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Tax time scams to avoid

Make sure your tax refund goes into your wallet, not a scammer’s. Here's how to protect your tax return.

SAN ANTONIO — Many of us are hoping for a payday with a tax refund. Do not let a scammer claim that payment instead. The Better Business Bureau (BBB)  is warning taxpayers about ghost tax preparers. They advertise as a tax professional but never finish your filing.

“They don’t sign it, unfortunately, and they end up trying to claim the deductions or the money on your behalf,” said Jason Meza, senior regional director of the greater San Antonio BBB. “So make sure you really research your preparer.”

Tip: Check that your tax preparer has a Preparer Tax Identification Number.

Also, be wary of a tax preparer who promises a larger refund than others. The preparer may base their fees on the amount of your tax return and might use shady preparation tactics. 

Ask a preparer about fees upfront. Read contracts carefully. Understand how much you will be charged. Think twice about using a tax preparer who offers "refund anticipation loans." You will likely lose a large percentage of your return to commission fees.

Next, you will want to know the status of your refund, but do not take action on any emails or texts about when your refund is arriving.

“That gets everyone’s attention,” said Chris Drake, iconectiv’s chief technology officer and digital fraud fighter. “Supposedly there’s money on the way. Well, don’t click those links. Don’t open those files. They’re infected.”

Tip:  Use the IRS’s online Where is My Refund? tool to get legitimate information about your refund. 

Plus, watch out for IRS imposters.

“It’s the number one scam across the country where imposters, people try to pose as a government agency,” Meza said.

The IRS will never call, email, text, or contact you on social media.

“People will call claiming there’s a debt against their name, there’s money they have to pay and they have to do it immediately," Meza said. “Most of the time those are imposter scams. The IRS will never call you and demand payment. They’ll never text you and demand payment. They will always issue mail through USPS first.”

Tip:  The IRS will not ask for payment with gift cards, wire transfers, or peer-to-peer cash apps like Venmo, Zelle, or CashApp.

File early so you get your refund before a scammer has the chance to steal it. The tax filing deadline is Tuesday, April 18.

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