5 THINGS TO KNOW: How to spot and avoid tax scams this tax season

Feb. 3—The Better Business Bureau gives information on how taxpayers can spot and avoid tax scams and identity theft this tax season.

1 How soon should I file taxes?

The best way to avoid tax identity theft is to file your taxes as early as possible. File before a scammer has the chance to use your information to file a fake return.

2 Does the IRS text or email taxpayers?

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message or social media to request personal or financial information. This includes requests for PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts. A request for a pin number is only sent if the taxpayer is logging in through the IRS website and a request is made by the taxpayer.

3 What is the tax identity scam?

This occurs when a scammer uses your government-issued identity number to file a tax return in your name and collect your refund. It can also be someone using your information to get a job. Consumers don't usually realize they have been victims of tax identity theft until they get a written notice from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed, or they were paid by an employer they don't know.

4 What is the email phishing scam?

The emails appear to be from the IRS and include a link to a bogus web site intended to mirror the official IRS web site. These emails contain the direction "you are to update your IRS e-file immediately." The emails sometimes mention USA.gov and IRSgov (without a dot between "IRS" and "gov") Don't get scammed. These emails are not from the IRS.

5 Who do I contact if I am a tax scam victim?

If you are the victim of tax identity theft in the U.S., contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490. You should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. The FTC also offers a personalized identity theft recovery plan at identitytheft.gov.

— Derrick James