MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Joining us this morning is Jamie Harding with AARP Alabama, Chad Petri talked to her over Zoom last week. Tax season starts this month and it is a time when scammers try to trick you into giving away your personal information especially with substantial tax refund checks on the line. We talk about what to watch for starting with identity theft.

Guest: We hear about data breaches in the news, a lot of times we may not even be aware that some of our personal information like our social security number may have been compromised at some point. One of the ways people often find out this has happened to them, is because someone has filed a fraudulent tax return using their social security number sometimes they’ll use the person’s name, a lot of times they’ll use just the number but it’s a different name and address and all of that. Then they go to file their taxes they find out someone has already done so. For this reason, we advise people to file their taxes as early as they can especially if they’re expecting a refund. The IRS is accepting tax returns for 2020 starting February 12th, so we encourage anyone to go ahead and get their paperwork together and file.

Chad: When it comes to the IRS, one of the most popular masks to use involves phishing scams using the IRS as a mask. How do people watch out for those?

Guest: Phishing scams are scams done via email. They’re called phishing for a reason. They’re “fishing” for your information. They’re trying to get you to reveal your financial information or your social security number this way. They’ll look like they’re coming from an official government agency like the IRS. They claim they need you to click a link and provide them with information and there are multiple ways you can be put at risk for this. For example, they can put malware on your device. The other way is they can steal the information you provide to them. So, know the IRS if they ever need to contact you, even if you owe taxes over and above what you’ve already paid, will go old school, will do it through the US Postal Service. They’re not going to email you about it.

Chad: You bring up a good point: contacts. Another way the IRS generally does NOT contact is through the phone, but the phone is one of the ways where scammers can really hit home with high-pressure tactics to get your information so what do you watch out for with phone scams?

Guest: One of the things they use the phone to do is apply that pressure to scare you into responding quickly. They can “spoof” on your caller ID, make a phone number look like it’s coming from the IRS or another agency. That’s easy for them to fake, if you answer that call then they begin to apply pressure by telling you if you don’t pay up right away police are coming immediately to arrest you, you’re in very big trouble, this is the kind of thing that scares people into making mistakes we want them to know again the IRS is not going to call you and certainly not going to apply pressure on you to pay right away. When you do have a situation where you may owe some taxes they’re going to want to work with you to resolve that they’re not going to send the police to your house they just don’t operate that way. So, as long as you are working with them and you’ve got a letter in the mail follow the steps in the letter and don’t respond to any calls pressuring you.