There are three letters that can strike fear in our hearts – IRS, the Internal Revenue Service. If you were to pick up the phone and a professional voice is stating their official sounding “IRS badge number” to you, would you question it? Would you push your luck with the supposed “IRS representative” if they knew your name, address and last 4 digits of your social security number? Would you hang up if they were demanding your bank account number? This is an intimidating scenario that happens repeatedly to seniors every year with tragic results.
As tax day quickly approaches, tax scammers are in full gear targeting senior citizens. They prey on the open and trustworthy nature of this vulnerable population. There are two types of tax scams that commonly target our senior population:
- Identity fraud where a thief will impersonate someone and file a false tax return as that person.
- Phone or email scams where they impersonate the IRS and either ask for payment on a claim or offer to send you the refund.
“As professionals who work with seniors daily, Aegis Living wants to help this vulnerable population not fall victim to these heinous scams,” says Tom Laborde, Chief Operating Officer at Aegis Living. “Sadly, many of these crimes go unreported because the victim is embarrassed and ashamed. We want to empower seniors with information on how to avoid these scams.”
Identity fraud can occur when someone uses your personal information, such as your name, address, and social security number, without your permission to commit fraud. In the case of tax fraud, a thief will use your identity to file a fraudulent tax return to claim a refund.
How to protect yourself:
- Protect sensitive information. The best advice to avoid this scam is to protect your personal information, account numbers, social security number, credit card information, and other identifying personal information. Shred your sensitive documents.
- File your taxes early. Beat them to the punch with your paperwork submitted to the IRS as early as possible. If you file your taxes with the IRS before a thief, you are less vulnerable to a false tax return being filed.
- Contact the IRS. If you believe that you are at risk of identity theft, contact the IRS immediately so they can secure your tax account. Contact the IRS Identity Protection.
Phone or Email Tax Scam
If you are contacted by phone or email by the IRS, then you are being targeted by a tax scam. Aggressive individuals that contact you for immediate payment or claim that you are getting a refund and need your bank account are not part of the IRS.
How to avoid a phone or email tax scam:
- The IRS is calling you. A phone call from the IRS should be the first and most important sign that this is a con. IRS representatives do not call if you owe money or if they owe you a refund, they will first contact you by certified mail with a written notice. And if you have a refund, they will send it to you.
- The IRS is sending you an email. Again, this is a scam. The IRS will contact you first by certified mail if there is an issue with your taxes.
- Aggressive and threatening tone. If the caller threatens to call the police, evict you from your home, revoke your driver’s license, or not process your refund, this is a scam.
- They may know your name, address, and last four digits of your social security number. Unfortunately, scammers are getting better at their scams. They may have your information but this does not prove that they are with the IRS.
- Require payment method immediately. The thief will often ask for a specific type of payment like a wire transfer or a prepared debit card. The real IRS accepts many forms of payment and would never ask for a credit card or debit card number over the telephone or through an email.
- Offer no chance to dispute a claim. If they give you no time to verify the claim or amount owed, this is not legitimate.
- Some scams will claim to have a refund for you. A red flag should go up if anyone is asking you for a bank account and routing number over the phone. They are interested in getting more information from you to access your money. If you have a refund from the IRS, they will send it to you.
- Looks are not always what they seem. They may appear to have an IRS phone number on your caller id or their bogus email may look professional but a scam artist will take the time to look like they are with the IRS as part of the scam. Be skeptical.
- Call the IRS yourself. If you have a concern about your tax return, contact the IRS directly yourself. If the person is legitimately with the IRS, they will have no problem if you ask to call them back. Visit the IRS official website to find contact information and more information about tax scams.