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Love and Debt: Why you need to talk about money

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Where to go for mortgage and debt help

What You Should Know About Debt Settlement

Create a plan to deal with medical debt

Options for Higher Education

Will Changes in Credit Reporting Affect You?

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Simple Keys to Personal Finance

Be vigilant to avoid telephone and internet scams

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Keep an open line of communication with parents about their finances.

Make a Choice to Get Ahead Financially

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Be Wary of Credit Repair Services

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Money, Credit and Relationships

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Skipping a Payment over the Holidays

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My wife and I have gone through some tough financial times, which eventually led us to file for bankruptcy.  Following this experience, I don’t ever want to use credit again, but my wife

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Be vigilant to avoid telephone and internet scams

Q. My mother recently received a call from someone who convinced her that she owed back taxes to the IRS. Thank goodness she called me before she sent any money.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that she’s been a target for this type of thing.  I’m worried that it will happen again. What can I do to help protect her?  

A. We are all susceptible to scammers, but our elderly are especially vulnerable.  It is a good thing that your mother let you know about the call and wise for you to be concerned about the potential for her to be a target for scammers.

Awareness is the first key to stopping would-be thieves. I encourage you to visit with your mother about some of the most common tactics scammers use to net their victims. Tax scams are particularly prevalent, especially during the months leading up to April. According to the IRS, scammers use a variety of schemes; one of the most common relies on automated calls where scammers leave urgent callback requests to settle a tax bill. Other scams target students and their parents, demanding payments for fictitious taxes, such as a federal student tax. And sometimes, telephone scammers try to capture personal information by claiming it is necessary to verify personal information on a tax return. 

It can be overwhelming—and even scary—to think you owe money that must be paid immediately. Scammers capitalize on this fear in order to get people to act quickly, before they have time to think about the request.

Everyone needs to know, however, that the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment by phone, threaten to immediately bring the police and have you arrested, demand you pay for taxes without giving you the opportunity to ask questions and appeal the amount, or ask you for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. 

Another common scam involves work-at-home schemes. In these scams, fraudsters place ads on legitimate websites, promising easy money and asking for training fees paid up front. According to the National Consumers League, work-at-home scam complaints increased 17% in the first three months of 2016. To be safe, check a company’s Better Business Bureau rating in the state they are located before you sign anything. And never send money under pressure from a would-be employer.

In addition to helping your mother become more aware of potential scams, you might also consider asking to her to contact you before she gives out any personal financial information or agrees to send money in response to calls or e-mails. If her capabilities are diminishing, the two of you may opt to visit with an attorney about the various types of Powers of Attorney that are available.

We can all be victims of financial exploitation, regardless of our age or experience. I encourage consumers to remain vigilant and to think carefully before giving out any personal financial information or agreeing to send money to anyone.

Bonnie Spain is the executive director of the American Center for Credit Education and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills. For more information, email

The material in this transmission is provided for personal, non-commercial, educational, and informational purposes only. ACCE makes no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this transmission and assumes no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any inconsistency herein. You should consult a professional where appropriate.