Tax season is one of the prime times for thieves to target senior citizens for financial abuse and scams. Unfortunately, financial elder abuse and tax season go hand-in-hand. One of the most frequent forms of elder abuse is actually elder financial abuse:
• 1 in 10 Americans who are 60 or older have experienced elder abuse according to the National Council On Aging.
• Financial exploitation is the 3rd most common type of elder abuse according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
• Only 1 in 44 cases of financial abuse are reported according to the Justice Department.
According to the IRS, one of the most common frauds committed against seniors is for someone to call and impersonate an IRS agent and notify you that you or a family member owe taxes. The imposter will request that you immediately pay the back taxes via credit card over the phone to avoid additional fees and potential jail time.
1. The IRS never contacts taxpayers by telephone unless they have already sent a letter via the U.S. mail.
2. The IRS will never ask you to pay your taxes over the phone by credit card.
3. The IRS will not threaten you with jail time.
Each year, the IRS Criminal Investigation issues tips to avoid financial elder abuse and tax season fraud.
1. Work with an estate planning attorney to ensure that vulnerable family members who are no longer able to make good decisions are legally protected by a Power of Attorney or Adult Guardianship.
2. Do not open or click on suspicious emails, which can lead to SPAM and hacks in your online accounts.
3. Periodically review your credit reports to ensure you are not a victim of identity theft.
4. Never provide your social security number or other personal identification information in response to unsolicited text messages, emails or social media posts that claim to be the IRS.
5. Ask your tax preparer for their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number, which all paid tax preparers are legally required to have.
If you believe a family member is vulnerable to financial fraud or other forms of elder abuse, scams and crimes, it’s important to monitor their financial records. An experienced Illinois estate planning and elder law attorney can explain applicable laws and advise you on the best options to protect the interests of vulnerable senior citizens. Contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group at 630-864-5835.