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Top Tips for Avoiding Tax and Social Security Fraud

Now that the 2022 tax season is in full swing, scammers are on the prowl. Identity theft is a year-round concern, but it tends to ramp up around tax time when taxpayers start filing their returns. Scammers know they can take advantage of the anxiety and confusion that can come with tax season, not to mention the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. That's why the IRS is warning taxpayers to be alert and stay vigilant when filing their tax returns for the 2021 year. 

What can you do to stay sa​fe this tax season? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

#1: F​​ile ear​ly

Tax-related identity theft happens when a scammer steals your personal information, including your Social Security number, and uses it to file a fraudulent return in your name. The scammer's goal is to steal your tax refund before you even realize it. That's why the best way to avoid tax-related identity theft is to submit your tax returns early in the season — before a scammer has a chance to!

For additional protection, consider using the Identity Protection PIN (IP-PIN) program offered by the IRS. Signing up for this free program will give you a unique six-digit number you can use when filing your tax return to verify that someone else isn't using your identity. 

#2: File electro​nically

Another way to help take the stress out of tax season is to file electronically with direct deposit instead of using a paper tax return. Filing electronically will help prevent delays and protect your return and refund from being lost or stolen in the mail. According to the IRS, filing electronically and choosing direct deposit is the safest and easiest way to file an accurate tax return — and the fastest way to get a refund!

#3: Know how​​ to spot IRS impersonators

Scammers know they can prey on taxpayers' stress and fear by posing as official agencies like the IRS. If you receive a threatening phone call or voicemail, email, text, or social media message out of the blue from someone claiming to be from the IRS, there's a good chance it's actually a scammer.

Remember, the IRS ​will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Call unexpectedly about a tax refund.

​Never give out sensitive information like your Social Security number online or over the phone. If you're unsure, call the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040.

#4: Choose a tax preparer ca​​refully

It's important to choose a tax preparer who is professional, reputable and has your best interests at heart. Do your research and verify that the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Also, make sure the preparer has cybersecurity measures in place to help protect your information from hackers.

#5: Watch out for stimulus paym​ent scams

While the federal government did send stimulus payments to taxpayers during the pandemic, there are no new stimulus payments planned so far in 2022. If you're randomly contacted by someone who claims they're sending you a stimulus payment or “relief funds," don't respond. In this type of scam, a fraudster will ask for your Social Security number and other sensitive information, or they may ask you to pay a fee to receive money from the government. Remember, if someone says you have to pay money to receive money, it's a scam. Hang up or delete the message, and don't click on any links.

​What to do if you're a victim of tax or social securit​y fraud

  • File a police report and report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission at or call the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338.
  • Contact the IRS' Identity Protection unit at 800-908-4490.
  • Request a fraud alert on your credit report. Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) and ask them to put a fraud alert on your credit records. You can also request a credit freeze, which will stop any new credit accounts from being opened in your name.

Protect Yourself During Tax Season and Be​​yond

Wright-Patt Credit Union (WPCU) is here to help you protect your personal and financial information during tax season and all year round! For more helpful fraud prevention tips, tools and resources, head to our ​ fraud prevention page.