The Internal Revenue Service warns that scammers have found a simpler way to steal your money and you could be a victim just by filing your taxes.
Eric Hoefnagel worked for the IRS for 25 years and now helps people filing their own taxes.
One of the first lines of defense, he says, is the paper shredder.
"I have two shredders here and they stay busy a lot," Hoefnagel said. "Mom and pop places, they're going to be very vulnerable. I've been preaching that (shredding) for years."
The scammers try to get him to slip up, too. Recently he got a call saying there was a problem with his computer.
"They tell you they want to take over your computer and correct the problem, would you please sit at your computer and do x-y-z," Hoefnagel recalled.
He knew better, but the IRS says many tax preparers like him are vulnerable. Scammers know it makes more sense to go after tax preparers. Instead of finding one person's information they can find files for hundreds of people.
"This is someone you're not just trusting with your Social Security number but all of your dependents," said IRS spokesman Clay Sanford.
Sanford says whether you hire an accountant or a friend, one of the most important things is to ask that person not just about their experience but how they're protecting your documents.
"As technology proliferates, the crooks are finding ways to get around it," Sanford said.
Hoefnagel is using special software, multiple passwords and years of experience sniffing out the scams – plus he pays the neighbor's young son to help him run those shredders.
You just have to be very careful that the person will protect the info you give to them.
If you're preparing taxes for yourself, or for family or friends, the IRS keeps the latest warnings posted online.
Here are some things you need to always remember:
- The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe taxes.
- The IRS will never threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement agencies to have you arrested for not paying.
- The IRS will never demand that you pay taxes without giving you an opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- the IRS will never ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.