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.

 

All You Need to Know About Home Equity Loans

Home Equity LoansAs you pay down your first mortgage or the value of your home increases, you develop equity. When you have equity built up in your home, borrowing against it with a home equity loan is a great way to tap into the money when you need it most. Many people take out a home equity loan to finance home improvements, pay for their child’s college education, cover unforeseen medical costs, and many other purposes. Here’s all you need to know about home equity loans.

What is a home equity loan? 

A home equity loan (HEL), or second mortgage, is a secured loan that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity in their home. The loan amount is based on the difference between the home’s current market value and the homeowner’s outstanding mortgage balance. Home equity loans tend to be fixed-rate, while the typical alternative, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), generally have variable rates and allow the borrower to withdraw funds as needed.

How is a home equity loan amount determined?  

Your primary mortgage is the amount you borrowed when you first purchased your home. Over time, as you pay down the loan and/or the value of your residence increases, so does your equity. You can take a home equity loan out against the equity you have built up in your home, essentially borrowing against your home’s value minus what you still owe on your mortgage. It’s important to note that a home equity loan is a second loan against your home. You’ll still need to pay your primary mortgage along with new payments for your home equity loan.

A lender will typically want you to have at least an 80 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio once your home equity loan has been approved.

Interest rates on home equity loans 

Home equity loans typically have a fixed interest rate, making budgeting for the payments easy. The lender provides a lump sum payment to the borrower, which is then repaid over the life of the loan, along with a set interest rate. Both the monthly payment and interest rate will remain the same over the entire loan term, which can last anywhere from 5 to 30 years. If the borrower sells the home before the loan term is matured, the loan must then be repaid in full.

A home equity loan can be a great choice for a borrower with a one-time or straightforward cash need such as a home addition, large medical expenses, debt consolidation, or a wedding.

Are there any costs associated with home equity loans?

As with mortgage loans, there are closing costs associated with home equity loans. Closing costs refer to any fees incurred when originating, writing, closing, or recording a loan. These fees include application, appraisal, title search, attorney fees, and points. Some lenders may advertise no-fee home equity loans which require no cash at closing, but these will usually have other associated costs or a higher interest rate which can easily offset any gains.

What are the pros and cons of a home equity loan?

There are several advantages to taking out a home equity loan to fund a home improvement project or a large expense:

  • The amount of interest paid toward a home equity loan may be tax-deductible.
  • Interest rates on HELs are generally lower than those provided by credit cards or unsecured loans.

Home equity loans do have some disadvantages as well:

  • Using your home as collateral for the loan means risking foreclosure and the loss of your home if you default on the loan.
  • If your home value declines over the term of the loan, you may end up owing more than your home is worth.
  • You’ll need to pay closing costs and other fees when you take out a home equity loan.
  • You may qualify to borrow more than you actually need and ultimately end up using more than planned, which of course you’ll need to repay.

The hot real estate market has led to a boom in popularity for home equity loans. However, it’s important to weigh all factors carefully before determining if a home equity loan is best for your specific needs.

Freedom has Home Equity Loans and Home Equity Lines of Credit available.  Visit freedomfcu.org/personal/home-loans/ for more details. 

Your Turn: Do you have questions or advice about home equity loans?  Talk to us on Facebook, LinkedIn,Twitter, or Instagram @FreedomFedCU.