How to protect yourself from holiday IRS scams

NOW: How to protect yourself from holiday IRS scams

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- 'Tis the season of giving, but also the season of scammers.

December 3-7 is National Tax Security Awareness Week, and several organizations came together Tuesday to share information on how to protect yourself from becoming the victim of a scam.

“There are a lot of crooks that are going to be grinches this season,” Christopher Miller with the IRS said.

Right before the kick off of tax season, scammers are making a final push to snatch your personal information during the holidays.

“Cybercriminals can use stolen data to drain financial accounts, charge credit cards, create new credit accounts, and file false tax returns and fraudulent refunds,” Miller said.

But, there are several steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim.

First, if you’re shopping online, the Better Business Bureau says avoid public Wi-Fi, use a credit card instead of a debit card, and shop at familiar and secure online retailers.

“Look for the "https," the s stands for secure and that will be in the URL address,” Lisa Schiller with the BBB Serving Wisconsin, said. “Also, look for a lock symbol.”

If you are doing your holiday shopping at a store experts don’t carry your social security card with you, only carry the credit cards you actually need, never leave your purse in the car, and be mindful when you’re buying gift cards. Criminals can walk up to the gift card stands that are not behind the counter, write down the number on the back, wait until someone buys and loads them up, and use the money from afar.

“Get them directly from the clerk, behind the counter,” Jim Flaherty, AARP Communications Director, said. “Don’t buy them when they’re out in the store.”

Criminals are also looking to capitalize on people’s generosity during the holidays.

Scammers are now calling people pretending to be a loved one that was in an accident or in trouble and asking for money.

The Federal Trade Commission says $41 million was lost to this scam using this year, up $15-million compared to last year.

“Remember to think with your head, and not just your heart,” Schiller said.

To find a certified CPA for tax returns:
BBB Scam Tracker:
Reputable Charities:
AARP Fraud Watch:

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