Beware tax season scams aimed at seniors

As one of the most vulnerable segments in our society, seniors are often the target of scammers.  And unsurprisingly tax time is when a lot of the cockroaches crawl out of the woodwork.

Since many of my clients are senior citizens, I keep an eye out for the latest scams. And this year’s annual list from the IRS is essential reading.

They include:

Phishing schemes:
Phishing happens in plain sight. You see an email that seems to be from a reputable source which directs you to what seems to be a legitimate website. But you don’t notice the web address isn’t for the legitimate site at all. It’s a clever forgery. The site looks identical to the legitimate one. And then when you enter personal information into that fraudulent page the scammers use it to access your real account.

Phone scams:
More and more seniors are getting calls from people claiming to be from the IRS. They make threats of arrests, prison and and other penalties if you don’t do what they say. The simple solution is to end the call and call the IRS immediately (800-829-1040) see if the call came from them. It likely didn’t: the IRS preferred method of communication is mail.

Identity theft:
If a scammer is able to access your personal data, they can file tax returns on your behalf with any refunds going to them. To prevent this, ongoing attention is needed. Make sure to shred all personal documents after use. Never mail confidential email in a public mailbox. And find out what safeguards your tax preparer has in place to protect your personal information.

Return preparer fraud:
This time of year there are many scammers masquerading as tax return professionals. Do some research when choosing someone to handle your taxes. Use the IRS  (irs.gov) for a  list of tips regarding picking a tax preparer.

Fake charities:
There are many fraudulent charities that use names similar to authentic ones. The goal is to steal money from you and get your personal information. To authenticate a charity go to the Exempt Organization Select Check on the IRS website (irs.gov/charities) to see if the one you’re giving to is on the list.

There are more but the point is well made. Proceed with caution when it comes to your personal information at any time of year but especially during tax season.

If you’re looking for tax advice, we specialize in estate planning and may be able to assist. Please contact us to talk.