Identity theft becomes a bigger issue each year, leading the Federal Trade Commission to enumerate the steps to take in order to protect your personal information. In fact, during tax refund season, “stranger danger” seems to be all around us. In fact, at Geyer & Associates, we think protecting ourselves – and our aging parents – from scams has become a vital element in estate planning.
Scam Email and phone calls:
“An unexpected email purporting to be from the IRS,” explains identitytheft.gov, “is always a scam. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or via social media.” If you or a parent receives an email claiming to be from the IRS, that email should be forwarded to [email protected].
An unexpected phone call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent (usually threatening you with arrest or deportation if you fail to pay) – that’s a scam, too, and so is any call requesting information so as to send you a refund. Calls like these should be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1 800 366 4484.
Your Social Security Number:
- Don’t give a business your Social Security number just because they ask.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card with you.
- Keep your financial records locked up.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you are sure you know whom you are dealing with.
E-filing is another way to combat identity theft. While a paper return is handled by dozens of people – mail clerks, letter openers, paper organizers, scanners, approvers, etc., electronic returns are handled predominantly by computer, the FTC advises.
Of course, one way to protect your “future” estate is protecting elderly parents from being scammed. “It can be a challenge, but it’s wise to discuss with your parents their susceptibility to crime and ID theft,” says U.S. News.
“Many of us have a parent, friend or neighbor who would benefit from a friendly reminder that seniors are prime targets for scam artists,” says Ken Hunter of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “We can help prevent them from losing their money, their dignity and their sense of security.” How?
- Tell your parents never to hire anyone who shows up unsolicited at their door.
- Tell them never to make an “on-the-spot” decision under pressure “not to miss the opportunity”.
- Put their phone number on the National Do Not Call registry.
At Geyer & Associates, we believe that, for both younger and older generations, protecting against scams is a vital element in estate planning!