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The tax season is upon us and so is the tax scamming season. Tax scams rain upon all of us, but they rain especially hard upon our Seniors.

According to the IRS, 2016 has seen a whopping 400% increase in so-called phishing and malware financial scams [1].

Unfortunately, Elderly are much more likely to fall victims to scams. While the scammers are getting more and more intelligent with their approaches, our Seniors and their defense mechanisms are getting weaker. Please share this article with your aging loved ones and your Elderly neighbors. 

Did you know that our Seniors are scammers’ favorite target? Why? The reality is that many Seniors are vulnerable to scams because they often feel lonely. Many of them seek human interaction and personal conversation. This is what we love about them. This is what makes a personal relationship with a Senior so fulfilling. However, this is also what makes Seniors easy prey for scammers.

Some Seniors may claim that they are poor and are on a fixed income so they have nothing that can be stolen.

The trick is to realize that scammers are not hoping to get money out of Seniors directly. What the scammers want is often money, but lately, they want something much more valuable — information [1]. Armed with social security number, date of birth, and address of a Senior, scammers go to bank — literally. With a stolen identity, they open fraudulent credit card accounts. They withdraw cash, charge expensive merchandise, and even buy cars. The Senior eventually gets stuck with all the bills and spends 3 years on average, and untold amounts of energy and resources fighting the case. Not surprisingly, too many victims simply cannot handle such pressure and succumb to humiliation, shame, fear, and depression.

Scammers attacks come from various sources and include:

• phone

• mail

• email 

Scammers usually offer news that is pleasing to the ears of the potential victim, and state a variation of the following: 

“We have a tax refund ready for you. Before we process the refund check and send it out to you, we need to verify few minor details.”

“Would you like to know the amount of your refund? Where should we send the refund check?”

Who does not want to get a tax refund? We all do — and that’s the problem. 

Another form of a scam is a threat that a Senior owes back taxes to the IRS or the US Treasury, and if those back taxes are not paid immediately, the Senior will incur enormous penalties, interest charges, etc. Some Seniors are threatened with prison time, and cave in under the pressure.

Seniors may receive a piece of mail (or email) that looks legitimate — with logo, professional formatting that matches IRS letterhead and official forms, and a return address envelope that is already prepaid. When a phone call comes in, the scammer/caller is equally professional. Scammers equipped themselves with robocalls. They often leave very authoritatively sounding auto messages requesting an “urgent” call back. Many Seniors do call back.

The most often heard advice is: “If it sounds too good to be true — it is!” However, this is only half of the advice because too many aging Americans are threatened with prison time for owing back taxes. Prison time certainly does not sound too good to be true. The best advice in this context is: Do nothing. Hang up, and talk to a trustworthy family member, friend or a neighbor.

The reality is that our aging loved ones, as well as our aging neighbors need our help. They need someone to chat with, who will share with them this information, and who will serve as a go-to person when they are faced with such scams. 

Be that person. Protect them.

With love for the Elderly…

References

  1. Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts. IRS. 25 Mar. 2010. Web. 13 April 2016, available at

https://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts

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Olena L.