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With the start of the 2014 tax season approaching on January 31, it is worth keeping in mind that tax-related scams using the IRS name proliferate during this time of year.
Tax scams can take many forms, with perpetrators posing as the IRS in everything from e-mail refund schemes to phone impersonators. As a result, it is important to be vigilant of any unexpected communication that is purportedly from the IRS at the start of tax season.
It is worth noting that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information; this includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for personal identification numbers (PINs), passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to email@example.com.
There are several steps to take to protect against scams and identity theft:
- Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN);
- Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask; give it only when required;
- Protect your financial information;
- Check your credit report every 12 months;
- Secure personal information in your home;
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts; and
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact and are sure of the recipient.
Taxpayers also should be careful when choosing a tax preparer. While most preparers provide excellent service to their clients, a few unscrupulous return preparers file false and fraudulent tax returns and ultimately defraud their clients. It is important to know that even if someone else prepares a return, the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for all the information on the tax return.
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