This time of year, many of us are busy preparing our income tax returns. But be warned, scam artists are busy, too. In some cases they claim to be official employees of the Internal Revenue Service, but all too often, they're simply after your cash.
"There are at least four scams going on right here in Alabama," said IRS Spokesman Dan Boone.
The first scam starts with a phone cal from someone claiming to work for the IRS.
"It's one of the slickest ones we've seen," Boone explained. "The caller says the IRS sent you a check and you never cashed it. Then they ask for your checking account number.
But in reality, the IRS doesn't ask for your checking account number over the phone. In fact, the IRS would never even call you. If you have questions, you have to call them.
Scammers may also claim you're missing out on a refund check because you didn't report your Social Security or disability income as taxable. But in most cases, that income is NOT taxable.
Finally, beware of callers who tell you to request a telephone excise tax refund. That was only good on your 2006 return.
Scams can also come via e-mail. The messages look like they're from the IRS, but they're not.
Some say you're eligible for a rebate because you filed early. Others ask you to download information about changes to the tax law. And still others claim you'll lose your refund or be audited if you don't respond.
"Unfortunately, people use the IRS name to lure people into responding to these e-mails or clicking on links in these e-mails," Boone said. "And we're told as soon as you click on a link, you could be downloading malicious software onto your computer that steals your personal information."
Remember, the IRS doesn't send e-mails asking for your personal information.
If you've already clicked a link or responded to a bogus e-mail, make sure to scan your computer for spy ware and viruses.
If you have questions, it's best to ask a tax professional or contact the IRS at www.irs.gov or by phone at 1-800-829-1040.