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Sen. Hirono, Hawaii advocates warn kupuna of tax fraud

With the federal tax filing deadline less than three weeks away, advocates joined U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono Saturday at a caregiving conference at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii to urge seniors to be aware of tax-related scams, such as con artists pretending to be Internal Revenue Service agents by phone.

The IRS has seen a surge of phone scams as con artists threaten police arrest, license revocation, and even deportation.

“Well, we know trusting vulnerable seniors are particular targets for scam artists,” said the senator, “and some of these scammers are not even in our own country. So it’s hard to find them and prosecute them.

“Scam artists and predators are clever in their attempts to swindle taxpayers out of their refunds. Kupuna and their families need to remain vigilant and protect themselves as we approach the tax filing deadline,” she said.

“This is epidemic in proportion right now. It’s increasing everyday,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Teri Alexander. “The best prevention for this is education and to be aware what these scams look like so that people can, as the senator said, hang up the phone and don’t engage with these people.

“If you have taxes, or have a tax issue, you will be contacted by the IRS via phone. You will first receive a letter or perhaps a face-to-face visit. So if you do get a phone call, and it may even look like an IRS number, fraudsters have a way to make it look like an IRS number, you must hang up,” she said.

AARP Hawaii state director Barbara Kim Stanton said that the organization “has an AARP fraud network and you can get a live person to get help, but we need to partner because over 6,000 of seniors have reported being defrauded and the average amount of loss is about $2,555.”