IRS Warns of Scams Targeting Immigrants and Seniors
Have you ever gotten a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS? The person probably claimed that you owed some tremendous amount in back taxes, that the caller had tried several times to reach you and that you had to take immediate action to prevent legal consequences. If you asked questions, the caller would grow aggressive and demand a payment, most likely by wire transfer or prepaid gift card.
Luckily, these scams are growing rarer as taxpayers get wise to them. The IRS has put out several announcements saying that they will always reach out to taxpayers by mail, that they should be paid only by check or by using the IRS web portal, and that their agents can be reported for rude or abusive behavior and will face serious consequences. However, scammers know that some populations are less likely to know the ins and outs of tax cons. That's why "Immigrant/Senior Fraud" made this year's "Dirty Dozen," the IRS' annual list of tax scams on its radar.
Scams targeting immigrants are especially pernicious for a few reasons. One is that a fast-talking con man can easily wrong-foot someone with shaky English. Another is that the immigrant population tends to be less familiar with the U.S. tax code and the workings of the IRS; it's easier to convince them that they filed a payment wrong, and they're less likely to know that phone calls are never official. Noncitizens also have an extra incentive not to get in trouble with the government. They can panic and make bad decisions if threatened with deportation.
One useful step that people with limited English proficiency can take is to fill out Schedule LEP and attach it to the next 1040 they submit. That form changes the language preference on file with the IRS. If you have sent in Schedule LEP, any so-called IRS communications in English you receive are not genuine.
Seniors with limited computer aptitude are more likely to believe that they made a mistake filing their taxes as more and more aspects of the process move online. Some tax return forms are also not geared for people on a fixed income. That's why the IRS has designed an alternative tax form for people over 65, the 1040-SR. It uses the same schedules as the 1040.
Seniors also should be aware that they are more likely than any other adults to be targets of phone fraud. If you receive a lot of suspicious calls, try placing yourself on the National Do Not Call Registry or looking into apps that block "scam likely" calls.
If you're in a demographic that's targeted by scammers, you need to take extra precautions. If you're in doubt about a call, get in touch with the IRS through another channel to find out if they actually have been trying to contact you.