Avoiding a tax scam before you file

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7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda has the story

It's tax season but scammers are lurking too. The Internal Revenue Service says tax fraud was up 400% last year, and that's just phishing and malware scams that target your email or computer. And that's not the only way thieves are trying to hijack your refund check.

It was an urgent email from her boss; a request to reply with all the employees W-2's in a PDF, ASAP.

Bea Bauza, the human resources director at a small manufacturing company in Northvale, New Jersey, got suspicious. So instead of replying, she walked across the hall to asked her boss.

The email at a glance looked like it came from her boss, but there was one big red flag: the company's emails are first name, last initial, their company domain. But the scam email used the bosses first initial and last name.

"It's pretty scary because they're could've gotten the refunds," the company CEO said.

And that's exactly what scammers are phishing for during tax season.

Their corporate IT team quickly unmasked what was lurking behind the header of the boss's hacked email account.

Faking or spoofing an email is super easy, their IT manager says. He says you must examine email addresses carefully, avoid hitting "Reply to:" and call to verify if you're unsure.

"Never trust any request asking for confidential information," said Stuart Freedman, IT Manager.

ID thieves are also using regular old mail to steal your tax refund checks.

"Often times the postal carrier will call us and say, 'Hey I've got a tax return for a person that doesn't live there, what should I do with it?'" said Philip Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the United States Postal Inspection Service.

The US Postal Inspection Service warns don't answer letters, phone calls or email which appear to come from the IRS asking for your Social Security number.

"The IRS already knows your social security number, they're not going to ask you for it," Bartlett said.

The big takeaways here: Never email sensitive information. Be aware scammers can easily mask or mimic a phone number or email. And file taxes early so a hacker can't do it before you!
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