Ready or not, it's tax time. And prime time for scams.
Allen Abrams was stunned recently to get a call from someone who claimed to be an IRS agent. He demanded a $5,000 tax payment within the hour or else.
"I would be handcuffed and thrown in jail. It was absolutely the most terrifying thing I have experienced that I can remember," Abrams said.
The first red flag was the phone call. The IRS typically contacts you first by mail, not on the phone. And the agency won't ask for personal information via text or email either.
"These so-called phishing schemes are aimed at getting important information like your Social Security number. That way the scam artist can steal your identity, and then they can claim your refund using a fraudulent tax return," said Consumer Reports' Tobie Stanger.
If you get an email that says it's from the IRS, don't reply or click on any links. Forward it to email@example.com.
If you're hiring a tax preparer, don't fall for promises of big refunds or penalty reductions. Look for their credentials. You want a pro who's a certified tax accountant or tax attorney. And never let them send your refund to their account.
And if you choose to file your own taxes to save money, don't lose out by making simple mistakes.
"Any questions that you might come across and any doubt that you may have, just make sure you research it and get the correct answer because the last thing you want is to be audited," said Nakeisha Johnson, a student tax preparer at Clayton State University.
E-filing will help you stay on track, but you also want to:
Double check that you typed in your name and SSN correctly.
Make sure you checked the right filing status.
Triple check your math.
Be sure you selected the right credits and deductions.
Choose direct deposit and enter your account and routing numbers carefully.
Don't forget to sign.
Experts say e-filing through the IRS's secure portals is the safest way to protect your identity.
If you file a paper return, don't make it easy for criminals by putting it in your mailbox. Take it in person to the post office.
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Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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