Don’t fall for IRS scammers

One of the most popular scams against older adults continues to be criminals impersonating the Internal Revenue Service.

Scammers know that we were all raised in an era when trust in government was high and that nothing gets a senior’s attention faster than thinking we’re in trouble with the taxman.

Some new wrinkles on the IRS scams include the use of delivery services such as Federal Express or UPS to send you an official-looking cardboard envelope full of official-looking letters and forms, festooned with IRS logos. The envelope will usually bear a letter informing you the IRS is holding an unclaimed refund for you, and contains instructions asking for details of your personal identity, including your Social Security number, your bank account information, credit card numbers, date of birth and a good copy of your driver’s license. The letter may also tell you that you need to send in a fee to collect your refund.

Don’t fall for this stuff. Throw the envelope in the trash.

Remember, the IRS is in the business of collecting money, not giving it away.

And be aware: Nothing makes a scammer’s day more than getting a copy of your driver’s license. With copy in-hand, a scammer can contact the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and have most of the information necessary to order a genuine replacement driver’s license. The scammer then gets online and tells the BMV to send the driver’s license to another address.

This scam was first spotted this year in Texas, but the Ohio BMV reports that it has happened at least 90 times in the Buckeye State.

Scammers use compromised driver’s licenses to gain access to bank accounts, obtain credit cards in your name and open bogus retail accounts to charge thousands of dollars in your name. Even worse, a driver’s license may also possibly be sold on the dark web and end up in the hands of a violent criminal, even a terrorist.

If you receive a postcard from the Ohio BMV notifying you of any profile changes (address, etc.) that you did not request, immediately call the BMV at 844-644-6268 and file a report with your police department.

If someone else is using your driver’s license, consider it a serious threat.

Stay alert, and if you are unsure about anything you receive from the IRS, call a friend or relative, or better yet, your accountant or attorney if you have either.

This monthly column is intended to inform you, not to scare you. As an FBI agent told me long ago, in the battle against scammers, “Information is everything.”

So stay vigilant, and get outside and enjoy the cooler weather. Play all the golf you can before the leaves start to cover our beautiful courses. The Mahoning Valley is a great place to enjoy each season, and our autumns are especially nice. Scams notwithstanding, what a wonderful place to live!

If you have a question on a possible scam, talk to a family member or call your local police department. Seniors also can call their county Senior Services Unit for more information about scams. In Mahoning County, call Bob Schaeffer at 330-480-5078. In Trumbull County, call Don Hyde at 330-675-7096.

Dave Long of Poland, a Youngstown State University graduate, is a retired public affairs officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection who later worked as an Elder Scam Prevention Outreach specialist. He answers questions at monthly talks on the latest scams 1 p.m. the fourth Thursday of every month at the Poland Township Government Center, 3339 Dobbins Road, Poland.


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