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The IRS Criminal Investigation division received more complaints about scams in June and July than it has in a decade, with a majority of the complaints about scams related to the Economic Impact Payments, according to a release from the IRS.

The scams, which prey on people who have received or are hoping to receive the EIP payments from the federal government, are generally texts or emails claiming that the recipient is eligible for a payment and to click on a link to complete a form to receive it. The scammers can then take information, including bank and identity information, and use it.

The IRS does not send unsolicited texts or emails, threaten people with jail or lawsuits or demand payments in the form of gift cards or cryptocurrency — but scammers do.

“Criminals are relentless in trying to victimize the public and during this pandemic are after your economic impact payments,” said Andy Tsui, the special agent in charge of IRS Criminal Investigations in Montana, in an Aug. 30 news release.

The texts, emails and messages will sometimes include grammatical mistakes, strange capitalization or spelling errors, which is another sign that the messages aren’t legitimate. Scammers may also include shortened URLs, which can lead to false websites.

The IRS also offers an online tool to be able to check the status of EIPs. That tool can be found by going to IRS.gov and clicking the “Get My Payment” button.

People who receive suspicious messages from someone claiming to be the IRS, or a person or organization closely linked to the IRS, can forward the message to phishing@irs.gov and report fraud or theft of Economic Impact Payments to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at TIPS.TIGTA.GOV.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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