With the start of another tax filing season, scam artists are once again popping out of the woodwork with a variety of return-preparation hoaxes and phony claims.

Special Agent Robert Glantz, public information officer for the IRS Newark Field Office, suggested one tell-tale sign of a scam scam: If anyone is promising you the biggest refund you've ever received, a red flag should immediately go up.

"How can anyone guarantee what kind of refund, even if you are going to get a refund, until they know who you are and what your financial situation is?" he said.

He also makes this point: "It is important for people to make sure that when they select a tax preparer that they select a tax preparer as if they were selecting a doctor or a lawyer."

He suggested taking references from friends and family members. And he said those in the market for a tax preparer should find out if the professional will be around after the filing season is over, in case something comes up.

Glantz offered another tip: "Never sign a blank tax return. Do not sign the return until it is complete."

And he said to make sure that the preparer signs the return.

"If you are paying someone to prepare your tax return, they must sign it as a paid preparer. And if they do not want to do that, again, that is another red flag. Why would they not want to sign it? Probably because they are putting things on your return that you are not entitled to take," Glantz said.

Another scam: Someone purporting to be from the IRS calls and says you owe .. and you can settle up by acquiring a prepaid card.

"That is a scam. That is not the IRS," Glantz said. "We do not operate that way. We do not demand payment. We do not tell people how they have to pay us. That is an IRS scam."

He said identity theft is also a continual problem.

"If they are asking you to provide your Social Security number to them over the phone, that is probably a big red flag. You want to hang up the phone," Glantz said.

And he said if someone calls and tells you that he or she is calling from your bank, call your bank directly. Ask the bank if the call was legitimate.


The IRS also offers information online about avoiding scams.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor at New Jersey 101.5