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Updated on Friday, March 4, 2016
It’s March, which can only mean one thing — it’s time to start stressing about taxes. The deadline is looming, so it’s time to
If you haven’t done yours already, you’re probably smack dab in the middle of gathering all the pertinent pieces of paperwork and trying to track down all those missing receipts you can’t seem to find for write-offs. Into this fun mix let us add one more worry — avoiding tax scams. Unfortunately it’s par for the course these days that would-be thieves are just dying to get their hands on your information and your money … but there are ways to stop them. Being prepared is half the battle, so here’s what to be on the lookout for this tax season to ensure that all your information and money stays right where it should be — with you.
1. File as soon as possible
The longer your tax information is out there and unfiled, the more chances crooks have to swoop in and file your taxes for you, thereby receiving the refund that should be going to you. Once you’ve received all your tax documents and have any other paperwork on hand that you’ll need, the smartest thing to do to avoid theft is to file yourself as quickly as possible.
2. Be aware of fake phone calls
The number one thing you need to be aware of when it comes to calls from the IRS is that the agency has already stated plainly that they will never ask for someone’s credit card numbers over the phone, nor will they ever request payments via pre-paid debit cards or wire transfers. In fact, the IRS rarely makes calls right off the bat anyway — usually their first mode of communication is through mail — so if you receive a call from the “IRS” out of the blue asking for money to be sent via wire transfer or pre-paid cards, it’s a scam. If you do receive one of these calls, inform that caller that you’re aware of these types of scams, and that you’ll need to make sure this call isn’t one by reaching out to the IRS yourself to verify, and then hang up. You can then report the incident to the Treasure Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484, as well as with the FTC Complaint Assistant program.
3. And fake emails
Pretty much the same rules apply for emails that do for phone calls. The IRS almost always attempts to connect with people through regular mail first, not via email or phone, and you’ll never receive an email from out of the blue about refunds or back due taxes. If you’ve received an email from the IRS about money owed, don’t open it until you’ve verified directly with the IRS yourself that it’s actually valid.
Check out this piece on the IRS Dirty Dozen Tax Scams to avoid other potential tax pitfalls.