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Be Cautious of Tax Return Scams
Produced by Jay Slagel, VP of Risk Management at Allied Solutions
As tax scams are on the rise during this tax season, it is imperative that you are aware of the ways in which tax scammers are targeting account holders in order to steal money and - in some cases - their information.
Scams take many different paths, but in all cases the purpose of the fraudulent attempt is to steal your money and/or your identity . In the case of tax scams, usually an individual sends out a phone call or email presenting themselves as an employee of the IRS or your state's tax authority under the guise of wanting to "help" with your tax filing. In more cases than not, this type of tax scam involves an unsolicited, bogus email regarding your tax refund or bill, or threatening an audit if you do not pay. These tax fraud emails also typically include the tax service's name and official seal, and often link to a phony website in order to appear to be more official.
Be wary of ANY emails or phone calls you receive from someone claiming to be an employee of the IRS or State, especially those that demand you pay immediately, as the Internal Revenue Service and your state's tax authority will NEVER:
- Initiate contact with you by phone, email, text, or through social media outlets to ask for your personal or financial information.
- Require that you pay your taxes with a certain payment type, such as a prepaid debit card.
- Call you and demand immediate payment. The IRS or State will not call about taxes you owe without first mailing you a bill.
If you receive an email about your federal or state taxes:
- Don't reply to the message.
- Don't give out your personal or financial information.
- Don't open any attachments or click on any links, as they may contain a malicious code or virus that will infect your computer.
- Check the website of your state's tax return office to see how they recommend you report an attempted scam involving your state tax filing.
If you receive a call about your federal or state taxes:
- Ask for a contact number and an employee badge number and then call back to verify its legitimacy.
- Call the IRS or the office of your state's tax authority to inquire further.
Keep Yourself and Your Account Safe
Keeping Your financial information safe and secure is of utmost importance at our credit union. Here are a few simple ways you can assist us in keeping your information safe from fraudsters and scam artists:
- Reconcile your account statements each month and immediately notify your financial institution of any suspicious or unauthorized charge.
- Don't have your Social Security or driver's license number imprinted on your checks. Combined with other information on the check, this could give a thief enough details to apply for a loan, credit card or phony bank account in your name.
- Immediately notify your credit union if you order checks and don't receive them in a reasonable time period or if you discover checks are missing.
- Be leery of any phone calls or emails requesting you to verify your account information. Financial institutions have this information available; they will never call you to ask for your account information.
- When conducting financial transactions via the Internet, make sure it is a secured website. A secured website is most notably marked by a security lock in the bottom right-hand corner of the site.
- Don't wire your credit card number on a check to a merchant, even if the merchant asks for the information.
- Don't make a check payable to "cash". If lost or stolen, it can be cashed by anyone.
- Never endorse a check until you are ready to cash or deposit it. Preferable, deposited checks should be endorsed "for deposit only" and your account number should be included. That way, if the check is stolen, it can't be cashed.
- Don't just throw out canceled checks, unused deposit slips, old bank statements or credit card and ATM receipts. Shred and destroy them as best you can. These items could be used by a thief to make new checks or to order them from a check printer.
- Never give out checking account information over the telephone unless you agree to pay for something. If a telemarketer says a checking account number is needed, suspect fraud.
Implementing these steps can help you avoid being a victim of a scam, or even identity theft.
For information on Financial Security and Literacy Tips please visit the NCUA website MyCreditUnion.gov