Michigan state leaders are warning people to be very careful over the next couple of weeks as cyber criminals are going to try to scam you before tax filing season.

The weeks leading up to the tax season is the time scammers move into action, attempting to call you or email you to get your personal information so they can file income tax returns in your name, claiming refunds.

The Michigan Department of Treasury put out an alert on Friday, Jan. 5 that cyber criminals typically increase activity in the first part of the year through phone scams and email phishing schemes.

Some scammers may also allege a taxpayer owes taxes and aggressively demand payment for a quick payout.

Leaders at Michigan's Department of Treasury say cyber criminals often alter caller ID numbers and emails to make it look like the state Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service or another official agency is contacting a taxpayer.

“Taxpayers need to be extra alert for possible scams and schemes during this time of year and throughout the income tax filing season,” said Deputy State Treasurer Glenn White, head of Treasury's Tax Administration Group. “When taxpayers proactively look for scams, they are less likely to be a victim of a tax-related identity theft and other cyber criminal activities.”

The state's Department of Treasury says they will never initiate a phone call or email to ask for personal information. They also won't call or demand immediate payment and to be especially cautious if the person want you to use a specific payment method.

The best advice is to never give credit or debit card numbers or social security numbers over the phone, unless you make the initial contact and you can verify through multiple ways who you are providing the information to.

Also the experts say to file your income taxes as early as possible this year to beat the bad guys to the punch.

In 2017, Michigan's Department of Treasury protected more than 4,000 taxpayers who confirmed their identity was stolen and used to request state of Michigan income tax refunds. This prevented more than $16 million from being distributed to scammers.

Taxpayers who have received a call or email from a scammer should report the case to the IRS through the web or by calling 800-366-4484. To learn more about tax-related identity theft, go to www.michigan.gov/identitytheft.

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