Protect Yourself from Scams During Tax Season

Published 01/28 2014 06:23PM

Updated 01/28 2014 06:53PM

(St. Joseph, Mo.) Every year around this time people innocently give their information to phony IRS agents only to be ripped off.

Tax season starts Friday, that means scammers will be on the prowl ready to steal your identity.

Sara Pederson, with Liberty Tax in St. Joseph, says people should be on the lookout for scammers.

"You're always going to have some fraud out there no matter what," said Pederson.

The Internal Revenue Service says fake IRS agents are the biggest problem when it comes to scams.
Pederson says she has also witnessed people claiming children who either don't live with them or simply don't exist.

"We have to keep info for five years and that's so they can't claim earned income on children that don't live with them," added Pederson.

Tax experts say the best way to prevent yourself from falling victim to a scam is to see an expert with questions concerning your taxes.

Low-income and older individuals are also common targets. And, if someone tries to make contact with you that you have never contacted before, it could be a scam.

Experts say never release your information to anyone who calls and asks, even if they say they are from the government.

"The IRS is never going to call you and ask for your Social Security card numbers on anything. They will send you a letter in the mail if they have a problem with you tax return," said Pederson.

Pederson says if you don't need the money right away, it's better to wait to file your taxes.

Many taxpayers who are expecting a refund rush to file as soon as possible. Pederson says that could lead to an audit. She says the best way to avoid an audit is to be honest upfront.

"Income that would make you get higher EIC showing very low income and you have 5 or 6 children. The government realizes that there's no way you could support these 5 or 6 children on a small income of a couple thousand dollars. That's a red flag that will throw up an audit," says Pederson.

Also, never give a business your Social Security number unless its required. Taxpayers should also run a credit report every year to ensure safety.

Fewer than one percent of tax returns are audited.

But there's no way to guarantee you'll be exempt from the IRS' prying eyes, so all you can do is take the proper precautions and hope for the best.

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