Protecting Seniors From Tax Scams
Tax season is upon us, and that means scammers will be looking for easy prey.
“Tax time presents the perfect opportunity for thieves who are looking to con older adults,” said Mark Goetz, co-founder, and president of the HomeCare Advocacy Network. “They prey on peoples’ fear of the IRS and, oftentimes, unfamiliarity with technology. That’s why we encourage families to take a few simple steps to ensure their aging loved ones are protected.”
Experts say two of the most used scams during tax season are identity theft and IRS imposter schemes.
As tax forms are prepared and submitted, a lot of personal and financial information is circulated through the mail, over the internet, and in person. Encourage your senior loved one to be extra protective of their personal information and remind them to:
- Never give out personal information unless they know who’s asking for it and understand why it’s needed.
- Avoid clicking on links in emails or text messages unless they are absolutely certain they’re safe.
- Submit tax returns as early in the tax season as possible – before scammers have a chance to take advantage.
- Shred personal and financial documents.
- Use a trusted tax preparer.
- Check the status of their refund at the official IRS website – irs.gov/refunds.
IRS Imposter Scam
Scammers claiming to be IRS employees also call or text older people – claiming they owe money for taxes. Make sure your loved one is aware that sophisticated phone and/or text scammers typically will:
- Threaten to arrest your senior loved one if they don’t pay up immediately.
- Claim to know all or part of their Social Security Number.
- Use a fake caller ID to make it look like the call is coming from the IRS.
- Instruct your loved one to put money on a prepaid debit card or gift card and then give the card number to the scammer.
According to the IRS, a real IRS agent will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment for taxes owed without first sending notification by mail.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Ask for payment via gift card.
- Threaten to involve local police or other law enforcement to make an arrest for nonpayment.
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Call unexpectedly about a refund.
If you or your aging loved ones are concerned about harassment from someone claiming to be from the IRS, report them to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration using their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting form or by calling 800-366-4484.
If you suspect your aging loved one may have been a victim of fraud, call the IRS helpline at 1-877-908-3360.