A spokeswoman for the Internal Revenue Service says there are several steps people can take to protect themselves from identity theft as they file their income tax return this year.

Karen Connelly with the agency's Denver office says first and foremost you should NEVER respond to an unsolicited email purporting to be from the IRS. Connelly says the tax agency will always contact you the first time by regular mail.

She says if you do receive such an email you should delete it immediately and should not click on any links included in the email. Connelly says other steps to protect yourself from identity theft during tax season include not giving out your social security number and other personal information unless you know who you are dealing with and that it is really necessary

Connelly also says filing your tax return early reduces the chances you will be targeted for tax identity theft.