Scammers are out there preying on the vulnerable, and the IRS says, protecting taxpayers and their refunds is a top priority.
Imagine filing your taxes only to find out that someone has filed before you, using all your personal information -- including your Social Security number -- and absconded with your refund.
Protecting the public and their refunds is a top priority for the IRS. Last year, the agency intercepted 5 million suspicious returns and spent 500,000 hours chasing down crooks.
But are there things you can do to help avoid becoming a victim? "Yes," the IRS says.
- Guard your personal information. Don't carry your Social Security card on you and don't give a business your number just because they ask for it. Check your credit report once a year. And store documents in a secure place inside your home.
- Watch out for irs impersonators. The IRS never initiates contact through e-mail or social media to request personal or financial information or notify taxpayers of an audit, refund or investigation. If you're suspicious that it's not really the IRS contacting you, don't respond.
- And protect your personal computer. Use firewalls, anti-spam and virus software, use strong passwords and change them periodically.
If you do receive a sketchy e-mail or discover a website that claims to be the IRS -- but you suspect it's bogus -- forward it, unopened, to firstname.lastname@example.org
Just last year alone, the IRS stopped more than $20 billion in fraudulent refunds.