You probably don't even want to think about taxes yet, but crooks are thinking about them because now is prime time for IRS-related phony phone calls and ID theft.
The phony phone calls are scary. Several NBC5 viewers have reached out telling us they have received one. Generally, the calls say the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you and the caller demands money or personal information.
For starters, IRS workers say they'll never call you out of the blue. If you owe them money, they send a letter in the mail.
"We never require people to pay in a certain way," IRS spokesman Richard Sanford said. "These calls are people who are belligerent. They're trying to shock you into giving out personal information. They're trying to shock you into giving out money."
The latest news from around North Texas.
These calls keep happening because people fall for them. The IRS says about 4,500 people across the country have fallen for these calls and they have they've lost a total of $23 million. If you have received one of these calls, report it.
If you don't fall for the fake phone call, you're still at risk for ID theft. All someone needs to file a return is your social security number, your name and address. Once a crook claims a refund, it's hard for real taxpayers to get their money.
Form 14039 is the form you have to file when you're a victim of ID theft. During the first half of last year, about 30,000 people in Florida filed the form. Texas was No. 2 with about 28,000 forms filed. California was third with about 26,000.
The IRS Taxpayer Advocate says those victims can wait months or even years to get their refund. That said, the IRS says it stopped 3.8 million suspicious tax returns last year.
The IRS has new protections this year including added security when you file online, but they say they can't go into detail about other protections.
"Identity theft has grown over the past several years," Sanford said. "We're always updating our programs to try to safeguard taxpayers from this thing."
Preventing IRS identity theft is similar to preventing all identity theft:
- Protect your social security number.
- Don't give out information if you don't need to.
- Check your credit report every 12 months.
- Protect your computers with firewalls and anti-spam software.
- Don't give personal info over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet if you're not 100 percent sure you know who you're dealing with.
If you think you've become a victim, contact the IRS immediately.