Photo: Flickr / closari
Poor, elderly church members are being targeted in a new scam, the IRS reports.Scammers reel victims in by convincing them they can score refunds through the American Opportunity Tax Credit, typically used for college expenses.
“Promoters are targeting church congregations, exploiting their good intentions and credibility,” an IRS spokeswoman told CNNMoney’s Blake Ellis. “They build false hopes and charge people good money for bad advice.”
Unfortunately, the elderly are prime bait for scams, as they’re more trusting and can have a harder time sniffing out fakes.
Most of the victims don’t even qualify for tax returns because of their low income. Many stem from the South and Midwest. Members of the Southeast Asian community in parts of California have also been affected, Ellis reports.
The IRS has received thousands of these false claims but has not identified any of the people or congregations involved.
Here’s how they’re getting duped:
- Fictitious claims for refunds or rebates based on false statements of entitlement to tax credits.
- Unfamiliar for-profit tax services selling refund and credit schemes to the membership of local churches.
- Internet solicitations that direct individuals to toll-free numbers and then solicit social security numbers.
- Homemade flyers and brochures implying credits or refunds are available without proof of eligibility.