Fraud Prevention Checklist

This is the prime time of year for scam artists to pounce — as you're starting the new year, filing your tax return, and eagerly waiting for your tax refund. To protect yourself, the first step is to be vigilant. Stay alert for these common tricks and cons.

Tax scams. Crooks take advantage of the tax-filing season to try to steal people's money and their identity. The IRS will not call you asking for money or threaten to arrest you, or call you asking for your bank account information for your refund. If you receive an email claiming the IRS is asking for your personal information, don't reply or open any attachments — the IRS will not contact you through email. You can forward phishing emails to Learn more about phishing scams at Also, filing your tax return early can help prevent identity thieves from beating you to your refund. The IRS usually starts accepting tax returns in late January, which is when you should have received your W-2s, 1099s and other paperwork to help you with your return.

Identity theft. New laws make it easier to protect your personal information from identity thieves. You can now freeze your credit for free with all of the credit bureaus, which prevents lenders from issuing new credit in your name. If you want to apply for a loan, you can unfreeze your credit record for free, too. You'll need to freeze your credit record with all three credit bureaus for the freeze to be most effective — see each bureau's website for the process (,, and

You can also check your credit record at, which can help you spot identity theft or mistakes and give you ideas for ways to improve your credit history. You're eligible to check your report for free at each of the credit bureaus every 12 months.

Go to the Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft page ( for more information about protecting yourself and reporting ID theft. Also see How to Protect Your Finances from Fraud for steps MissionSquare Retirement takes to protect participants' accounts.


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