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Beware Tax Scams Targeting Seniors

The deadline for filing federal income tax returns is almost here, so our estate planning attorneys in Orange County have taken it upon themselves of informing the public about tax scams that tend to target the elderly. Those 50 years of age and older are usually prime targets for tax scams, and in 2018, fraudulent schemes cost Americans over $18 billion. Below are some common scams to be on guard for during this year’s tax season:

IRS Impostor Scam

One of the most common scams involves criminals pretending to be IRS agents and contacting potential victims, claiming they must pay a fictitious tax bill or possibly be arrested. These con artists even trick the people they contact with fake caller IDs that make it appear as if it is the actual IRS making the call. In many cases, they also have certain digits of the potential victim’s Social Security number to further make the call seem legitimate. Over 1.8 million calls from IRS impostors are reported to the Treasury Department’s inspector general each year.

It is important to know that the Internal Revenue Service communicates primarily through the United States mail and usually only contacts individuals in person after multiple written notices have failed to get a response. To avoid being a victim of this scam, if a person claims that he or she is calling you from the IRS, hang up and contact the IRS directly through their official telephone number to verify whether or not the call was legitimate.

Identity Theft

Almost everyone has heard of identity theft, which is a phrase that describes a criminal or con artist stealing another person’s identifying data and using it fraudulently. Scammers often obtain this data by calling filers and claiming to be IRS representatives and then asking for personal information. Some criminals also send phishing emails with links that contain malware designed to harvest data from smartphones, tablets or desktop computers. Never open links on your phone or computer unless you are 100 percent sure of the source of the correspondence.

Tax ID Theft

Tax ID theft is a very common scam that involves criminals acquiring your personal data and filing a fraudulent return in your name. In most cases, the phony tax return reaches the IRS ahead of the genuine one. In such instances, by the time your authentic return is filed, the con artist may have already been awarded your refund. It then becomes a tangled mess that you must sort out with an IRS representative. Keeping your personal information well-guarded and filing early are good ways to avoid being a victim of this scam.