Technology has changed how many people prepare their taxes.
Computer programs that lead us through preparing and electronically filing our taxes are fairly inexpensive to purchase. The IRS website is easily accessible and provides the necessary forms for those who prefer to file manually.
It all adds up to an easier tax season for most of us. There is, however, one notable risk: identity theft.
Criminals are always on the lookout for opportunities to take advantage of people they believe have good credit and might be vulnerable to identity theft. Scammers see older adults as people who fit this description. By stealing a senior’s identity, the criminal can not only steal their tax return, but they can also apply for credit cards and loans in the older adult’s name.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that 13 percent of adults over the age of 50 were victims of identity theft in 2016. For 29 percent of these victims, their identity was used to commit tax fraud.
We have a few suggestions older adults and their families can use to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft during this year’s tax season.
5 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft during Tax Season
- Secure personal information: Seniors are more likely than young people to carry their health insurance and Social Security cards with them in a wallet or purse. This puts them at higher risk for identity theft. Help your senior loved one find a secure place to store these documents at home. Encourage the senior to get them out only for appointments where they are required to show the card.
- Computer viruses: More older adults are filing their taxes online, but not all of them are aware of computer safety issues. Make sure their computer has the latest version of antivirus software. Also, check that programs are protected with a secure password.
- Reduce credit card solicitations: If your loved one has good credit, chances are high that they receive credit card solicitations in the mail. These can fall in to the wrong hands if a criminal steals mail out of their mailbox. There are several avenues for reducing these solicitations. The first one is to visit the Direct Marketing Association website and change the senior’s direct mail preferences. Another option is to call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-688).
- Monitor financial statements: It might also help if you and your senior loved one routinely monitor their financial statements together. You may be able to spot small issues that they miss. Help your family member review their bank and credit card statements, credit reports, and investment accounts. If you live too far away to regularly do this in person, do so online.
- Enroll in identity theft protection: There are several national organizations designed to protect credit and identity. While there is a yearly fee for most, they can be a big help in preventing identity theft or recovering identity if the senior does become a victim. Consumers Advocate says a few highly rated ones are LifeLock, ProtectMyID.com, and MetLife Defender.
Are you interested in exploring some of the issues that make seniors vulnerable to fraud? This article shares good insight on why seniors are at a higher risk for financial fraud. It can help you further protect an older adult you love.
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