During tax season, it's not uncommon for people to be on the receiving end of misleading promises about lost refunds and free money. But these are scams. Scammers will attempt anything and everything in order to steal a taxpayer's personal information, and then he'll use it to file fraudulent tax returns, gypping taxpayers out of millions each year.
The IRS released its "Dirty Dozen" list of schemes used to commit tax fraud, and identity theft is the No. 1 threat. Identity theft occurs when a thief steals a person's identifying information and uses it to file a fake claim. Last year, the IRS was able to block more than $1.4 billion in fraudulent refunds. Who knows what this year will bring.
Phishing also made the list, and is a common tool year-round. This technique involves the victim receiving an unsolicited e-mail which contains a link to a form or a fake website that is designed to trick the victim into revealing personal or financial information.
The other dominating threat is fraud by return preparers. These phony tax experts show up each year, boasting of huge return guarantees and charging over-the-top fees for their services.
To protect yourself, guard where and to whom you reveal your personal or financial information. If you receive an unsolicited e-mail, do not click on any links contained within it or respond to the e-mail. And when choosing a tax preparer, be sure you pick someone you can trust. You will want your only regret this year to be that your refund isn't as large as you wanted it to be.