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Spotting tax scams, avoid becoming a victim

Attorney General's Office issues warning of rampant tax ID theft scams

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Now that tax season has officially kicked off, scammers are hard at work to steal your money, and the Call Christina team has you covered on how to spot scams and avoid becoming a victim.

IMPOSTERS:

One of the most popular scams continues to be IRS impersonators.

Scammers claim to be IRS employees and use scare tactics that include threats of arrest and deportation. They are copying official IRS letterhead to send falsified forms, and they are demanding immediate payment in both English and Spanish.

READ: Beware of aggressive IRS impersonators' telephone scam

Remember, the IRS won't call you or email you. They won't contact you via social media or by text. They won't ask you to pay via a prepaid debit card or with a money transfer. If the caller alleging to be representing the IRS raises doubts, contact the IRS to verify the claims at  1-800-829-1040.  Victims of the IRS scam should contact authorities immediately.

PIN PROTECTION:

One way to protect yourself from this scam is to make an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) by creating a six-digit PIN number, which makes it even more difficult for scammers to access your account.

Should someone enrolled in the IRS IP PIN program and file a return with an incorrect PIN, the IRS will reject or delay the return until it is submitted with the correct PIN and the taxpayer's identity is confirmed.

Click here to obtain an IRS IP PIN.

NEW SECURITY MEASURES:

With more than 90 percent of tax reports filed on the computer, state tax administrators and leaders in the tax preparation field announced a new effort last year called "Taxes-Security-Together." With this program, they are expanding and strengthening protections against online identity theft and tax refund fraud for the upcoming online tax filing season.

The new security measures will help detect and prevent identity theft when filing tax returns. They feature enhanced identity requirements and validation procedures to protect accounts from identity theft.

READ: IRS announces new security measures to protect taxpayers from identity theft, tax refund fraud

AG'S OFFICE ISSUES WARNING:

Tips from the Florida Attorney General's Office on how to avoid scams during tax season:

· File tax returns early in the tax season;
· Research a tax preparer thoroughly before providing personal information;
· Use a secure internet connection when filing electronically. Do not use unsecure, publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots;
· Mail tax returns directly from the post office, not from home; and
· If a Social Security number has been compromised, contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at (800) 908-4490.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE A VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT:

Florida holds the country's top spot for ID theft; a complaint category that for the past 15 years has led the Federal Trade Commission's list of complaints.

The threat is not restricted to credit cards. Hackers can wreak havoc, so Local 10 News investigative reporter Christina Vazquez gathered some advice on what, if anything, can be done to keep information safe.

READ: Preventing identity theft, what to do if you've been victimized

"It's a big problem and there's a whole world of victims out there that may not even know it," consumer protection attorney Jason Weaver said. 

But there's things Weaver said you can do to protect yourself:

1. Monitor your credit and get a copy of your credit report every year.  It's free. 

2. Give your credit card information over the phone only to larger companies that you trust.

3. Watch for ATM shoulder surfers and stick to bank ATM's.  Avoid portable ones like those that pop up at conventions or carnivals, as they are popular targets for ID thieves armed with card readers.

4. Don't click on links in emails from people or companies you don't know.

5. Check the URL and contact the company directly to confirm any advertised give-aways or prizes.

"Consumers who are victims of identity theft have to remember that they have got a two part problem. The first is their credit and getting it off their credit report.  And the second is contacting these people who say the consumer owes them money.  You need to tell them this isn't my debt," Weaver said.