Columbus, Ohio — The AARP Fraud Watch Network is launching an education effort to help people protect themselves from tax scams, releasing a new digital advertising campaign, featuring a new video and a tip sheet. The Association also is encouraging people to take advantage of AARP’s free tax preparation services.
AARP is warning Ohioans about two tax scams. An imposter scam occurs when a fraudster poses as an IRS agent and claims a person owes back taxes. In the identity theft scheme, scammers electronically file a tax return under someone else’s name to collect their tax refund. All they need is a birthdate and Social Security number.
“Throwing a pay stub in the trash may seem easier than finding a shredder, but the risk of having your tax refund stolen is just too great,” said Tamara James, interim state director for AARP Ohio. “And paying someone who claims to be an IRS agent may seem like it will get the government off your back, but it will actually rob you of your hard-earned money.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Ohio ranks 20th in ID theft complaints, and many taxpayers make their personal information easy pickings by:
Failing to lock their mailbox. Almost six in ten (59%) Americans do not regularly lock their mailbox, which leaves them open to a criminal stealing bills, tax forms and other documents that contain personal information.
Leaving valuables exposed: Over half (54%) of Americans 18-49 have left at least one valuable personal item in their car in the last week (e.g., a purse/wallet, paystub, laptop) that could be used to steal their identity.
Failing to destroy personal information: More than one in five (21%) Americans say they never shred any of the personal documents that could be used to steal their identity.
AARP encourages Ohioans to follow these four tips to protect themselves from tax identity theft:
Do mail tax returns as early in the tax season as possible before the cons beat you to it.
Don’t give out personal information unless you know who’s asking for it and why they need it.
Shred personal and financial documents.
Know your tax preparer.
To protect taxpayers from imposter scams, AARP recommends Ohioans educate themselves on these 3 important facts:
The IRS doesn’t call to demand immediate payment about taxes owed without first sending you a notification by mail,
The IRS doesn’t ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone,
The IRS doesn’t threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement to arrest you for nonpayment.
The digital ads will appear on YouTube, Facebook, and Pandora, with video and display ads and paid search.
Ohioans are encouraged to visit aarp.org/taxaide (or call toll-free 1-888-227-7669) for information about AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, the nation’s largest free, volunteer-run tax preparation program. Each tax season, Tax Aide helps millions of low- to moderate-income taxpayers – especially those 50 and older – get the credits and deductions they deserve.
For these and other fraud prevention tips, visit aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.