Avoiding Tax Scams for Seniors and Caregivers
The following subject was brought to our attention by Linda Thaler, a Manhattan-based CPA who has previously worked with SelectCare.
The 2016 tax season is still many months away, but federal officials are urging all taxpayers to exercise caution in the coming months, citing more than 736,000 incidents of attempted fraud since October 2013.
Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George of the Tax Administration said that while his organization has made some progress in investigating these crimes, more than 4,000 taxpayers, primarily older and recently-immigrated citizens, have been swindled out of nearly $23 million over the past two years.
“This scam has proven to be the largest of its kind that we have ever seen,” George said in a press release.
The tax scam typically works like this: A taxpayer receives a call from what appears to be an IRS phone number. The caller then claims that the taxpayer owes taxes, which they can pay by mailing a prepaid debit card or sending money by wire transfer. If the taxpayer resists, the scammer often threatens their mark with a criminal violation, immediate arrest, the revocation of a business or driver’s license or deportation.
“The callers are aggressive, they are relentless and they are ruthless,” George added. “Once they have your attention, they will say anything to con you out of your hard-earned cash.”
Like most scams, the easiest way to avoid becoming a victim is to identify the scam early and end the call immediately. Since the IRS almost always contacts taxpayers by mail, anyone calling “from the IRS” is probably trying to run a con. Additionally, the IRS does not accept payments by credit card, wire transfer, or prepaid debit cards.
“This is a crime of opportunity, so the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to take away the opportunity,” the Inspector General added. “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language if you do not pay immediately, that is a sign that it is not the IRS calling, and your cue to hang up,” George said. “Again, do not engage with these callers. If they call you, hang up the telephone.”
This might sound like common sense advice, but after receiving one of these calls myself, it seems all too easy to get turned around if you’re not wary.
In George’s case, a woman with a DC area code began by asking to confirm his name. He asked the caller who they were and was given a generic name and a (fake) IRS badge number. The caller then attempted to confirm his address and gave him the last four digits of his social security number (both of which were correct).
Feeling something was off, he informed the caller they had the wrong person. He was then told he owed thousands of dollars in property tax for a home in New Orleans. While it would be fantastic to own property in the Pelican State, he realized what was going on. He simply informed the caller that he was reporting them to the IRS and heard the call quickly disconnect.
While he was fortunate enough to sense that something was amiss, the IRS offers a few additional tips to make sure you don’t become a victim:
Callers who commit this fraud often:
Utilize an automated robocall machine.
Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
May know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security Number.
Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
Send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam.
Call a second or third time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here’s what to do:
If you owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
If you do not owe taxes, fill out the “IRS Impersonation scam” form on TIGTA’s website,
www.treasury.gov/tigta, or call TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.
Unfortunately, scams like this are all too common and can have a disastrous impact on the lives and finances of older Americans. At SelectCare Home Care Services, we believe that truly effective homecare doesn’t just safeguard a client’s health and independence. We believe it’s our obligation to identify new and emerging hazards like these scams and work to ensure our staff, clients and their families are well-informed.
To learn more about how SelectCare can help protect you or a loved one, call us today.