Don't Fall for Tax-Season Scams

Watch out for tax thieves this time of year...

I don't mean the folks at the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"). You may not like it, but the law allows them to take our money. I'm talking about impostors who call you up claiming to be from the IRS.

These swindlers typically claim there's a problem with your tax return and demand immediate payment using a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer via a service like Western Union or MoneyGram. (If you send money this way, it's extremely difficult to trace the funds or get them back.) And if you refuse or act uncertain, they'll threaten you with arrest.

Worse, some of these callers might even know the last four digits of your Social Security number, which made them appear more legitimate. So this tax season, if you get a call from someone who claims to be from the IRS and threatens you with jail time, hang up immediately.

The IRS doesn't initiate contact through the telephone. If you really owe money, it will send a notice in the mail first. And real IRS agents never demand immediate payment by prepaid debit card or wire transfer.

If you think you're the victim of an IRS scam, visit the IRS's phishing and scam page here. You can also check your IRS payments and tax records here.

Keep sending us your questions, comments, and suggestions. We read every e-mail... [email protected].

Q: Hi Doc. I want to add extra-virgin olive oil to my diet, but I'm not a salad guy and I do my cooking on a countertop convection grill, which I spray with olive oil. I know you recommend bottled oil, so is it OK to just take a couple of tablespoons straight from the bottle every day? – J.W.

A: A few years ago, I joked about doctors writing a prescription for taking two tablespoons of olive oil each day. Some folks on my team balk at the idea of drinking olive oil straight, but there's nothing wrong if that's what you want to do.

It's also a good oil for cooking, as long as you keep the temperature under control. Extra-virgin olive oil's smoke point is somewhere between 374 and 405 degrees Fahrenheit.

A smoke point is the temperature at which your oil starts sending up bluish smoke. The smoke is a breakdown of the fats in the oil into glycerol. Glycerol then breaks down further into poisonous acrolein. Acrolein not only irritates the lungs, but it can also trigger asthma and cause other respiratory problems.

Cooks tend to fry at about 356 degrees, so just avoid going higher than 400 degrees. This will help you avoid the fumes.

Q: Are chia seeds good for you or bad (and just a fad)? – R.S.

A: Chia seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants.

A 2015 review of studies on chia seeds from Pakistan found that the antioxidants in chia seeds keep your liver and heart healthy by fighting free radicals in your body. Recall that these damaging molecules bounce around your system, trying to pull electrons off healthy pieces of your cells. Too many free radicals can lead to massive damage. They alter your proteins, fats, and even DNA. They also can cause inflammation and cancer.

Chia seeds also contain more than twice the amount of fiber you'd get from lentils, figs, or plums, which helps keep your digestive system running smoothly.

And, of course, omega-3s are essential... Omega-3 fatty acids encourage muscle activity and cell growth in the body. They are an integral part of our cell membranes, and they affect the function of the cell receptors inside the membrane.

They help regulate blood clotting, the contraction and relaxation of our arterial walls, and the body's fight against inflammation. Cancer, arthritis, and heart disease also are warded off with regular consumption of omega-3s.

While chia seeds could seem like a fad only millennials enjoy, there are lots of benefits to eating them. While there is some hype involved – some folks would have you believe chia seeds are a miracle food – they could be a beneficial addition to your diet.

Just don't eat too many. Large amounts of chia seeds can lead to gastrointestinal issues like constipation, thin your blood, and even raise your blood pressure. Stick to no more than a couple tablespoons a day. And soak your chia seeds to help your body digest them more easily.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
March 4, 2022