- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

As tax season approaches, people will likely see more scams, the Federal Trade Commission warns. There’s little to prevent a criminal from picking up the phone or sending a bogus email, but there are four things you can do when these fishy communications arrive:

1. Know how the IRS initiates contact. “The IRS should never, ever be contacting you by email, ever. They should never ever be contacting you by phone. They should only be contacting you via letter,” Portland, Oregon-based CPA Joe Seifert  says.

2. Report creepy messages. You can forward shady tax-related emails to phishing@irs.gov and report suspicious phone calls to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the Federal Trade Commission. Collecting these reports recently helped the Department of Justice indict dozens of people in an alleged international call-center fraud scheme.

3. Verify issues with the IRS or your state tax authority. Question out-of-the-blue communications about alleged tax balances. If you owe back taxes or think you might, call your tax professional, the IRS or the state tax department directly, Seifert says. A new online tool at IRS.gov also lets you look up unpaid taxes, penalties and interest.

4. Never pay over the phone. Even if you owe, the IRS never asks for credit, debit, prepaid card or bank information via phone, email, text or social media.
If someone does, “Just hang up on them,” Seifert says.

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Email staff writer Tina Orem at NerdWallet.

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