers to personal or financial information via email, text, or social media.

Anyone who receives a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and demanding payment should hang up and call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040. Anyone who has been the victim of a scam or who has been contacted by calls they believe to be fraudulent should file a report online or call 1-800-366-4484.

The Social Security Administration also reports that the COVID-19 outbreak has brought an increase in fraud involving Social Security payments. The scams often involve threats to suspend Social Security payments or offers to increase payments and are aimed at getting recipients’ personal and financial information.

The COVID-19 outbreak has not resulted in suspensions, increases, or decreases of Social Security payments. Anyone who has been victimized or threatened by Social Security-related scams can report them using the Administration’s online form.

A new survey from LIMRA found that 40% of financial services firms reported "an uptick in malicious emails and account takeover attempts" over the past month. Fortunately, more than 90% of the firms had anticipated the problem and had warned employees and clients and taken other fraud-prevention steps.

The COVID-19 outbreak has spawned a rash of financial scams targeting Americans. NAIFA has published a Scams and Personal Security Resource Kit to help insurance and financial professionals and consumers protect themselves.

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