I recently collaborated with Arlington Community Federal Credit Union (ACFCU) to present a workshop at two local retirement communities. It was called called “IRS Impersonators and Other Scams: Tips to Identify and Avoid Them.” ACFCU and I recognized that retired individuals are targeted by scammers because they often have assets that attract thieves.
IRS impersonators are in the news all the time, but they were just one example that we discussed of scammers who use technology to reach out and steal your money and confidential information. Other scams include callers impersonating the Microsoft Help Desk and Dominion Virginia Power – services that you don’t want to have a problem with.
We couldn’t possibly describe every scam. New scams are created all the time. In our workshop, we emphasized using healthy skepticism when your phone rings or when you get an email from an unknown (or even a known) sender. Tips that we shared to identify scams included:
- Be skeptical of any contact that you did not initiate; if you want to verify, hang up and call the legitimate business, charity or tax agency.
- If you answer and no one is there immediately, hang up.
- Do not click on any links in unexpected emails or emails from unknown sources.
- Look at the return email address and subject line and delete if they do not appear to be from a legitimate sender.
- Any offer via email or phone that sounds too good to be true is likely a scam.
Email “phishing” scams are very popular because they can send huge volumes very quickly. To me, the most insidious phishing scams come from IRS imposters because hey, who isn’t afraid of the IRS?
Protect yourself! Remember that the IRS does not send emails about your tax refund or sensitive financial information. Most IRS communication is still through the good old-fashioned USPS. If you receive an email claiming to be from the IRS that contains a request for delinquent tax balances or financial information, immediately do the following:
- Don’t reply, open any attachments or click on any links.
- Visit the IRS’ identity protection page.
- Forward the email as-is to the IRS at [email protected].
- Delete the original email.
Tax scams are a year-round business, so taxpayers always need to be on-guard for IRS imposters. Need to report an IRS imposter? See Report Phishing and Online Scams for more details.