Unfortunately, senior adults are often targeted for scams, especially during the peak of the tax season.
Scammers are getting smarter and smarter, especially when it comes to tax fraud. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reported receiving five-to-seven reports per week from tax firms that have experienced a data theft during the 2018 tax filing season.
What tax scams look like:Some scammers strike early in the tax season by stealing personal data from tax professionals and filing fraudulent tax returns. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet and receive a tax refund followed by an “IRS” request to “return” the funds, that could indicate someone stole your personal data. Or, if you file your taxes and learn they have already been filed, that is also a red flag.
Many scams during tax season happen over the phone, and scammers especially like to target senior citizens. The scammer will often pose as the IRS and demand payment immediately, even threatening consequences like involving law enforcement.
Here are some helpful tips, not just for senior adults, but everyone:
- File your taxes as early as you can.
- Never share your personal information over the phone, unless you initiated the call and believe there is a reason. If someone calls, emails, texts or you see a pop-up on your computer: do not share your information with them.
- Use caution when choosing a tax preparer:
- Choose a tax preparer that you can verify their credentials and meet with in person.
- When using an online tax preparation service:
- Use a reputable, well-known company. Information can be found about e-filing on irs.gov.
- Never select a company from a pop-up, unsolicited email or text message.
- If anyone contacts you claiming to be from the IRS:
- Ask for their name and tell them that you will call them back. Look up the IRS customer service phone number yourself to verify. It is extremely unlikely for an authentic IRS representative to call you.
- If you owe the IRS money, you will receive a letter. The IRS does use 3rd party collection services, but you will always receive a communication through U.S. mail first. You can also call to confirm the amounts you owe by calling the IRS.
- The IRS will never threaten to send police to your home to take you to jail.
- The IRS will never ask you to pay by:
- Wire, especially to another country
- Gift cards; iTunes cards
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask a trusted family member or friend to help you with this process. Only trust someone you have known for a long time and have a close relationship with.
What to do if you believe you were subjected to fraud:
- If you believe your tax return has been filed fraudulently – immediately report it to the IRS.
- Contact your financial institution if you see a deposit you were not expecting.
- Contact your local law enforcement.
Schedule a Money Safety for Seniors Workshop.
Learn how to detect, protect against and report the financial exploitation of seniors. Old National offers this course to community groups at no cost.
Donna is a Senior Loss Prevention Analyst, CFE and part of the Fraud Prevention and Investigations Department at Old National. This group is responsible for investigating and responding to bank-related fraud situations, as well as training and educating associates and clients about fraud.
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