Tax season is something few people look forward to navigating. Older adults may have complicated tax returns because they tend to accumulate more assets and are entitled to fewer deductions. One added and newer challenge people face during the tax filing process is staying on guard for identity theft.
While seniors are common targets for a range of scams, they are especially vulnerable to identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission says that identity theft is an issue that continues to challenge their resources. As tax season approaches, Clearwater Living is sharing a few tips to protect yourself or a senior family member from becoming a victim.
How to Protect Yourself or a Senior During Tax Season
- Utilize a reputable accountant
A certified, experienced accountant or financial advisor can help navigate tax laws and help you get the most out of your deductions. Also, they are likely well-versed in how to prevent a client’s information from being compromised.
If you don’t have an established relationship with a professional, take a few extra minutes before scheduling your tax appointment to research the background and experience of any candidate you are considering.
- File your tax documents early
Experts say the longer you wait to file your taxes, the higher your risk for fraud. When you delay, it gives scammers more opportunity to steal your social security number and file a return in your name. Filing well before the April deadline may help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Secure personal financial information
Make it more difficult for criminals to access your personal information by keeping it secure. Installing a locked safe in a closet at home is one way to do that. While not as convenient, you can also rent a safe deposit box at your local bank.
Secure everything that has identifying information, such as bank account information, Medicare or Social Security cards, and investment paperwork. Shred documents you no longer need, like receipts and credit card statements.
- Stay informed about scams targeting seniors
The IRS publishes it’s “dirty dozen” list of common tax scams every year. This list includes phone scams, in which criminals impersonate IRS agents and demand payment. Even though this scam has been around for years, people continue to fall for it.
Reduce your risk for identity theft by staying informed about new types of fraud. Educate the older adults in your life about these types of crimes, too. You can follow the FBI on Facebook or watch your local news station to stay up-to-date on popular scams.
- Enroll in an identity theft protection program
Despite your best efforts at guarding personal information, scammers might still find a way to access it. That’s when having an identity theft protection service can help. AARP has partnerships to protect older adults. From monitoring your credit to alerting you about suspicious activity, you will likely find an identity theft protection program to be a good investment.
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