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Tips to avoid Tax scammers

Scammers are out there preying on the vulnerable--and their phony come-ons
Are getting more and more convincing.
So, what should taxpayers look out for?

First and foremost--identity theft. Your best defense: Guard your personal information religiously--don't give out information just because you're asked for it--use fire-walls and virus software on your computer--and never open a questionable e-mail.  If you suspect you are at risk--due to loss or theft--contact the I.R.S. identity protection unit--at 1-800-908-4490-- immediately.

Also on the rise this year--phone scams.  Callers often approach victims--sometimes saying they're entitled to refunds--other times--claiming they owe money--then threaten them with arrest. 

They've become skilled at "spoofing" the IRS toll-free number on caller ID and often have just enough personal information to sound authentic.  If you receive such a call, hang up--and

Call the I.R.S. Back at 1-800-829-1040.  And never, ever give a caller money--either directly--through a pre-loaded debit card--or a wire transfer--no matter how hostile the caller becomes.

"Phishing" is a scam that uses e-mail or fake websites to lure victims--hoping to glean valuable personal information.  If you receive a sketchy e-mail--or discover a website that claims to the be the I.R.S.--but you suspect it's bogus--forward it--unopened--to phishing@irs.gov.

In addition to those, watch for scammers posing as tax preparers, luring targets with promises of "free money" or large refunds--or impersonating charitable organizations--especially after a natural disaster--looking to pocket some of your hard-earned cash.