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Tax scammers step up efforts before deadline

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The deadline to file your 2016 tax return is quickly approaching. But the April 18 cutoff still leaves plenty of time for scammers to try and take your money.

For years, taxpayers have been victimized by people posing as the Internal Revenue Service.  Recently, the IRS started conducting business in a way that may open the door to even more scams.

People have long been warned that the IRS does not call you. So if you receive a call, it's likely from a scammer.

In a matter of months, however, the IRS will utilize third party private collection firms to collect past due payments.

Tom Stephens, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida and Southeast Atlantic, is cautioning taxpayers, asking them to know the difference between the real IRS calling and a scammer.

“There is a possibility that you will get a call, but you will know that you owe back taxes,” Stephens said. “However, you will already have had some correspondence from the IRS.”

Letters will be mailed out ahead of time warning a collection company will soon call you. A phone number will even be listed in those letters, so you know what to look for. You will also only be required to make a payment directly to the IRS, not the collection agency or any other third party.

“If it’s a legitimate debt collector, ask for a verification letter. They have to send it to you,” Stephens said. “If they refuse to send it to you, then it’s a scam.”