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Things to Know About Tax Returns and Identity Theft

With tax season in full swing, the risk for tax-related identity theft becomes an increasing threat. Tax identity theft occurs when someone falsely uses your Social Security number to obtain a tax refund or a job. In an effort to stay protected from tax fraud, follow the tips below. 

File Early

The IRS strongly encourages taxpayers to file early to reduce falling victim to identity theft-related tax fraud. Tax scammers typically file early, hoping to beat taxpayers and claim your refund. If you are still waiting on paperwork needed and you are unable to file early, you can obtain your Personal Identification Number (PIN) from the IRS. Requesting your PIN can help prevent anyone else from electronically filing under your name. 

Research Your Tax Preparer

If you are using a tax preparation service, make sure you have done your research to ensure they’re qualified and knowledgeable. It’s not uncommon for illegal identity theft rings to take place in brick and mortar locations every year. Before handing over any confidential information, verify their CPA status and ask for a Preparer Tax Identification Number. 

Keep Watch for Notices from the IRS such as:

• IRS records showing wages from an employer you do not recognize. 
• A notice from the IRS stating more than one return has been filed using your Social Security number. 
• You have had a tax refund offset, additional taxes are owed, or collection actions are being taken against you for previous years where you did not file a tax return.

Never Provide Sensitive Information through Email or Text

IRS fraudsters frequently use email accounts as well as phone numbers that look legitimate. Upon contact, they will request personal information that allows them to file a tax return on your account. Stay alert— the IRS does not contact individuals through these forms of communication. Be sure to report any suspicious activity to the IRS.
If manually filling out tax forms and filing by mail, it is important to remember to never mail the return from your home mailbox. To ensure safety and avoid mail tampering, return your completed tax forms to a local post office.

Report Tax ID Theft

If you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, here’s what to do next:
• File a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
• Place a fraud alert on your credit report. An alert can stay active for 90 days, but an extended alert can protect you for seven years. Place a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting one of the three major credit bureaus:
  1. Experian: 1-888-397-3742 
  2. Equifax: 1-888-378-4329
  3. Transunion: 1-800-680-7289
• Inform your financial institution and close any accounts that have suspicious activity.
• Freeze your credit to prevent any unauthorized accounts from being opened using your name. 
You can offer additional protection against tax fraud by taking simple steps to protect yourself year round. Tax-return identity theft often stems from a stolen or lost Social Security Number. To help avoid identity theft, leave your Social Security card in a secure location, such as a safe deposit box or locked away at home. Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet, purse, or car. 

When disposing of past and current bank and tax-related documents, ensure your information will not be leaked by properly disposing of forms. Shredding your tax, bank, and credit card statements is the safest way to dispose of these items without compromising your financial health. 

Stay informed of current data breaches in case you may be at risk. Find out what type of information has been compromised and stay in constant contact with the company to find out what needs to happen next. 
Space Coast Credit Union is continuously working hard to keep our members protected from fraud. Personal information should never be given in response to unsolicited text messages, emails, or telephone calls. SCCU will never request member information via an outbound phone, email, or text messages. You can also go to to review your free annual credit report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. 
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