As April approaches, many think of spring in bloom, April showers, and maybe even Opening Day for baseball season, but there’s no denying it and no avoiding it, tax time is here as well. For some, April can be a time of frustration and even fear, especially if the documents necessary for tax filing are disorganized, misplaced, or simply missing. Unfortunately, for many seniors, tax time is not only stressful, but also prime time for financial scams aimed directly at them.
Our goal at Senior Lifestyle is to share valuable information that impacts seniors, and with that in mind, we’ve compiled several tips from the Internal Revenue Service as well as AARP to help senior loved ones avoid falling prey to fraud during tax season.
THE IRS IMPOSTOR SCAM
In this sophisticated phone scam, a caller claiming to be an IRS employee will say that you owe taxes. They may use intimidation, threatening you with arrest or deportation if you don’t pay. They may also tell you to put the money on a prepaid debit card and then give them the number on the card. They may also know a fair amount of your personal information, but remember, the IRS DOES NOT call to demand payment over the phone without first sending a bill in the mail. Additionally, the IRS will NOT ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement to arrest you for non-payment. According to the IRS, “Thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Scammers use the regular mail, telephone, or email to set up individuals, businesses, payroll and tax professionals.” The Internal Revenue Service also notes that the IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.
If you have any doubts about whether a contact was authentic, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040. Or, if you’ve spotted a scam or think you may have been scammed, call the IRS helpline at 877-908-3360 for advice and guidance.
TAX ID THEFT
In this scam, your personal information is stolen for the purposes of filing a fraudulent tax return for the refund. It can involve filing a fraudulent return with another person’s Social Security number, claiming someone else’s children as dependents, or claiming a tax refund using a deceased taxpayer’s information.
To avoid tax identity theft:
- Do mail tax returns as early in the tax season as possible before the scammers beat you to it.
- Don’t give out personal information unless you know who’s asking for it and why they need it.
- Do shred personal and financial documents.
- Do know your tax preparer.
- Do check the status of your refund after filing at gov/Refunds
For help, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490 and visit irs.gov/identitytheft.
Tax time is stressful enough without becoming the victim of fraud, so take precautions to avoid scammers and warn senior loved ones of the signs of fraud during tax season. To learn more about Senior Lifestyle and our commitment to those we serve, please visit our website at www.seniorlifestyle.com.