LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. — The first day U.S. residents are allowed to start filing their taxes is Monday, January 27. So as taxpayers gather their documents and tax statements, Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said they should also be aware of potential scams.

Sheriff Koon said while scams happen all year long, scammers particularly use tax refund time to target victims through various email phishing scams, fraud schemes, phone scams and other illegal activities. 

"Nothing is worse than being scammed out of your hard-earned money," Koon said.

One type of tax scam that Sheriff Koon is warning residents about is one that frequently targets the elderly. These scams often come in the form of a phone call from someone claiming that they are from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Scammers claim the IRS is suing the victim for tax evasion and will offer to clear up the matter over the phone for a small fee. Koon said this is not how the IRS operates.

 IRS also does not initiate contact with taxpayers via email, text messages or social media to request personal or financial information. They also will not ask for gift cards as a form of payment.

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Other tax scams involve impersonating charities, identity fraud through hacking or mail theft, and even scams against tax professionals, according to Koon. The IRS warns tax professionals of an uptick in phishing emails targeting them. These scams involve payroll direct deposit and wire transfer scams. 

As another precaution, Koon said residents should opt to have their tax refunds delivered via direct deposit. The IRS says 8 out of 10 taxpayers get their refund by using direct deposit.

"It is simple, safe and secure," Koon said. "Not only is it faster than a check, direct deposit also avoids the possibility that your check could be lost or stolen or returned to the IRS as undeliverable."

For more information about tax fraud and scams, visit www.irs.gov. The Lexington County Sheriff's Department offers free fraud prevention classes to churches, businesses and civic groups. For more details about those classes, call 803-783-8230.

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