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Take care: Tax season's also scam season

Schemes aiming to defraud you during tax time can come via telephone, email or even in person in the form of fraudulent tax preparers. Here's how to avoid these pitfalls.

Schemes aiming to defraud you during tax time

Schemes aiming to defraud you during tax time can come via telephone, email or even in person. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/adrian825


Tax season is either a good thing — if you're getting a refund — or not, if you owe the government money. It's also an opportune time for scammers to make a play for your identity, your money or both. If you're wise, you'll keep your guard up. Here's what to keep an eye out for.

Telephone scams

In these types of schemes, a caller will pose as an IRS agent and say you owe money, then threaten you with being arrested or other consequences if you don't pay right away. Stop right there. "The IRS will never contact you by phone unless you're part of a specific group of taxpayers with long-standing debts," says Joshua Zimmelman, president of Westwood Tax & Consulting in Rockville Centre. 

Snail mail schemes

The IRS might not call, but it could send a letter if it wanted to contact you. However, "before paying any balances shown on a letter, verify that you've received a genuine IRS letter, because the fake letters can look very convincing," warns Michael Eckstein, owner of Eckstein Tax Services in Huntington.

Phony tax preparers

What telltale signs would let you know that a tax preparer is not legit? "They avoid showing you credentials, they don't have a Preparer Tax Identification Number and claim they can get you a larger return than anyone else," says Justin Lavelle, chief communications officer of BeenVerified, a provider of online background checks. Search the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications on irs.gov to find trusted tax preparers.

Be careful online

Says Zimmelman, "The IRS will never contact you via email. So if you get an email from the IRS asking for personal or financial information, assume it's a scam.”  

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