Tips for avoiding scams during tax season

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Tax season is underway and it is like Christmas for cyber thieves. It's an opportunity for them to get their hands and eyes on tax forms, steal your identity, and even your refund check!

That's why 7 On Your Side has a special checklist to avoid getting conned.

Two factors are making it easier for criminals to gain access:

First, many of us are working on home computers or laptops which don't have the firewalls and protection of being in the office.

Because we are working remotely, we aren't seeing our coworkers in HR or IT by the watercooler to chat or check up on that tax email sent to employees which in many cases didn't come from the company at all.

That's exactly what happened to a local business in Northvale, New Jersey. An email received around this time of year appeared to be from Human Resources, stating everyone's W-2 had to be updated by orders of the boss, instructing employees to fill out attached forms and reply.

Fortunately, someone walked the document across the hall to ask if the HR director sent it out. She had not and on closer look, they discovered the sender has spoofed the company domain name, it was misspelled.

Beware of bogus refunds. This is when a refund magically shows up in your account.

Here's how this goes down: Someone steals your social or taxpayer ID, files a bogus return, and has the refund deposited into your bank account.

Then you get a call from an imposter pretending to be an IRS agent, and you are told there's been a mistake to return the money immediately or face penalties and get this they want the funds back in gift cards.

Another scam making the rounds targets your stimulus funds or unemployment benefits.

If you are still waiting on, both or either, you are particularly at risk.

The IRS warns taxpayers not to engage with services falsely claiming to be able to expedite getting you additional money or faster delivery by filing your return for a fee.

If you owe taxes, don't fall for a hard oversell on qualifying for debt settlement.

Since many of us are struggling with debt, unscrupulous companies are out promising you can settle tax liens for pennies on the dollar through a compromise.

Only a fraction of taxpayers can actually qualify for this IRS program, so beware of getting contacted and charged a huge fee to apply. You can do this yourself for free.

The big takeaway:

- The IRS will never call you, demanding payment.

- The IRS doesn't use social media, text, or emails.
- The IRS will not ask for gift cards as payment.

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Nina Pineda has money saving tips with 7 On Your Side.


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