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A tax refund can be an important financial asset, and many people depend on this yearly sum from the IRS in their annual budget.

A tax refund can be an important financial asset, and many people depend on this yearly sum from the IRS in their annual budget. Fraudsters recognize the value of a tax refund, too, and some specialize in stealing taxpayers’ identities so they can create fake tax returns and snag a large refund. The IRS is on the lookout for this kind of stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF), but you can help prevent it, too.


How the scam works.

The tricky thing about stealing tax refunds is that it doesn’t come from personal contact with victims. All fraudsters need is your name and social security number (SSN), which they can sometimes obtain from a database breach. They then use this information to file an early tax return in your name, claiming a refund.

If your identity is stolen and used for tax fraud, you’ll often find out when you e-file your tax return online. It will be rejected because someone has already filed a return using your SSN. Or, if you mail your return, you’d get a notice from the IRS telling you another return has been filed using your information.


What you can do to prevent it.

The first and most important way to prevent SIRF is to keep your SSN private. Here are some tips:

  • Never carry your SSN card in your wallet or purse.
  • Don’t give out your SSN or any other personal information over the phone, even if the caller claims to be from the IRS.
  • Ignore and delete emails seeking your SSN, even if they claim to be from the IRS or credit card companies.

Remember that banks, credit unions, credit card companies and the IRS will never ask for your SSN in unexpected phone calls or emails. They will also never threaten to arrest or deport you for refusing to comply. Learn more about IRS-related scams here.


How Verve can help.

We’re constantly on the lookout for the signs of SIRF and other scams and will take immediate action if we catch fraudulent activity. If you think you have been a victim of a scam, call us at 800.448.9228, and a team member can help you address any concerns.

It’s Verve’s goal—in line with our guiding 7 Cooperative Principles—to provide education, training and information to help our members avoid financial scams and stay fit financially. Verve is committed to keeping our members educated when it comes to their finances by providing details on recent scams and ways to stay safe. Help keep your family and friends safe this tax season by sharing this information on SIRF.