TULSA, Okla. — It's tax season, and when you hand your taxes over to an expert and get your big return, you might not think about it. 

FOX23 Investigative Reporter Janna Clark gathered some red flags to watch out for when using a tax preparer. 

The person you trust to do your taxes may not be trustworthy. 

Janna found out some things you need to watch out for to protect yourself. 

"You'd be amazed how many folks that we come in contact with after they've been scammed," Christopher Altemus said. 

Altemus is a special agent with the IRS. One thing he investigates, the people filling out your taxes. 

"The individual or the company that you're paying to prepare the taxes, they may not be doing it, right," Altemus said. "It could be fraudulent."

This is how it works. The preparer fills out your tax forms and defrauds the IRS. 

"We're talking about egregious, you know, fraudulent figures on the return where, you know, you didn't donate $50,000, to charity, but that's what's on your return," Altemus explained.

Then you get back a much bigger tax return than you should really get. 

And that's how the preparers are committing the crime. 

"You're so fixated on that large refund. That's all you care about. They gave me the biggest money and most amounts as quickly as possible," Altemus said. "You fixate on that number, you actually don't get down to why that number as large as it is."

Janna asked him what these scammers get out of it. 

"So they typically will have the fees that they charge you, right? As a customer and client," Altemus answered. "They increase their clientele, because word of mouth spreads, that this individual or this business can get you that larger refund than the guy next door."

But, when the IRS audits you and sees your taxes were done incorrectly, the preparer can be criminally charged. 

Lizbeth Saenz out of Guymon, Oklahoma pleaded guilty to tax preparer fraud in January. 

Last year, a federal judge sentenced a Texas tax preparer, Hugo Cesar granados, to 14 years in prison. 

Also last year, the IRS indicted a trio of tax professionals in a $1 billion tax scheme. 

But, if you get audited, and your tax preparer gets in trouble, guess who is responsible for paying back the government the money?

"Yes, you're ultimately responsible to pay back the money," Altemus said. 

He said they'll prosecute the preparer for their part in the crime, but it's up to the individual to pay the money back. 

He said penalties and interest could be tacked on too. 

"So it may feel really good initially, and you got this large refund," Altemus said. "But, a few years in the future, you may be paying back a significant more to the IRS due to fraud."

Altemus said, if the return you're supposed to get seems high, that's a red flag. 

Before you sign, look at your forms and the line items. 

"That'll capture 99 percent of that fraudulent activity," he said. "If you just asked them, why is this number here? Why is that number there?"

Janna asked him how someone picks a tax preparer they can trust. 

"That's an excellent question," he answered. "To me, it's just doing that due diligence, and making sure that you have somebody explain to you what numbers are pointing down and why that's gonna ultimately protect you from audits or fraud."

Altemus said you can't necessarily trust an established CPA who has been doing taxes for years.

He said the IRS has also busted tax professionals with years of experience and doing taxes the right way, and all of a sudden, started defrauding the IRS. 

The key: Look over everything yourself before you sign. 

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