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Avoiding Last Minute Tax Traps

(CNN) — Tax season is winding down, and consumers who haven’t yet finished – or started – their returns can become targets for certain scams when under pressure.

The clock is ticking. It’s crunch time for taxpayers to wrap up their federal income tax returns or, in the case of some, to start working on them.

Get started by collecting basic paperwork like:

  • Social Security Numbers
  • Wages and earning statements like w-2’s
  • A copy of last year’s tax return
  • Bank routing and bank account numbers, if you plan to have your refund directly deposited or a payment automatically withdrawn.

When looking for a tax preparer during peak season, still take the extra step of vetting that person, like with the Better Business Bureau.

Consumer Reports advises asking preparers for a fee list up front. Some will try to tack on extra charges under headings like “processing,” or “document preparation.” and you may be offered a prepaid debit card, so you can start spending a refund more quickly.

Be mindful of fees attached to those cards and if you can, wait for the IRS to directly deposit it in your bank account.

And if you decide to crunch the numbers on your own, using tax preparation software can help minimize the risk of those last-minute math errors. Just be sure to work over a secure internet connection.

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