Tax season is underway. This means many elderly people will become targets for financial manipulation. Scam artists are always on the prowl for financial data, and they know the elderly population is easy to take advantage of. Whether you happen to be a senior yourself or you have an elderly loved one who needs protection, here are five tips that can help you avoid elder financial abuse.
Choose Safe Storage
Many people become sloppy with how they store their personal information during the year, which makes tax fraud prevention even more difficult. It’s important for the elderly to understand the importance of keeping their financial information stored in a locked filing cabinet (for hardcopy documents) or secure program or file (for digital documents). Encourage your elderly loved ones to keep track of their bank statements and, if possible, ask them if they need assistance monitoring their accounts. Passwords used to log into online resources or programs should be kept in a secure area of the home, as well.
Sign Up for Internet Classes
Many libraries and senior centers hold affordable or free computer and internet classes for seniors, and these may help prevent elder financial abuse by showing individuals what to look out for. Taking a class can help a senior build confidence while online. Classes are also a great way to help a loved one become more aware of how scam artists operate, including fraudulent emails in which the sender requests personal information.
Ask for Proof
Many elderly people are trustworthy and may offer up their information without thinking twice. Teach tax fraud prevention and encourage your elderly loved one not to do business with anyone who won’t provide a proper name, address, and telephone number. Discuss how to ask for proof and how to look for details that could tip them off to a scam. Tell your family member to request an official letter if a government agency (such as the IRS) calls or if they get an email from a bank. If money is due and you or a senior must write a check, only make out the check to a known institution or agency, not an individual who claims to be a representative.
Make Financial Decisions with Care
If you or a senior you know is offered a chance for additional income via large investments, sweepstakes wins, or other opportunities that seem too good to be true, they just may be an attempt at elder financial abuse. If you are promised high returns or unreasonable guarantees, the caller or sender is likely a fraud. If in doubt, they should provide you with the name of their business and their title, so you should be able to call the company and check the validity of the opportunity.
Encourage a Healthy Social Network
Many scam artists target the elderly population because seniors often live alone. Talk to your family member about maintaining social connections in an effort to decrease the likelihood of his or her becoming the target of a scam. People who have thriving social networks are less likely to be manipulated.
If you need help building a strategy for tax fraud prevention that could save you thousands, contact Maxwell Locke & Ritter’s experienced CPAs.