• More stimulus money? Yes and no. Retirees and other Social Security beneficiaries will receive a so-called senior stimulus payment—$250 for individuals and $500 for couples—that is part of the economic stimulus package recently signed by President Obama. No action is required to get those checks, which the Social Security Administration expects to finish mailing in late May. But don’t believe false promises in e-mails, letters or online advertisements claiming you can get a secondary stimulus check of $7,000 to $12,000; sometimes an authentic-looking but bogus check is included. These ruses typically instruct you to call a telephone number—an excuse to get your personal information—or purchase a hard-to-cancel subscription kit to get money from alleged government programs.
• Free res finagling. Don’t be fooled by counterfeit websites that spoof Free File or any of the IRS’ other online filing offerings. Free File offers free tax preparation and online filing for those making $56,000 or less per year. Other free online filing options have been expanded this year for those with higher incomes. But there’s only one place to access any of them: www.irs.gov.
• Due date deception. Most scams improperly implicating the IRS involve a notice that some type of refund is due to you, says Lamishaw. “That is why we see a lot of refund scams after April 15 … and why citizens need to keep their guard up year round.” If you have any questions about a refund, call 1-800-829-1040 (hearing-impaired consumers should call 1-800-829-4059) or visit the IRS website.
Unfortunately, the list of possible cons goes on. “We continue to see various iterations of the same scam,” Lamishaw says. “One will die down and a similar one will appear.” The IRS provides information on past scams that could occur again. It also offers tips on preventing and reporting phishing attempts that implicate the IRS.
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life (AARP Books/Sterling).