Tribune readers' proposed tax credits

Last week, we solicited ideas for tax credits you could only dream of; we got many great responses, so we are sharing the ones that are tax season–related this week. Here they are, and thank you for all of your credit ideas!

I think all preparers should get a credit for all the data input we do for the government! Paper returns filed require the government to hire people to do the data input into the system. We do it for free? At least give me a pension. — Diane in California

Please oh please gods of tax credits give us a $5 credit for every time a client responds to a request for information by saying "I already sent you that." — Warren in Arizona

$25 credit for each time a client brings their misbehaving children to the interview. — Doreen in California

The Tax Preparer's Sleepless Night Credit. $400 for a sleepless night, $50 for each hour under eight per night. — Jeffrey in California

Which generation is most susceptible to ID theft scams?

When you think of taxpayers falling victim to phone scammers impersonating the IRS, it typically conjures an image of a more vulnerable segment of the population, such as the elderly. But a recent study notes that it's actually Millennials who are most likely to give away personal information over the phone and get burned by a scam.

Some interesting stats from the study include:1

  • Millennials received fewer scam phone calls than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, but they were six times more likely to give away their credit card information and twice as likely to provide their Social Security number.
  • 35% of Millennials think they're susceptible to identity theft, as compared to 50% of Gen Xers and 54% of Baby Boomers.
  • Almost 17% of Millennials are likely to give away personal information over the phone after a caller verifies the last four digits of their Social Security number. Only 3.2% of Gen Xers and 2% of Baby Boomers do this.

Similarly, according to a report by the FTC, of the people 20 to 29 years old who filed fraud complaints in 2017, 40% lost money.2 That's compared to 18% of people age 70 and older.

Why? The company who conducted the study believes that as digital natives, "Millennials are often less skeptical about the repercussions of sharing their personal information and trust that financial security systems will protect them."3


Here a bot, there a bot, everywhere a bot, bot

First there was Siri, then the internet chatboxes, now Alexa. And if you think that guy on the online dating program is just too good to be true, he probably is. Bots have arrived, and they are multiplying.

If you're like me, staying on top of the latest technology news is not at the top of my priority list. So when I came across a proposed California law (SB 1001) that would make it unlawful for anyone to interact with a real person online through the use of a "bot" without clearly and conspicuously disclosing that it is a bot, I thought it was pretty hysterical that people wouldn't know the difference. For those who don't know, a bot is essentially an application that performs an automated task. The more advanced forms are the digital assistants like Alexa.

Bots are virtually everywhere now — 52% of web traffic is now attributable to bots.1 They are writing books, articles, and comedy sitcoms. They are providing health information and advice. They are even pretending to be online therapists and have profiles on the dating app Tinder.

Evidently these bots are infiltrating Tinder and looking for those lonely souls who will be a "match" and will go onto suggested websites and buy a product or a service that the bot suggests ... and bam, there goes all your personal information.

So, how to spot a bot? Here are some of the main things to look out for:2

  • They respond suspiciously quickly. "Real humans need to sleep and take more than 0.1 second to respond";
  • In the middle of a "conversation," they mention a product or service that isn't really related to the conversation or send you a link without you asking for one;
  • Their responses are generic, and they don't seem to be listening to you. Remember, you are just "meeting them," you haven't been married for 20 years; or
  • Their Facebook pictures are "way too hot to be real," and they have no Facebook friends.

Don't get me wrong, bots are not inherently bad. I don't think I could get anywhere these days without asking Siri for directions. But if you're talking to an online therapist or doing online dating, you may want to be a little cautious.

1 LaFrance, Adrienne, "The Internet is Mostly Bots," The Atlantic (January 31, 2017) at:
2 Rauch, Joseph "How to Tell If You're Talking to a Bot: The Complete Guide to Chatbots," Talkspace (January 22, 2016) at:

A few fun facts about this week's writers:

Kathryn Zdan, EAKathryn Zdan, EA, meets with an all-female photography group once a month and also spends her free time watching classic and foreign movies. Her dream is to recreate the pie fight scene from The Great Race.

Sandy Weiner, J.D.Sandy Weiner, J.D., as California editor, loves all things California. Whether it's hiking at Big Sur or playing at the beach in San Diego where she lives, Sandy takes full advantage of all that California has to offer as a way to clear her head after trying to comprehend and explain California's Revenue & Taxation Code.

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