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April 05, 2013

Tax Breaks for Older Adults: Protecting Yourself from Tax Scammers

Taxes are on the mind of many older adults as April 15 looms closer. If you prefer filing your own taxes –whether entirely on your own or with minimal assistance from a trusted financial advisor it’'s not only important to be aware of the latest deductions available, but also to be prepared to protect yourself from tax scammers. 

According to the Huffington Post, complaints and financial losses among baby boomers have skyrocketed in the last decade. Some sources estimate older adults lose approximately $2.6 billion a year due to fraud and other financial abuses.  While a scam can happen at any time, it’'s important to be especially wary during tax season when your personal financial information is often lying on your kitchen table for prying eyes to see. 

Why Do Scammers Target Older Adults?

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), scammers commonly prey on mature adults for the following reasons:

  • They are most likely to have excellent credit.
  • Those who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, or 1950s were likely raised to be polite and trusting. It’'s difficult for these individuals to say no.
  • Adults over 60 are less likely to report fraud because they don’'t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’'t know they’'ve been scammed.
  • It can take weeks or, more likely, months for them to realize they’'ve been scammed, giving scammers plenty of time to clean up evidence.
  • When they do report a scam, they’re often unable to provide enough detailed information for investigators, making them poor witnesses. 

How To Protect Yourself from Tax Scammers 

The Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) provided the following tips and reminders to help older adults protect themselves from fraud: 

  • If not using a tax return professional, filers need to use trusted sources of assistance when filing claims. You may find it helpful to visit a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) or American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Tax-Aide site near you.
  • If an individual asks for personal information to assist you in filing a benefits application, make sure they can explain why that information is needed and how it will be used once the application has been completed.
  • Be wary of individuals who come to your home with offers to assist in financial matters that seem too good to be true. 

Want to learn about the potential benefits for taxpayers 65+? Download our FREE guide “Tax Relief for Older Adults: A Basic Guide to Benefits” before you file this year!


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