By Allyn Hughes, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®, CAP®
You arrive home from doing errands and hear the telephone ringing. You don’t have time to look at the phone to see who it is. You answer the phone and the person on the other end of the call says that they are from the IRS. He confirms your identity and says that they have just audited your taxes for 2015 and that you owe $949.
You know that your accountant or your tax filing software never said that you owed money in 2016 when you sent in your 2015 taxes. In fact, you got some money back.
You also know that you have been making quarterly tax payments at amounts that have been based on your income.
What do you do?
It is a scam. Hang up and don’t answer the phone if they call back again!
The IRS will only send requests for more information or audit information through the mail.
As America gets grayer, more and more older people are becoming victims of a variety of fraud. You don’t have to search long to find someone who has been victimized. You probably know someone who has had a fraudulent return filed or had their identify stolen.
Statistics show that seniors are often less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are ashamed at having been scammed or don’t know if they have been scammed. Pride or limitations in judgement pushes them to remain silent.
If you have older parents or friends, here are some things that you might want to review with them periodically:
- Screen your calls and don’t answer the phone if you don’t know who is calling. Let the caller leave a message.
- Never provide your personal information to someone who has called you. This includes your name, address, Social Security number, date of birth or your Medicare number. If they need this information, get their telephone number and call them back.
- If your spouse dies, don’t include specific information about the deceased (like date of birth, maiden name, etc.) in the obituary.
- Never send any money via any means – check, cash, money order, Pay Pal, etc. – to any person or organization that you don’t personally know. This includes callers who tell you that you won a contest and to get your prize, you only need to send them money.
- If you suspect that you are being a victim of a fraud, ask the caller for his or her telephone number and tell them that you will call them back. If they don’t want to give this information to you, then hang up.
- Do not open attachments in emails from people or organizations that you don’t know.
- Use a single credit card to pay for all internet transactions.
- Make sure that they contact their phone company and periodically ask them to block “robo” calls. Check the national Do Not Call registry to make sure the right numbers are included.
- Never pre-pay for a home improvement. Pay as much as half up-front and the balance when the work is done to your satisfaction.
Finally, because it is tax season, we suggest that you contact the IRS (1-800-829-1040) and ask them to issue you a PIN each year that you will use when you file your taxes. This helps them make sure that your tax return won’t be fraudulently filed by someone who has stolen your identity.
The increasing number of seniors has inadvertently made them target rich for all types of financial frauds. To avoid being a statistic, it’s important to know the common scams and how to avoid them.
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