Voice of the consumer: IRS’ Free file; Medicare classes; elder abuse


Even though Tax Day isn’t until April 15, it’s never too early to get started. Once again, the Internal Revenue Service is offering Free File, a free tax prep software for people who earn $72,000 a year or less.

According to the IRS, 83,972 Coloradans used Free File last year. That’s about 60% more than the year before. You can find more information at www.IRS.gov/FreeFile.

“An IRS tax refund is often the single largest payment families receive during the year. We know how critical that refund is, especially this year,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

Millions of Americans received stimulus money in 2020. The first payment was up to $1,200 per eligible person and $500 per qualifying child. The second payment was up to $600 per eligible person and $600 per qualifying child. If you qualified for the stimulus checks but did not receive the full amount, make sure to claim it as the Recovery Rebate Credit when you file your taxes this year.

I also wanted to let you know the Pikes Peak Library District and Pikes Peak Area Agency on Aging are teaming up to present a four-part series on Medicare this year. The series is designed to guide and support you as you make important health care decisions.

The class topics are Medicare Eligibility and Coverage (Parts A and B), Medicare Options (Medigap and Medicare Advantage Plans), Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) and Other Health Insurance Options (PERA, COBRA, FEHB, Tri-Care, Medicaid and Employer Group Insurance).

The classes are free and will be held virtually. Each session will begin the first Thursday of the month at 5:30 p.m. Sessions start Feb. 4, April 1, June 3, Aug. 5 and Oct. 7.

Registration is required for each session. You can sign up at www.ppacg.org/events. Once you register, you’ll get a link for the classes.

This week, I also wanted to share some red flags you should look out for when it comes to elder financial abuse. AARP Fraud Watch Network recently shared this insight.

According to AARP, elder financial abuse can take many forms. Some examples are when a family member cashes the victim’s checks, uses their credit cards, steals cash or valuables from their home or convinces them to transfer property. Red flags include unusual changes in bank accounts or how they’re managing their money, unpaid bills, fraudulent signatures on financial documents, or unusual changes in a will or other financial document.

If you suspect this is happening to you or someone you know, call 1-800-677-1116.

“Financial exploitation and fraud come at a huge cost to victims — not only financially. These scourges also have negative social, emotional and health impacts,” AARP Fraud Watch Network said in a news release.

You can contact the AARP Fraud Watch Helpline at 1-877-908-3360 for more information. Remember, you can also always report scams, fraud and price gouging to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office at 800-222-4444.