Beware Tax Filing Scams

ax Filing Scam

It’s tax time! Unfortunately, that means there are thousands of scammers looking to steal your information and your tax refund by posing as authentic tax preparers. Here’s all you need to know about these scams and how to keep safe.

How the scam plays out: In a tax filing scam, a victim will hire an alleged tax preparer to do their taxes. The scammer then uses the victim’s information to file a tax return in the victim’s name. They’ll change some important details on the tax form, such as a checking account number or mailing address, and then collect the victim’s refund. By the time the victim realizes what’s happened, they’ve lost the money owed to them by the IRS and are now vulnerable to deeper identity theft.

Protect yourself: The best way to stay safe from a tax filing scam is to do your research carefully before hiring a tax preparer. First, avoid pop-up ads when choosing a tax preparer, especially those that are riddled with typos. Research any preparers you consider hiring by asking for references of previous clients and by looking for a physical address on their website. Be suspicious, as well, if they promise a large return without knowing anything about your finances.
Second, before hiring an individual or an agency to do your taxes, ask to see their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). If the “preparer” refuses to share their PTIN, you’re being scammed.
Finally, if you’ve already hired a preparer but you’re suspicious about their authenticity, look for these red flags:

• The preparer inflates numbers that affect your tax liability.
• The preparer claims ineligible individuals as your dependents.
• The preparer asks you to sign a blank form and promises to fill out the remainder after you sign.
• The preparer refuses to sign your form.

If your tax preparer follows any of the above practices, terminate your relationship with them immediately.

If you’ve been targeted: If you’ve been targeted by a tax filing scam, report it to the authorities as quickly as possible. Let the FTC know about the scam and alert the IRS. If you’ve shared personal information with the scammer, you are now vulnerable to identity theft. Check out the federal government’s page on identity theft recovery to learn what steps to take next.
Stay safe!

Questions? Want more information on Freedom? Contact a Freedom Federal Credit Union representative at freedomfcu.org or 1-800-440-4120.

About Freedom Federal Credit Union
Freedom Federal Credit Union is proud to be your financial partner. Freedom serves and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, attends school, volunteers, or has family in Harford or Baltimore County, MD. As a credit union, we are committed to putting you first, not shareholders, and helping you achieve your financial goals.
Learn more at freedomfcu.org or call 410-612-2135 to see how we can help.

 

Your Turn: Have you ever been contacted by a tax-related scammer? Tell us about it on Facebook, LinkedIn,Twitter, or Instagram @FreedomFedCU.

 

About Freedom Federal Credit Union

Freedom Federal Credit Union is a community-chartered federal credit union offering consumer financial services to those who live, work, volunteer, worship, attend school, or have family in Harford and Baltimore Counties. Additionally, Freedom offers a full-line of banking services for all businesses, associations, and other organizations that are based in Harford or Baltimore County.  Freedom has been in business since 1953 and has six locations throughout Harford and Baltimore County. To learn more, visit freedomfcu.org.

 

Is Inflation Here to Stay?

Is Inflation Here to Stay?

Q: It seems like I have to take out a second mortgage just to fill up the gas tank and restock the pantry. Are these inflated prices a forever thing?

A: According to the most recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. inflation is currently running at a 30-year high of 6.2%, and it’s showing no signs of slowing.

Inflation is not going anywhere soon

Rising prices in just about every sector is the new norm. The inflation rate fell at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and during the nationwide lockdown. In March 2021, though, when the impact of halted manufacturing began hitting the market and crude oil prices started climbing, the inflation rate increased to 2.6% before hitting its current high of 6.2% in October. Experts, like the Trading Economics information technology company, had predicted that number would be around 5.5%, but even that prediction fell short.

Unfortunately for the average consumer who’s struggling to cover expenses amid rising costs, this means inflation isn’t going anywhere soon.

Why are prices so high?

There are several factors for the inflation bubble. First, suppliers are still catching up on production shortages that were caused by factory shutdowns during the pandemic. Second, climate disasters, like California wildfires and a drought in Brazil, are responsible for driving up prices in the food industry. The demand for higher wages, partially caused by the 11 million job openings in the U.S., and the rising cost of gas, are contributing to inflation as well.

What can consumers expect in 2022?

While no one can accurately predict the future, economists are expecting inflation levels to taper off by the middle of 2022. According to a survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal, many are expecting inflation to drop to 3.4% by June 2022 and to continue falling until it hits 1.8% by the end of the year.

 

Your Turn: When do you think the inflation rate will fall? Tell us about it on Facebook, LinkedIn,Twitter, or Instagram @FreedomFedCU.

 

About Freedom Federal Credit Union

Freedom Federal Credit Union is a community-chartered federal credit union offering consumer financial services to those who live, work, volunteer, worship, attend school, or have family in Harford and Baltimore Counties. Additionally, Freedom offers a full-line of banking services for all businesses, associations, and other organizations that are based in Harford or Baltimore County.  Freedom has been in business since 1953 and has six locations throughout Harford and Baltimore County. To learn more, visit freedomfcu.org.

 

3 Famous Scary Stories and What They Teach Us

3 famous scary stories

It’s that time of year again! The nights get longer. Haunting winds rattle shutters, and swaying trees cast spooky shadows in the moonlight. It’s time to tell ghost stories!

These stories scare us, but they can also show us something. Let’s see what three of the most popular ghost stories can show us about financial responsibility for a spook-tacular Halloween!

1) The Ghost in the Attic

The Story

It starts a little differently each time. Maybe there’s a bump in the night. A squeaky floorboard creaks and groans even when no one is walking near it. More and more squeaks and bumps that no one can explain keep happening. The cabinets open and close by themselves. Loud noises come from nowhere in the middle of the night. Everyone is terrified, and no one can sleep. Blood starts dripping from walls as screams come from the vents and doors slam. This house is haunted.

It turns out there’s some history to the house. A gruesome murder took place there. It was built on an ancient Native American burial ground. The attic was home to an abandoned child who was forced to live there because of his hideous deformity. The only way to get back to normal is to give these angry spirits what they need.

The Reality

If your house has creaking floorboards, or your heating and cooling system goes bump in the night, you might be headed for a far more serious problem than ghosts. Unexplained noises in the house could be signs of serious structural problems. Knocks in the walls can be a plumbing issue about to break loose. Uneven construction can really make cabinets open by themselves and doors slam uncontrollably. Like in the story, many of these problems come out of your house’s history. It might have been built on an old mine site or just built in a hurry.

Left untreated, these little problems can create big trouble. Squeaky floorboards can break, pipes can rupture and foundation problems can ruin your home. If you’re counting on homeowners insurance to pay for these accidents, think again. Homeowners insurance policies broadly don’t cover “construction defects,” which means you’ll be stuck holding the bill.

Consider getting out in front of these problems. You can use your home equity line of credit to repair your foundation, fix structural problems in your home and perform other necessary upgrades. Don’t let the specter of uncertainty ruin your ghoulish good time!

2) Vampire Infestation

The Story

Up a winding mountain pass deep in the Transylvanian high country sits an ancient mansion. The simple folk who live in the valley will not go near it, nor will they even speak a word about it, for fear of attracting the dark attention of the master of the house. The man is never seen and the house might be assumed empty if it were not for the ominous cackling that echoes through the farms and pastures that surround the mountain.

Legend tells that the man in the mansion is an unholy abomination who subsists on the blood of the innocent. Young children have been found by the road leading up to the mansion, their flesh cold and clammy as though the life itself has been drained out of them. Travelers who arrive at the village scoff at the tale of Dracula’s Mansion, but those who journey up to it are never seen again.

The Reality

While you don’t have any vampires in your life (probably), you do have something you never see that’s sucking the life out of your financial success. Outstanding debt is a seldom-seen figure that casts an ominous shadow over your household finances. Make no mistake: The beast is feeding on your innocent salary and putting your whole household in its sight. The average household has $17,000 or more in debt and faces an average minimum payment of $423 per month.

If you want to drive a stake through the heart of this monster, consider a debt consolidation loan. These loans can repair your credit, lower your monthly payment and free you from the control of the heartless creature. Best of all, you won’t need to deal with the smell of garlic!

3) Zombie Apocalypse

The Story

The streets are quiet. There are no cars or pedestrians. An overcast sky casts flickering shadows on the desolate streets. The ordinary noises of a city are starkly absent. The only clearly audible sound is the slow chomping of the walking dead who are feasting on the bodies of recent victims.

Cowering in basements and perched on rooftops, human survivors band together. Their goal is simple: Stay alive for one more day. Long past the point where rescue helicopters stop flying, these brave souls will go their own way and resist being part of the zombie horde.

The Reality

Zombies are a cautionary example of what happens to us when we consume just for the sake of consumption. A zombie is a sad creature who lacks the capacity to plan or see further than the next meal. We’ve all been there – splurging on a candy bar in the checkout lane, not because we were hungry, but because we wanted it and it was there.

The best way to zombie-proof yourself is to make a realistic budget and stick to it. Make a plan for your income that includes saving and investing. Be sure to include space for planned indulgences – like discount Halloween candy on Nov. 1.

Sources:

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/homeowners-insurance-cover-foundation-repair-63590.html

http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-data/average-credit-card-debt-household/

http://www.free-online-calculator-use.com/credit-card-minimum-payment-calculator.html