What's the Deal: Avoid tax scams by filing early

Tax day isn't for another two months but there are significant advantages to filing early.

Tax day isn't for another two months but there are significant advantages to filing early. You'll not only get your refund back sooner, but you can avoid a tax scam.

Authorities warn there's a new twist on a well-known IRS scam. This time fraudsters are posing as US Treasury Agents.

They tell consumers they're entitled to large tax refunds - or that they owe money and must pay immediately.

And beware - these scammers may seem legit by referencing your personal info that isn't publicly available, but that info may have been stolen.

This information may include:
- The last four digits of the victim's Social Security Number.
- Information about the consumer's family members.
- "Spoofing" a consumer's caller ID to appear legitimate. Callers may represent themselves as being affiliated with the local police or state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Peggy Shea and her husband were victims of a tax scam that's on the rise.

"Last year when we filed our taxes, the IRS had flagged our account because someone else had filed a phony return under my husband's Social Security number," she said.

It was an attempt to steal their refund.

"Filing your tax return early is a great way to thwart this kind of a scam. You get your paperwork in early before a criminal can file in your name," said Tobie Stanger from Consumer Reports.

If you have been the victim of identity theft, CLICK HERE to fill out the identity theft affidavit and get a special PIN from the IRS that will protect you against future tax fraud.

And if you do get a suspicious call, stay calm, hang up and call the IRS (1-800-829-1040) and US Treasury (1-800-366-4484) directly.

The US Treasury says you can also CLICK HERE to report these scams online.

Filing early has other advantages. You'll obviously get your refund sooner. About two-thirds of Americans do get a refund, which averaged about $2,700 dollars last year.

And if you owe taxes, you'll know exactly how big the tax bite will be.

"That way, you'll have plenty of time to figure out where the money is going to come from or to set up a payment schedule. This year you have to pay by April 18, and you don't want to be late and incur any penalties or fines," said Stanger.

Another benefit of early tax prep - you may get a better deal on college financial aid. Early applicants often get more money.

Finally, CLICK HERE for more tips from Consumer Reports on how to save money on your tax returns.
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