The 2021 tax season starts on Friday, Feb. 12, which means it’s time to get your paperwork in order. It’s also time to be on the lookout for scam artists targeting those of us feeling a little overwhelmed as the April 15 deadline gets closer.

Tax-related scams are nothing new, according to Howard Silverstone, a member of the American Institute of CPA’s Fraud Task Force. But as with nearly everything else, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made this dubious trend even worse.

“There are a lot of people who are isolated at home,” he says. “So they’re looking to get taxes done [online].” That opens them up to a world of online scammers, he says, from phony tax preparer websites to phishing emails designed to steal their Social Security numbers.

To be clear: The IRS almost always contacts people via old-fashioned snail mail. So if you get a phone call, text message or email claiming to be from the agency, be on high alert.

Here are some other red flags to look out for.

Fake IRS emails

Phishing emails, which have been on the rise lately, are a particularly popular tool for scammers purporting to be from the IRS.

“By clicking on them, people can inadvertently download malicious files or malware on their computer,” Silverstone says. From there, some fraudsters will make you pay a ransom to regain…

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