With tax season coming to an end, the stragglers waiting until the last minute are rushing to file on time. The IRS estimates around 25 percent of Americans waited until the last two weeks to file. If you’re one of the last-minute filers, be sure that the rush and deadlines don’t make you an easy target for scams.
Every year the IRS releases a list of the top 12 tax scams to look out for. On the top of that list is identity theft. While filing your taxes may not be fun, you definitely don’t want an identity thief doing it for you. If thieves steal enough of your personal information they can file a claim and collect your tax return before you even realize what’s happened. Due to the complexity of having multiple tax claims, this type of fraud is difficult to track and solve for the IRS.
Also be vigilant for a tax season phishing schemes where the scammer poses as the IRS or a legitimate tax organization that needs several forms of documentation and personal information to get you a big return. Large organizations like the IRS have strict rules against asking for information like this over the internet and you should never respond.
Another popular scam close to April 15 may not cost you your identity, but will cost you a few extra bucks. Knowing that people are pretty desperate to file on time, some tax preparers will hike their fees or skim a high percentage of your refund as payment for their filing services. It’s important to read all the fine print and learn what you’re really signing up for.
Check out the IRS website for more information on all the top tax scams.
Sometimes the best way to avoid scams is to use alternative filing services that aren’t attached to big businesses. Many libraries, local governments and even universities offer free filing services sponsored by volunteers and students. Beyond the free services out there in your community, you can also ask a friend or family member especially savvy with tax filing software to help you out.
Finally, remember that many tax scams can be avoided by filing early, so be sure to take advantage of early filing in the future.
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