Staying Vigilant Against Elder Fraud and Tax Scams
Every year millions of elderly Americans are targeted and often fall victim to some type of financial fraud. The senior population is often targeted because they tend to be trusting, polite and often have financial savings (sometimes substantial) that criminals target. Several factors during this time of year often lead to an increase in scamming targets aimed at the senior population – including fraudulent IRS schemes centered around the current tax season and tax deadlines. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and economic stimulus payments that are going out to many Americans have also created a significant increase in fraudulent activity. It is important to be on guard at all times as criminals will relentlessly try and pursue methodologies to steal your money.
Below are a few helpful bullet points to remember if you are ever contacted by someone over the phone or via email asking for your personal information (social security number, banking information) and promising financial reward in return or the need to solve an impending financials crisis (IRS audit, impending lawsuit, or financial judgement etc.).
- The IRS or other national/local government taxation agencies WILL NEVER contact you by phone or email to take payment or enforce action on an outstanding issue. All correspondence will be done via mail.
- Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
- Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action. Call the police immediately if you feel there is a danger to yourself or a loved one.
- Scammers will often target through a scheme called “Phishing” where they use fake emails or websites to steal personal information. IRS Criminal Investigation has seen a tremendous increase in phishing schemes utilizing emails, letters, texts and links. These phishing schemes are using keywords such as “coronavirus,” “COVID-19” and “Stimulus” in various ways. Do not click on websites from unknown email recipients and always verify with someone over the phone if they are attempting to request any personal information or financial resources over email. Be diligent in the emails you respond to and the links you click on.
- If you suspect you have been a victim of Elder Fraud or your financial accounts have been compromised, immediately notify your financial institutions to freeze your accounts. In some case you many need to notify local law enforcement. Also change your passwords to any accounts (financial, computer, email etc.) that may have been compromised
Below are several links to websites with more information on common fraudulent schemes that pursued by scammers and more information from the FBI on Elder Fraud.
Austin Fugitt, CPA