Seniors Beware of Tax Scams
March 20, 2012 § Leave a comment
We are only a few weeks away from the dreaded tax day. Hopefully you were on the ball and have already filed your return. If you haven’t, one thing to be concious of during this tax season is predators looking to take advantage of the elderly with tax scams.
This month the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a warning for taxpayers and specifically mentioned senior citizens as potential targets. The scam targets people with little or no income that typically wouldn’t be required to file an income tax. Con artists claim they can obtain refunds for the victims as part of the American Opportunity Tax Credit which requires filers to be enrolled in or paying for college.
The scammers tell the filers that they may claim this tax credit even if they went to college many years ago. There is also a variation, where the con artists say the refund will compensate for taxes paid on groceries. This scheme is targeting seniors, people with very low incomes and members of church congregations with bogus promises of free money. Typically a large upfront fee is charged by the con artist to file the tax return and when the victims realize their mistake it is too late because they are unable to track down the tax preparer.
“This is a disgraceful effort by scam artists to take advantage of people by giving them false hopes of a nonexistent refund,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “We want to warn innocent taxpayers about this new scheme before more people get trapped.”
The IRS is reminding people to be careful because all taxpayers, including those who use paid tax preparers, are legally responsible for the accuracy of their returns, and must repay any refunds received in error.
The IRS listed warning signs that all tax payers should be aware of to avoid becoming a victim in this scheme (list courtest of irs.gov):
- Fictitious claims for refunds or rebates based on false statements of entitlement to tax credits.
- Unfamiliar for-profit tax services selling refund and credit schemes to the membership of local churches.
- Internet solicitations that direct individuals to toll-free numbers and then solicit social security numbers.
- Homemade flyers and brochures implying credits or refunds are available without proof of eligibility.
- Offers of free money with no documentation required.
- Promises of refunds for “Low Income – No Documents Tax Returns.”
- Claims for the expired Economic Recovery Credit Program or for economic stimulus payments.
- Unsolicited offers to prepare a return and split the refund.
- Unfamiliar return preparation firms soliciting business from cities outside of the normal business or commuting area.
If you suspect that you are a loved one has been targeted by this or any other scam, feel free to contact the Law Office of Dawn M. Weekly, PC. We can help direct you in the correct course of action. The law firm is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning for clients. Their office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334.