OGDEN -- As tax season nears its close, tax scams are hitting a peak.
Online phishing scams are flourishing as scam artists impersonating the Internal Revenue Service try to get personal information from people.
Ron Marker, an IRS special agent, said phishing schemes are especially common as Thursday's tax return deadline looms.
Web sites and e-mails mislead people by claiming they are able to get a tax refund, then gather personal information in order to steal identities.
Return-preparer fraud also hit the IRS's list of "Dirty Dozen" tax scams this year, and Marker said people should be careful when choosing someone to prepare their returns.
He said some preparers charge inflated fees, mislead people about how much they will get in returns or skim money off the client's refund.
Bill Brunson, IRS spokesman, said if people have any doubts about a preparer, e-mail or Web site, they should call the IRS and ask whether it is legitimate.
Never click on links or open attachments, and report anything suspicious to the IRS by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (800) 366-4484.
Other than looking out for scams, Brunson said, people also need to help themselves by filing for an extension if they need it and checking whether they qualify for credits they may not have in past years.
"If you don't know if you owe and if you can't file on time, then hedge your bets and request an extension," Brunson said.
A late pay fee is 0.5 percent, but a late file fee is 4.5 percent, he said, so people can avoid a much larger penalty by filing to get an extension, which gives them an additional six months to file.
About 76,000 Utah taxpayers are expected to file after the deadline, he said, and requesting a free extension would save money.
"Either you're going to file on time or not, and if you're not, request an extension. And if you have a question, contact the IRS. That's why we're here."
Brunson also said many people have seen lower incomes than in previous years because of layoffs or reduced hours at work and people should check to see if they qualify for tax credits they may not have qualified for in past years.
About 25 percent of people who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit don't claim it, he said, which could cost them thousands of dollars. The average family claiming the EITC gets $2,000.
He encouraged people to file online for free and save a headache, saying the error rate for the online filing is less than 1 percent, while paper filings have a 13 percent error rate.