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Tax Scams To Guard Against

It's tax time and, warns the Internal Revenue Service, that means scam artists are out in full force, trying to fleece as you file. March usually brings with it a huge increase in scams, the IRS says.

On The Early Show Tuesday, consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen highlighted some common scams to be leery of.

The IRS says it gets thousands of complaints every year from consumers who've been ripped off or from people who thought someone was trying to scam them.

The agency says you need to be particularly aware of "phishing," in which people pretend to be from the IRS: Someone sends you an e-mail pretending to be from the IRS, and the subject line says something like "refund notice."

Once you open the e-mail, you are directed to a Web site that looks like the real IRS site. And you will be asked for personal information, such as your social security number and bank account number.

But, Koeppen says, this is a fake Web run by people trying to steal your identity. It looks like the real thing, so you might be fooled, especially if you think the IRS is contacting you about a refund.

Koeppen stresses that The IRS will never send you an e-mail. If you want to find out about your refund, go to the real IRS Web site and click on, "Where's my refund?"

Another common ploy involves "the IRS Anti-Fraud Commission." In this one, Koeppen explains, the scammers contact you and say someone has stolen your credit card number and paid their taxes online using your credit card. The "anti-fraud commission" wants to know your credit card number to confirm it's really you. The problem is, there is no "IRS Anti-Fraud Commission." Crooks are just trying to steal your personal information.

Also, Koeppen advises, beware of tax preparers who promise huge refunds. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be on guard should a tax preparer say he or she can guarantee you a refund. If the preparer does something fishy with your taxes to get you that refund, and you get caught, you are responsible. The IRS will come after you.

If you think you are a victim of one of these scams, Koeppen suggest you should call the IRS. There is a toll-free hotline: 1-800-366-4484. And, if you get a bogus e-mail from someone trying to phish for information, you can forward that e-mail to a special e-mail address at the IRS, phishing@irs.gov.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS, IF YOU GET AN E-MAIL FROM THE IRS, IT'S A SCAM. THE IRS ISN'T GOING TO SEND YOU AN E-MAIL ASKING FOR PERSONAL INFORMATION. AND THE AGENCY WILL NOT CALL YOU, EITHER.

To see the latest list of IRS' "Dirty Dozen" tax scams, click here.