With Sunday, Jan. 28, being Data Privacy Day and next week being Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, now is a good time to review the current scams circulating. By staying vigilant, you can protect yourself and loved ones.
It’s tax time, so let’s start with the IRS. Almost always, the IRS’s first contact with you by a postal letter about filing errors or amounts due. The IRS will not contact you by e-mail, text or social media to ask for personal or financial information. If an IRS agent shows up at your door, the agent will have two forms of identification, which you have a right to request. The agent may also provide you an IRS phone number for you to confirm his/her identity.
True IRS agents will not: demand immediate payment by debit/gift card or wire transfer, demand payment without opportunity to question or appeal what you might owe, threaten you with arrest or revocation of licenses and immigration status. The IRS has begun outsourcing collections to private debt collectors, but only after giving written notice to the taxpayer or taxpayer representative. You can read more about IRS collections and tax scams here.
The IRS isn’t the only agency that would-be scammers will impersonate. A couple of recent tactics include:
Affordable health insurance – for a fee: Earlier this month, Kentucky’s attorney general warned about callers from the “National Health Enrollment Center” offering only access to inexpensive health insurance – if you provide your personal and financial information to cover a finder’s fee. The government and legitimate health insurers do not charge for help in finding insurance.
New Medicare cards: To protect your identity, Medicare will issue new cards that won’t include your Social Security number. Scammers are calling the seek payments for the new card or to verify your ID number. Hang up. Medicare already has your Social, and the cards are free.
These are just a small sample, and new versions of these scams are evolving all the time.
Protect yourself against scams
The Louisville Metro Police Department’s Crimes Against Seniors Unit has some great tips to protect yourself, and we have a few others:
Sign up for scam alerts from the Kentucky Attorney General via phone or e-mail.
Hang up and verify. For example, if someone is purporting to be from your bank or credit card company, hang up and call your bank or creditor yourself to see if the call was valid. If you get a call that your grandchild is in jail and needs bail money, call the grandchild or another family to verify before you hand over money or information.
Be careful with e-mail. Scammers can make e-mail look authentic. One tip-off is the e-mail address, which you should examine closely. Example: If your legitimate bank e-mails usually look like email@example.com, a scammer’s e-mail might look like firstname.lastname@example.org. You can always call your bank to verify. Don’t open files from unreliable sources.
Use caution in hiring contractors: Never pay a contractor in full before the home repairs or maintenance are completed. Ask trusted friends or relatives for references, and check with the Better Business Bureau before hiring someone.
Safeguard your information: Before tossing away paperwork with your information, shred it in a cross-cut shredder. Sensitive information includes your name, address, phone number, Social Security or driver’s license number, account numbers or medical information. For more on protecting your identity, check out our September blog post.
If you think that you or a loved one might have been scammed, then ElderServe’s Crime Victim Services can help you navigate the justice system. Call 502.587.8673 and ask for Paul Troy or Linette Hatfield.
Duped into wiring money to scammers? If this happened to you between Jan. 1, 2004, and Jan. 19, 2017, you might be able to get some of your money back through a federal settlement with Western Union. Petitions must be filed by Feb. 12, 2018.