IRS Alerts Seniors to Escalating Threat of Impersonation Scams

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has broadcast a sobering message to America’s seniors: Be wary of growing impersonation scams designed to siphon off their savings and pilfer their personal information. This is increasingly becoming a grave concern as scam artists, masked as government officials, use sophisticated tactics to exploit older citizens.

The nefarious activities of these fraudsters, posing as representatives from various government agencies including the IRS itself, have been ramped up, particularly around this time of the year. They manipulate their targets through a potent mix of fear and deceit, entrapping seniors in schemes that can result in significant financial and emotional loss.

“Scammers frequent senior citizens, baiting them with phone calls, emails, or text messages, pretending to be from the IRS or other agencies or businesses,” warned IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. He emphasized the importance of a joint effort with other federal agencies and tax community members to shield these vulnerable citizens from the imminent threat of scams.

This week’s activities serve as part of the build-up to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on Saturday, June 15. Established in 2006, this day aims to highlight the ever-growing epidemic of elder abuse and neglect, with a spotlight on the intersecting cultural, social, economic, and demographic factors.

Amidst these community efforts, the IRS is also battling the surge in scams and identity theft associated with tax season. Their relentless focus on this threat since 2015, as part of the Security Summit partnership with state tax agencies and tax professionals, is ensuring a fortified response towards protection against scams.

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The Threat Landscape:

The IRS has identified a disturbing trend of fraudulent actors targeting unsuspecting individuals, particularly senior citizens. These actors skillfully pose as IRS agents, pressuring victims into making immediate payments via unorthodox methods such as gift cards or wire transfers. The aim is simple but destructive: to settle imagined tax dues or secure nonexistent refunds.

Scammers use sophisticated techniques, manipulating caller IDs to make their calls appear legitimate. Tactics include imitating well-established entities, making claims of problems or prizes, creating a sense of urgency for immediate action, and specifying unconventional payment methods. The elaborate schemes are designed to create a facade of credibility and urgency, keeping their victims on tenterhooks.

If you receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to represent the IRS, and haven’t received any prior notification by mail, it would be prudent to terminate the call immediately. The IRS advises citizens to verify any doubts about the legitimacy of IRS communications by contacting IRS customer service at 800-829-1040, or for the hearing impaired, TTY/TDD 800-829-4059.

Protecting Seniors from Fraudulent Waves

Scam attempts are not limited to phone calls. Electronic scams are also on the rise. The IRS underlines that it does not initiate contact via email, text, or social media concerning tax bills or refunds. If a dubious email or text message lands in your inbox, it is likely a scam.

Report any suspected scam call or electronic fraud by visiting the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s Hotline page, using an IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting form, or calling 800-366-4484.

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Understanding the pattern of IRS communication and recognizing the signs of a scam can go a long way in protecting individuals from falling prey to these malevolent activities. The IRS underlines that it will never demand immediate payment via unconventional means, threaten to involve local law enforcement, demand payment without appeal opportunities, or request card numbers over the phone.

In an effort to bolster support and protection for seniors, the U.S. Department of Justice launched the National Elder Fraud Hotline in March 2020. The hotline provides a platform to report elder fraud and offers assistance to those affected. If an individual has fallen victim to elder fraud, they can contact the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).

As our nation’s seniors brace themselves against this rising scam tide, their best defense is information and vigilance. The IRS and its federal partners stand steadfast in their commitment to protecting everyone, especially seniors, from these menacing scam waves.

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