Millions of dollars have been lost over the years to scammers claiming to be from government organizations, and unfortunately, scams targeting seniors are on the rise. In fact, in 2021, there were 92,371 older victims of money fraud. Scammers know that a simple phone call or email will seem legitimate when they accompany it with some of your personal identifying information. Being able to recognize the telltale signs of these types of scams is an important step to keeping your finances safe. Below are a few tax season scams to be aware of.
Phone Calls and Robocalls
Ring, ring… the caller ID shows “Internal Revenue Service” and an unsuspecting senior picks up the phone. The caller reads off an IRS badge number, and the senior is told they owe money that must be paid right now via wire transfer or prepaid gift card. The caller has personal information and even knows the last four digits of their social security number. This is a scam.
It is important to know that the IRS will never initiate contact by phone, does not demand money in a threatening way, and will not ask for unusual payment methods, such as gift cards or wire transfers. Except for in special circumstances, legitimate IRS communications are sent through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service.
Scammers also pursue victims through the use of robocalls, which may be a scripted prerecorded message or a voice-generated computer calling the victim and then asking them to return the call. Robocalls allow scammers to contact thousands of callers quickly and easily with one prerecorded message.
If you get one of these calls, just hang up and make sure to report it. The IRS website explains how to report these types of phone scams.
Email, Text, and Phishing Attacks
Faking an email to look official is one of the easiest attacks on seniors. The email contains all the correct images and asks the victim to update or verify personal or financial information for payment or refund. Often the email also contains an attachment that, when clicked, contains malware that may compromise their device, finances, or personal information.
These types of attacks may also come through as text messages that include links to fake websites that look very similar to real sites, such as the official IRS website or your bank.
If you receive one of these emails or texts, do not open it, just delete it. If you do open it accidentally, do not click on any links.
How To Protect Yourself This Tax Season
First and foremost, never send money. Know that scammers will often ask you to send money in odd ways, such as wire transfer, money order, cryptocurrency, payment app, or gift card. These types of payment requests are always a scam.
Most importantly, trust your gut! If something does not seem right, it probably isn’t. Be aware of your incoming communications and ignore phone calls or emails asking for personal information or money—especially at tax time.
If you are unsure, you can always step back from the situation and take a moment to look up the official contact information for the agency or organization. Then call them to verify if it is legitimate or not. Being aware is the first step to protecting yourself.