Avoiding Tax Scams for Seniors


It’s tax season, and with tax season come scammers looking to prey on seniors.  Even though most people are sure we won’t be fooled, getting caught by tax scams can happen to anybody.  The cost of getting caught up in a tax scam is often much higher for retired people, so it’s important you know what to expect from the IRS so you can tell a scam from legitimate communication from the IRS.

The most common scam involves an impersonator claiming to be from the IRS telling you that you owe taxes and must pay using a pre-paid debit card, money order or a wire transfer.  Scammers may also try to call claiming to have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scammer then tries to get you to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.  Scammers can alter the caller ID so that a call appears to be coming from the IRS, and may use fake IRS badge numbers.   The scammer may even know the last four digits of your social security number.

The IRS won’t ever:

  • send you an email
  • call to demand immediate payment over the phone.
  • call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.
  • demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone or in an e-mail.
  • threaten to bring in the police to have you arrested for not paying.

If you get a suspicious phone call, hang up and report it to the Treasury Inspector General at 800-366-4484.  If you receive a suspicious email, you can report it by forwarding it to phishing@irs.gov

If you’re still worried after a call that you may owe federal taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040.  IRS workers can help you find out if you’re up-to-date with your payments.

For more information, visit the IRS consumer alerts page.

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