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Preventing Tax Return Fraud

Preventing Tax Return Fraud

Identity theft continues to be a booming business: In 2014, 17.6 million Americans fell victim, and cybercriminals made off with $15.4 billion. And tax refund theft remains a lucrative piece of that business, despite the IRS' efforts to stamp it out.

How do hackers do it? In one scam, they filed bogus returns with information harvested from the IRS' own files or by using Social Security numbers.

Then they waited for the direct-deposit refunds to flow in. Victims usually didn't know anything was wrong until the IRS refused to accept their tax returns.


Here are some of the defenses that the IRS, state tax agencies and the e-filing industry are building to combat scammers:

Quicker responses to warnings. Thanks to technological enhancements, the IRS now receives warnings if a large number of returns come from a single computer address within a short period of time.

Delaying refunds. This allows the IRS time to recognize that more than one return has been filed for the same Social Security number. Previously, the IRS issued e-file refunds seven to 10 days after it received a return. The new target is 21 days.

Earlier filings of W2 forms. Businesses had been required to issue wage and payment statements to workers by Feb. 1, but didn't need to file them with the IRS until June. Now both will be due by Jan. 31.

Sharing information: Intuit, which makes TurboTax, and H&R Block have agreed to share more information more promptly with the IRS about filings they consider suspicious.


Safety begins at home, of course. The IRS also has advice for taxpayers on identifying — and more importantly, avoiding — tax refund fraud:

Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections, as well as strong passwords.

Learn to recognize phishing emails, calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations, such as your bank, credit card company and even the IRS. The IRS will never try to contact you via phone or email.

Don't click on links or download attachments from emails if you don't recognize the sender.

Protect your personal data. Don't routinely carry your Social Security card, and make sure your tax records are secure.


If you think someone used your information to file a return, contact the IRS immediately. Specialists will help you file your tax return, receive any refund you're due, and protect your account from identity thieves in the future.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved


How to Avoid the Busy Holiday Scamming Season

You're not the only one joyfully anticipating the holiday season. Cyber criminals are all aflutter, too, as they look forward to the killing they'll make ripping off innocent shoppers like you. Here are some of the most common ways these thieves operate, because awareness can help you avoid becoming yet another victim.

Antisocial media

Beware those enticing ads that turn up on Facebook and other social media sites offering vouchers, gift cards and deep discounts, as well as the online surveys these ads often link to. These offers are often only empty promises designed to steal your personal information.

Additionally, if you receive concert, theater or sporting event tickets as a gift, never post pictures of them online. Cyber thieves spend lots of time monitoring social media, just waiting for the opportunity to create phony tickets they can resell from your barcode image. If your ticket is resold, you might just find yourself out of a seat on the night of your event. It's also unwise to post live from an event that gives criminals a heads-up that your home is empty and ripe for picking. Better to wait until the next day to post about the wonderful time you had.

Pandora's inbox

It may be a mystery to you how cyber thieves got your private email address, but it's chillingly clear they're up to no good. Your inbox may fill up with all kinds of legitimate-looking product offers and delivery notices this holiday season, but clicking on links of bogus ones or entering personal information on the linked sites can provide criminals with the opportunity to steal your identity.

Apps are far from immune

With mobile apps available for just about everything, it's a sad sign of the times that certain free mobile apps (often disguised as games) have been specifically designed to steal personal information from your phone. This is a particularly scary development since many people use their phones to secure their cars and homes. For this reason, only install apps from familiar companies and, at the very least, find a third-party review from a trusted site if you're interested in an app from an unfamiliar source.

USB Trojan horses

Lots of people use portable USB drives, which makes it all the more important to avoid those being distributed as giveaways this holiday season unless they're from a trusted source. These innocent-looking devices are often used as a method of introducing malware to computers.

Gifts that keep on giving ... to criminals

A spirit of generosity is traditional at holiday time, but if you're not careful, your donations may never make it to the needy. Fake charities that skillfully tug at your heartstrings abound at this time of year, just waiting for you to willingly give your hard-earned cash to scammers. Before donating, be sure to check out charities thoroughly, to make sure that they're not only legitimate, but also that they allocate the bulk of funds toward their causes rather than “administrative costs.”

Tips to avoid holiday scams

These strategies will also help keep you a step ahead of scammers:

  • Only shop online with reputable businesses you trust, using secure websites with an address that begins with https.
  • Don't shop or bank over public Wi-Fi.
  • Protect your credit card privacy by covering your account number with your hand when shopping in public.
  • Don't respond to suspicious unsolicited calls or emails. Only open email attachments from senders you trust, and contact businesses only through their official websites, phone numbers or email addresses.
  • Monitor your credit to catch fraud at its earliest stages.

Scammers may be smart, but you can still outsmart them. A little foreknowledge and caution go a long way toward ensuring you'll enjoy a safe and memorable holiday season.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Online Bill Pay





Employee Spotlight - Sara

1.      What’s your name?  Sara J Blom

2.      Where are you from?  Austin, Minnesota  - Currently living in Minneapolis

3.      How long have you worked at Star Choice Credit Union? Just shy of 5 years

4.      What’s your favorite part about working at SCCU? We have a Keurig!...and my work family is pretty awesome too!

5.      Do you have any pets? 1 cat and 2 snakes

6.      If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? Bora Bora!  Love those little huts over the water!

7.      What is one sentence you’d like to hear from your boss? “I gave you a huge raise and more paid vacation, just for the fun of it!”

8.      What is one of your favorite quotes?  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”

9.      What do you like to do in your free time? Cook, Run/Hike, Camp, Spend time with friends/family, Snowboard, Puzzles, Cribbage 

10.  What is one of your biggest accomplishments? Graduating College!  I’m definitely not the paper writing and note card type

11.  Describe your ideal weekend.  Snowboarding at Lake Louise Resort, Alberta

12.  What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? Surprise party with family and friends for my 21st…surprises are the best!

13.  What are your biggest hobbies? Snowboarding and cooking

14.  Where’s Waldo?  Does anyone really care anymore?? 

15.  Toilet Paper – over or under?  The right way…OVER!

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