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Senior Citizens at Risk of Being Charged Hundreds of Dollars by Tax Scam

The International Revenue Service, or IRS, has learned that a tax scam targeting senior citizens has been circulating around the Midwest. The scammers try to convince seniors that their social security benefits are subject to excess withholding.  Scammers tell the victims that, for a fee, they can get a tax return and receive large refunds. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark reports on how the scheme could potentially cheat taxpayers out of hundreds of dollars.

 According to a press release from the IRS, flyers and advertisements for free money have been appearing in churches and senior centers around the country. These fliers suggest that taxpayers can file a return and get a refund with little or no documentation. Michael Devine, spokesman for the IRS in Missouri and Kansas, says that these advertisements just aren’t true.

 “We have seen a lot of these scams in the last couple of years, but it seems to be having a new life now. If you hear about an opportunity to get a big refund from the IRS based on social security withholding, that it’s probably a scam.”

 Devine says that tax schemes often are spread by word of mouth from victims telling friends and relatives about an attractive new deal. In this case, though, many of these scammers are also directly targeting senior organizations--who have no idea that they are being scammed--to set up these fraudulent practices.

 “The worst part about this is that many of these criminals, scammers, are working through well-known local churches and senior centers, and they’re plying on their good will to scam seniors.”

 So here’s what seniors need to look out for:

  1. Any claims for refunds or rebates that are based on excess or withheld Social Security
  2. Any unfamiliar for-profit tax services that team up with churches
  3. Homemade fliers or brochures promising credit or refunds without proof of age
  4. Offers of free money from the IRS
  5. Promises of refunds, or a term they’re calling “Low Income-No Documents Tax Returns.”

 “What we really want to make people understand is, if you normally don’t have to file a tax return, and someone offers you a special program that the IRS doesn’t want you to know about, those are the big red flags.”

 Devine says people could, and have been, charged hundreds of dollars for these fraudulent tax services and claims.

 “They’re going to get scammed into paying somebody to prepare a fraudulent return, and it’s just going to cause a lot of problems for them, because if they do get a refund, then they’re going to have to pay that money back with penalties and interest. They might lose more than that because they’re giving away their personal and their financial information.”

 Anyone with questions should visit www.IRS.gov or call the IRS at its toll-free number, 1-800-829-1040.

 For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.

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The Springfield IRS office is located at 3333 S National Ave
Springfield, MO 65807