Nearly 80 percent of Americans feel vulnerable to tax scams, according to a new survey, but nearly 60 percent of the respondents said they do not know how to prevent or protect themselves from falling victim.

The audit defense service TaxAudit.com released the survey of 2,000 Americans on the subject of tax scams conducted via Toluna QuickSurveys. The findings revealed that 78 percent of the survey respondents feel vulnerable to tax scams, while 57 percent do not know how to prevent or protect themselves from falling victim. In addition, 88 percent of the respondents indicated they believe tax scams are a real problem in the U.S. and 20 percent say they know someone who has fallen victim.

Respondents' biggest concerns include identity theft, followed by telephone scams and phishing for user names and other personal information.

Dave Du Val, vice president of customer advocacy at TaxAudit.com, offered the following tips for how to identify and protect against tax scams:

• If the caller claims that you need to send money right now or they will call the IRS or another government agency, know it is a scam and hang up.

• If you receive a call or email claiming to be holding your refund until they "verify" some information, such as your bank account number and PIN, it is a scam. Do not respond.

• If the person emailing claims, "I am from the IRS and I am here to help you obtain your refund," they clearly are not either. The IRS does not contact taxpayers via email. Do not respond.

• If you receive a call from IRS asking for information, ask for the agent's ID number, then call the IRS directly to verify it or ask that they send their request in writing.

• Protect your personal identifiable information (PII) from theft. Store W-2s and other sensitive documents in secure locations.

• Check out the credentials of the tax preparer you are using.

• If you do fall victim to a scam, seek guidance from the various resources available at IRS.gov.