It is unfortunate that a new year brings out scams and new ways to bilk people out of their hard-earned money or possessions. How unfortunate that crooks are looking to make a quick buck from seniors and other hard-working Americans.

We have covered several scams over the past year, but here's a current one: A caller you don't know calls to offer you a "great deal" — a credit card, car or home loan guaranteed to save money. They just need to "verify" some information.

Generally, they want your credit card number, Social Security number and sometimes even your checking account number.

Alternatively, a caller may state there is a problem with your credit card, without ever mentioning which credit card they are calling about, and demand your credit card number. Once the thieves have this valuable information, they run up your credit card balance, open as many new credit cards and loans as they can, then drain your bank account.

Never give out your Social Security number or other financial information over the phone, and if it is requested in person, ask why they need it. The more confidential you keep your Social Security number, the better.

A legitimate bank or credit card company will never demand information that makes you feel uncomfortable. My husband and I don't discuss any financial business over the phone unless we have initiated the call. Also remember, just because someone asks for personal, medical or financial information, doesn't mean you must provide it. Keep your information safe.

The IRS sent the following reminder that taxpayers and tax professionals should:

•Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Make sure the security software is always turned on and can automatically update. Encrypt sensitive files such as tax records you store on your computer. Use strong passwords.

•Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts. Thieves often pose as legitimate organizations such as your bank, credit card company and government organizations, including the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious email addresses.

•Protect your personal data. Don't routinely carry your Social Security card, and make sure your tax records are secure. Treat your personal information like you do your cash. Don't leave it lying around.

Stay safe, and safeguard your personal information in the new year!

Janice Lynn Crose, a former accountant, lives in Crestview with her husband, Jim; her two rescue collies, Shane and Jasmine; and two cats, Kathryn and Prince Valiant.