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3 ways to stay alert to IRS scams this tax season

It's tax-filing season, an all-important time for Americans. Everyone has to be diligent in submitting correct forms, or face potential penalties. Con artists may distort the possibility of an audit to defraud the elderly.

Seniors are particularly at risk of being targeted by IRS scammers, and unfortunately those efforts can often succeed. Whether you're living at home or in a retirement community, it's crucial to be extra cautious during this time; or if you have an elderly loved one, be sure to check in on them and share this information.

Here are three ways to stay alert to IRS scams during the tax season:

1. Know what the IRS will and will not do

A common scam is for a fraudster to call a senior and impersonate an IRS official, demanding money with the threat of repercussions, like calling the local police. They can be convincing — even using falsified identification credentials and bogus IRS phone numbers. Confused or scared seniors may acquiesce just to avoid the intimidation or repeated calls.

But the No. 1 thing to know is that the IRS will not call requiring an immediate payment. The agency will never threaten to involve the police or have the senior arrested. And its policy is to not ask for credit card information over the phone. This information all comes from the IRS itself, so hang up on any suspicious callers and report them if they use such behavior.

2. Know why seniors are more at risk

Understanding why seniors are particularly vulnerable to IRS scams can help them avoid or mitigate the risks. Seniors may be:

  • More likely to live alone. Isolation (or grief from a recent loss) are often exploited by con artists.
  • In possession of large savings, which criminals will target.
  • Less likely to report a scam or attempt.
  • Suffering from dementia or confusion, which scammers will take advantage of.
  • More trusting or less scrutinizing.

Being familiar with and protecting against these risks, when possible, can help avoid damaging experiences.

3. Know the popular scams

Criminals are also known to go the opposite route and call as the IRS pretending to offer a refund, rather than demanding a payment. They'll promise to unlock the funds if sensitive information is given over. Once again, it's important to remember this is not official behavior for the IRS and should raise red flags.

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