Online thieves out in full force during tax season

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PHOENIX - Like Amanda Szot, most Americans dread doing their taxes.

“Stress,frustration. It's very difficult,” she said. “I don't know what I'm doing quite honestly.”

To offset some of the hassle, Amanda files her taxes online from home making her one of more than 100 million people the Internal Revenue Service expects to e-file this year.

“I use Turbo tax and it's really easy,” she said. “All my information's already in there, so the next year I go back, I don't have to resubmit everything and put everything in again, everything is there.”

But while she's busy getting squared away with Uncle Sam, Identity Theft 911 owner Adam Levin says scam artists are also hard at work, trying to hack into the gold mine of your personal information.

“The bad guys are on the prowl right now,” he said.

To protect yourself, Levin stresses when filing online, spell the name of the website correctly.

He says crooks often create clone tax websites that look, and sound, just like mainstream online tax prep services.

“But in fact, you're really talking to the bad guys and you're giving them information which then allows them enough that they can sell it off on the black market or recreate you to commit identity theft against you,” Levin said.

And if trouble comes looking for you in the form of pop-up's or spam:

“Run!” he said.

Clicking on links you don't know can open the door for malware and worms to latch onto your computer that act as a spy for the bad guys.

And remember: Under no circumstances will the IRS email you.

“And so in the event that you get anything that looks like it’s from the IRS immediately forward it to,” Levin advised.

After you file, he says, never save your tax information to your computer.

Instead, transfer it to an encrypted thumb or hard drive because hackers don't stop trying to get your personal information when tax season ends.

“Do I need to be paranoid?” 3 On Your Side’s Carey Pena asked.

“The truth is,” Levin said, “You do. You have to go back to the basic that identity theft will happen to a significant portion of the population on an annual basis.”