A quick heads-up: the IRS is warning that they have picked up on a nasty scam targeting seniors as this year’s income tax filings come in. According to the press release, their processors have seen an absolute tsunami of fraudulent claims specifically targeting the elderly.
If you are a caregiver, or have elderly friends, parents or relatives, keep this in mind as 17 April approaches. Many seniors are not required to submit any tax information at all because they earn very little or no income. Leave it to some low-life cons to figure out that this is just the way to get some older adults to hand over to them what little money they do make.
The scam is supremely simple. The thieves coax seniors into paying them for filing a return in the hopes of then retrieving benefits those same seniors don’t, of course, qualify for. It’s a two-part victory for the scammers, actually. They disappear with the ‘filing fee’ and also the precious personal information they were provided with when they did the phony paperwork.
An especially popular variation on the theme goes something like this: a senior is convinced that he or she qualifies for a reimbursement through the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). This credit permits people paying for college to reduce their taxable income by as much as $2,500. The hitch? A vital requirement for qualifying is that the person must be currently enrolled in an institute of higher education – something which most seniors emphatically are not. The scammers lie, of course, about this little detail, assuring their victims that they can collect these AOTC benefits even if they went to school decades ago. No.
Here are some other IRS-marked red flags for caregivers and their loved ones to watch for:
- For-profit tax companies they don’t recognize.
- Anyone who offers to file for you without asking for proper documentation.
- Internet offers from unknown companies. They will ask you to call a number and then request personal information.
- Anyone offering to file for expired programs.
- The IRS has again issued several consumer warnings about the fraudulent use of the IRS logo or name by con artists and scammers who are trying to access consumers’ personal financial information in order to steal their assets or identity. In this click, cut and paste era, faked websites and unauthorized use of logos is way too common. These thieves use any means they can to find and set up their targets: regular mail, email, fax and telephone.
Special thanks once again to our friends at AgingCare LLC.