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Mortgage interest deduction madness

Tax time dangers

My PayPal account is about to be closed. So is the one I have on eBay.

And the Texas Credit Union desperately needs me to verify some personal data.

So say the e-mails I've been getting each day for the last month.

I'd be worried except for one thing: I don't have accounts at any of those places.

Sure, I've bought some items from eBay sellers, but sent money orders. I didn't want strangers to have my credit card or bank account numbers.

I opened a PayPal account about 10 years ago to buy a collectible model car (think Hot Wheels at five times the price) from a specialty retailer who didn't accept any other method of payment. But that account was used just that once and the e-mail address associated with it was a Yahoo one I've since deleted.

And I have no idea where to find a branch of the Texas Credit Union, or if one even actually exists.

Crook2_1 Yep, these are all scams. They are trying to get me to hand over personal information so they can use my identity to run up their own bills, leaving me to clean up the mess. Been there. Done that. Read all about it here.

Or they contain spyware or other malicious code that will infiltrate my computer and grab that information themselves as soon as I open up the e-mail.

So, while I'm terribly curious to see how these scams are structured, I just delete the e-mails without opening them.

Such criminal attempts are not new and, even though most of us now know how to spot and protect ourselves from them, they will not stop. They'll just mutate a bit.

You're likely to see a lot of mutation during tax season. Tax hooks are great for con artists. Most of us are terrified about running afoul of the IRS even if we've been scrupulously honest on all our returns. There's just something about even the remotest possibility of a tax audit that puts people on edge.

So some scammers send out e-mail notices falsely claiming they're with the IRS and need some additional information from you to stave off a full-fledged examination.

Or the scammers come at us from the other side of taxes, telling us that we're due an unexpected refund … as soon as we provide just a tad more personal data so the check can be put in the mail. Ah, the tax version of phishing.

Irs_ci_badge The refund scam has become so prevalent that the IRS issued a special release warning of it last November. You can read the details here.

The phishing refund is just one of 12 scams that the IRS says to beware of this filing season, or year-round for that matter. Get the details on the complete "dirty dozen" here.

You also can take some pre-emptive steps to protect your finances and privacy during tax season. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse notes that the variety of ways to file returns also offers a variety of ways for identity thieves to steal your personal data.

Regardless of whether you file electronically, take all your tax material to a professional or do your taxes yourself the old-fashioned pencil and paper way, PRC offers several tax season privacy tips here.

TODAY'S TAX TIPS: Comfortable with filing online? This story outlines your e-filing options.

If you prefer handing all your tax material to a professional, this story discusses the various types of preparers and this one details what to consider before making your final choice.


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