Tax season gives con artists and scammers another way to fleece older adults, preying on their fear of the IRS.
This year is especially dangerous because of the recent Equifax breach that leaked the personal information of at least 143 million Americans.
AARP warns us of the top two tax scams that are making headlines this year – tax identity theft and the IRS imposter scam.
To protect your older adult’s hard-earned savings, learn about these financial scams against seniors. Then, educate your older adult on the dirty tricks that fraudsters are using so they’ll be on the lookout.
We summarize how these two scams work and recommend trusted sources where you can get help and updates on the latest scams.
Scam 1. Tax identity theft
Tax identity theft is when personal information is stolen and used to apply for a fraudulent tax refund.
A scammer could file a tax return using your older adult’s Social Security number, claim them as a dependent, or claim a tax refund using a deceased family member’s information.
To avoid tax identity theft:
- Don’t give out personal information unless you know who’s asking for it and why they need it
- Do mail tax returns as early in the tax season as possible before scammers have a chance
- Do shred personal and financial documents
- Do know your older adult’s tax preparer
- Do check the status of your older adult’s refund after filing at the official IRS website: irs.gov/Refunds
For help or more information, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 or visit irs.gov/identitytheft.
Scam 2. IRS imposter scam
Con artists also call people on the telephone and claim to be IRS employees. If they were to call your older adult, they’d say that they owe money for their taxes and make all kinds of scary threats.
AARP also created this helpful video that illustrates how these scams might sound – and shows the “behind the scenes,” how scammers are lying through their teeth.
IRS imposter scammers might:
- Threaten to arrest or deport your older adult if they don’t pay
- Know all or part of their Social Security number
- Fake the caller ID to make it look like the call is coming from the IRS
- Tell older adults to put the money on a prepaid debit card or gift card and tell the scammer the card number
Real IRS agents will never do these things
When running their tax scams, con artists are doing many things that real IRS agents would never do.
Real IRS agents would never:
- Call to demand immediate payment for taxes owed without first sending a notification by mail
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone
- Ask for payment via gift card
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement to make an arrest for nonpayment
If you or your older adult have any doubts about someone claiming to be from the IRS, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.
If you’ve heard about an attempted scam or think your older adult may have been scammed, call the IRS helpline for advice at 1-877-908-3360.
Get the latest info about scams from trusted sources
If you have any concerns about your older adult’s tax return or think a con artist might be trying to scam them, there are two trusted, reputable sources where you can get more information.
The IRS posts information about the latest scams here on their website. For questions about an IRS notice, call them directly at 1-800-829-1040. Additional IRS contact information is also posted here.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network
The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a trustworthy place to get helpful information on scams targeting seniors. You can also get help from their call center at 1-877-908-3360.
The Fraud Watch Network covers a wide range of scams and shares useful tips range from keeping debit and credit information safe to staying safe on social media – and everything in between.
Recommended for you:
- Get Free Tax Preparation Help for Seniors from the IRS
- Tax Season = More Financial Scams Against Seniors
- 3 Top Senior Scams to Watch Out For: Advice From the FBI
By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Prof Andreas Obermair
This article wasn’t sponsored and doesn’t contain affiliate links. For more information, see How We Make Money.