Tax time means “scam time” for many seniors

(Photo Supplied/Indiana News Service)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WOWO): Tax refund fraud is predicted to soar again this year, and the Internal Revenue Service expects it to reach $21 billion. Now that it’s time to file income-tax forms again, people in Indiana and across the country are getting calls from scammers who pretend to be with the IRS.

Many folks are intimidated when they hear from someone claiming to be from the federal government, and Mandla Moyo, associate state director for outreach at AARP Indiana, said thieves know that.

“People will perk up and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, I need to pay attention to this,’ and they don’t realize it’s just a scammer,” he said.

To file a tax return electronically, all someone needs is a name, date of birth and a Social Security number. The IRS accepts tax filings starting in January, but employers aren’t required to submit their payroll information to the agency until March. By that time, Moyo said, about half of all refunds have been paid – many to people using someone else’s identity.

Steve Vanderver heads the AARP Foundation’s Tax Aide program in Indiana, which offers free tax-filing assistance. He encouraged seniors to file regardless of whether they made any money during the year, as a precaution to help keep their Social Security number secure. He said the Tax Aide program has checks and balances in place to keep personal information safe.

“We don’t keep any documents from the taxpayers that we serve,” he said. “We give everything back to them and tell them, ‘Hang on to those. Keep ’em safe and bring ’em back next year for us to look at.’ ”

Vanderver said the Tax Aide assistance is open to any low- or middle-income person, not just seniors or AARP members.

Scammers work by intimidation, Moyo said, so it’s important to know the IRS never contacts people by telephone like that.

“Nobody will threaten you,” he said. “They won’t threaten your family, or say that they will ‘call the sheriff and you’ll go to jail,’ or whatever scare tactic that they try to use to get you to respond to the scam.”

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