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Sunday July 21, 2024

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Impersonation Scams Target Seniors

On June 12, 2024, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it is joining together with other governmental agencies to address the "rising threat of impersonation scams."

These scams have fraudsters frequently pretend to be representing a government agency and specifically target senior adults. They use carefully crafted strategies that are based on fear and deceit to exploit senior victims.

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel stated, "Scammers often target seniors, attempting to steal personal information through phone calls, emails or text messages by pretending to be from the IRS or other agencies or businesses. Preventing these types of scams requires assistance from many different places. By partnering with other federal agencies and others in the tax community, we can reach more seniors and other taxpayers to help protect them against these terrible scams."

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is Saturday, June 15, 2024. This day has been observed for nearly two decades and focuses on programs to reduce neglect and abuse of seniors. It attempts to recognize the cultural, social, economic and demographic factors that are used by fraudsters.

The IRS offers specific cautions that enable seniors to understand the threats. The fraudsters continue to become more sophisticated and use "spoofed" caller IDs to appear legitimate.

  1. Impersonation of Government Agents — Fraudsters often claim to represent the IRS, Social Security Administration, Medicare and other public agencies. They frequently spoof the caller ID, and the victim believes that it is a legitimate call from a government agency.
  2. Claim of Prizes or Problems — Scammers may promise large prize winnings or claim you owe a significant debt. You might be promised a substantial tax refund or told that you owe a large amount to the IRS. The scammer’s goal is to convince you that you are receiving a large positive benefit or facing serious trouble. In either case, the scammer will attempt to persuade you to disclose financial information.
  3. Pressure for Prompt Action — Fraudsters are skilled at creating a sense of urgency. They craft dramatic stories that persuade you to take immediate action. The stories could threaten a senior with arrest, deportation or loss of a driver's license. The urgency of the fraudster’s threat is a major red flag.
  4. Unusual Payments — A fraudster knows he or she must remain anonymous. The scammer will use unusual payment methods that can make it difficult to track the money. These payments might include cryptocurrency, wire transfers or gift cards. The fraudster will explain why the senior must respond immediately. Under pressure and because of the urgency of the demand, many seniors have shared the financial information on a gift card and then had their funds disappear.

The IRS offers several protections for seniors. If you receive an unexpected call because you have not previously been notified by mail from the IRS regarding any issues with your taxes, you should hang up. You can contact the IRS at 800-829-1040 to verify the name and IRS department of the caller. You also can set up an online account on to review your tax information and status.

If you think you have been scammed, you can report it on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting form or call 800-366-4484.

Always keep in mind that there are four "never” rules that are followed by IRS staff.

  1. Never Demand — The IRS emphasizes it will not demand immediate payment with a debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
  2. Never Threaten Arrest — The IRS will not threaten you with arrest by police or a local law enforcement agency.
  3. Never Skip Appeal — The IRS will never demand payment without giving you an opportunity to dispute the tax amount or proceed through an appeal process.
  4. Never Demand Numbers — The IRS will never demand information from your credit, debit or gift card.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Justice has a National Elder Fraud Hotline. If you are a victim of elder fraud, you may call 833-372-8311. There are operators available who speak English, Spanish and other languages.

Published June 14, 2024
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