Last March, the Senior Center offered a Fraud Watch presentation as part of the Center’s “When I’m 64…or more” life planning series. We invited local AARP Chapter leadership and the Sheridan Police Department to present warning signs and preventative actions all of us can take to dodge being scammed.
Folks who attended were surprised when Detective Jerome Smith, one of the keynote speakers, shared that many of the scams are here in Sheridan.
The sad news is that once the money is gone, it’s gone. It’s difficult for detectives and FBI agents to trace and recover money. Even if they could recover scammed monies, it could take a long, long time.
The best tip for keeping scammers from getting your money: don’t fall for it. Take a breath, slow down and take control. Tell the caller you’re going to do some checking and will get back to them. If they are legitimate, they’ll understand.
For the moment, let’s focus on IRS tax scams.
Here’s a big piece of advice: The IRS will never call you.
Since our Fraud Watch presentation last March, I have had people call me asking about a “call from the IRS” they got. I am proud to share that they didn’t get taken. Just recently, someone showed me a phone number from a call she had gotten “from the IRS.” It was a legitimate Washington, D.C. area code but trust me: it’s a scam. No one who shared with me this past year that they had been contacted “by the IRS” has been arrested.
I spoke with a representative at one of our local reputable accounting firms about how the IRS would contact you if they needed to.
The IRS will always contact you in writing. Only after repeated attempts to reach you by mail, would they call you.
What do you do to ensure the letter or call is not a scam? You can do one of two things.
One option is to call the local IRS office. They are located at 1949 Sugarland Drive, next to the Holiday Inn. Call 672-7425 for their availability.
Another option is to call a local reputable accounting firm. Tell them that you received a letter from the IRS and that you would like them to validate its authenticity. It is fair — and good business — to ask if they will charge and how much for this consult. One accounting firm I spoke with does not charge for consults — such as validating the authenticity of an IRS letter — but they will visit with you about their fees should the letter be legitimate and you need follow up. You don’t have to be one of their clients or have ever done business with them for this consult.
Here’s a strong suggestion for this tax season: file early whether you are getting a refund or have to pay. If you have to pay, you can file early then you have until April 15 to send a check.
Organizations and businesses are required by law to have your W-2 payroll and 1099 Forms for interest income postmarked to you by Jan. 31. If you don’t have all your paperwork to file by the first week of February, start calling and asking for your forms.
If you are computer savvy, you can visit the official IRS website at www.irs.gov for tips, forms and questions on filing.
I have a wish: that Sheridan County is a place that scammers won’t win. Please spread the word so we’re all safe. Share it with people you care about. I invite you to join us on Tuesday night, Jan. 5, at 5:30 p.m. for a free presentation for community members of all ages on Fraud Watch for all types of scams. The presentation will be held on the dining room stage at the Senior Center at 211 Smith St.
Lois Bell is the communications director at the Sheridan Senior Center. Center Stage is written by friends of the Senior Center for the Sheridan Community. It is a collection of insights and stories related to living well at every age.