Tax season is upon us once again, and you know what that means. Mad dashes to the accountant, financial counselor, or tax attorney as you try to organize all your important papers and send them to the IRS. It can be a stressful time, but for criminals it is a season of opportunity. This time of the year, scammers do their best to trick you out of your personal information, and seniors are often their prime targets. Thankfully, there are things you can do to protect your assets from identity theft.
Protecting Your Assets from Identity Theft
Brian Thomas, a special agent at the IRS, told a crowd of people at the Pennsylvania Institute for Certified Public Accountants that the most common way “cyber criminals” steal your personal information is simply by asking you. Often these scammers will use telephone calls, emails and other means simply to pose as trusted businesses, friends or family members and ask you for the info they need. But there are key ways to spot these scammers before they have a chance to ruin you.
Emails sent by scammers can often times look genuine, but usually have subtle signs that reveal that they are phony. For example, an email from Microsoft asking for your password may come from an address like “[email protected]”. But a scammer’s email may come from “[email protected]”, using an “r” and an “n” to trick your eye and make you think the email is genuinely from Microsoft.
Another method scammers use is to call the victims posing as IRS agents. They ask taxpayers to reveal personal or financial information over the phone, or they will say you owe the agency money. These scammers will try to get you to pay the fake outstanding balance with gift cards or prepaid debit cards, and if you refuse, they will threaten lawsuits or jail time. This method has proven particularly effective against the elderly, but no government agency or legitimate business will make such threats over the phone.
Knowing about these scams and how they work may be the best way avoid falling for them this tax season. For more information on keeping your hard-earned assets safe, the IRS has online resources, and you can check back with estate planning attorney Brandon Campbell for up-to-date news you need to know in order to keep your assets safe.