With the arrival of tax season, many Texans are already getting returns on early filings. However, Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant warns residents to be cautious about tax scams that seek to steal money and identities of Texans.

"We haven't seen this scam here in Erath County yet, but we do know that tax season can be a very active time for identity thieves," Bryant said. "Returns contain all the information thieves need in one document. They can open new accounts or even steal returns."

According to the Texas Attorney General's office, some of the most common scams involve phishing (fraudulent emails and websites that identity thieves create in an effort to trick victims into providing sensitive information) like emails claiming to be from the IRS, which does not initiate contact via email.

Another major scam during tax season is sending out emails claiming to be from the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System. The EFTPS is a legitimate tax payment system that allows individuals and businesses to pay federal taxes electronically. According to the IRS, the scam emails claim that tax payments made by the taxpayer through EFTPS have been rejected. Then recipients are directed to a bogus website that downloads malicious software onto the taxpayer's computer. The malware is designed to retrieve personal and financial information already stored in the computer.

To avoid such issues, before providing personal and financial information, take the following four steps:

Ask for the tax preparer's credentials.

Check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints against the preparer.

Verify whether the tax preparer is a certified public accountant.

Confirm that the business is open year-round in the event taxpayers need to ask follow-up questions about their income tax returns.

"As always, we just want residents to be safe and act safely when encountering these types of situations," Bryant said.