Identity Theft and the Elderly
If you’re over 60 years old or you're looking after an elderly loved one, be careful. Criminals take more than $36 billion from older Americans every year through financial abuse and outright fraud.
Part of the problem: elderly identity theft. The number of victims increased from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The FTC reports that 35% of fraud complaints and 18.9% of ID theft complaints impacted Americans over 60 years in 2017. Seniors can fall victim to scammers if they trust the wrong person, who may develop a relationship over time by preying on them over the phone or via email.
Tax-related identity theft occurs when a thief uses someone’s stolen Social Security number to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund. The victim may be unaware that this has happened until they e-file their return. Even before the victim files their return, the IRS may send the taxpayer a letter saying the agency identified a suspicious return using the stolen SSN.
Here are some things to know about identity theft, including warning signs and steps to take after identity theft occurs.
Warning Signs That a Theft May Have Occurred Your loved one may be a victim of tax-related identity theft if he or she is contacted by the IRS or their tax preparer about:
More than one tax return being filed using the taxpayer’s SSN.
Additional tax owed.
A refund offset.
Collection actions taken against the taxpayer for a year when they did not file a tax return.
IRS records indicating they received wages or other income from an employer for whom the taxpayer did not work.
If you suspect that your elderly loved one was a victim of ID theft, you should make sure that your loved one continues to pay their taxes and file their tax return, even if they must do so on paper.
If Your Loved One is a Victim of Identity Theft Take these actions on behalf of your loved one:
File a complaint with the FTC at identitytheft.gov.
Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your loved one's credit records.
Contact their financial institutions to close any financial or credit accounts opened without permission or that were tampered with by identity thieves.
Respond immediately to any IRS notice and call the number provided in the letter.
Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. They can use a fillable form on IRS.gov, print it, then attach the form to their tax return and mail according to instructions.
Remember that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and through social media channels.
Report suspicious online or emailed phishing scams to email@example.com. For phishing scams by phone, fax or mail, call 1-800-366-4484. Report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s IRS Impersonation Scams Reporting.