Tax season is in full swing, which means scammers and identity thieves are out on the prowl. It is crucial that credit unions help educate their members on the potential risks that exist, and ways they can protect themselves better during tax season. Tax-related scams and identity theft can disrupt an individual's finances, credit history and reputation, and the scams take time, money and patience to resolve. Unfortunately, most people still possess the "it will never happen to me" mindset. While there is no foolproof way to guarantee a scammer will not target your finances or identity, there are several preventative steps members can take in order to stay vigilant and protect themselves.

In order for thieves to be successful, they must first gain access to a taxpayer's personal data, including their Social Security number, date of birth or account number. With this information, thieves can open fraudulent credit card accounts or charge existing accounts, obtain loans or jobs, and even receive tax refund payments from the IRS.

The IRS uses taxpayers' Social Security numbers to ensure that filings are accurate and complete prior to issuing a refund. This fact makes Social Security numbers highly desirable to identity thieves attempting to fraudulently obtain others' tax refunds. One of the most common mistakes made by taxpayers is simply carrying their Social Security card in their purse or wallet. Credit unions should encourage members to leave their Social Security cards in a safe place at all times. Additionally, members should be instructed to zealously guard their Social Security number and not provide it every time they are prompted. 

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