Tips From Donna Wesban Monthly February 2019

Wesban Monthly February 2019 Tax Scams, Mutual Funds
Tax Scams to Watch Out For
While tax scams are especially prevalent during tax season, they can take place any time during the year. As a result, it's in your best interest to always be vigilant so you don't end up becoming the victim of a fraudulent tax scheme.
Here are some of the more common scams to watch out for.
Phishing
Phishing scams usually involve unsolicited emails or fake websites that pose as legitimate IRS sites to convince you to provide personal or financial information. Once scam artists obtain this information, they use it to commit identity or financial theft.
It is important to remember that the IRS will never initiate contact with you by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media. If you get an email claiming to be from the IRS, don't respond or click any of the links; instead forward it to phishing@irs.gov.
Phone scams
Beware of callers claiming that they're from the IRS. They may be scam artists trying to steal your money or identity. This type of scam typically involves a call from someone claiming you owe money to the IRS or that you're entitled to a large refund. The calls may also show up as coming from the IRS on your Caller ID, be accompanied by fake emails that appear to be from the IRS, or involve follow-up calls from individuals saying they are from law enforcement. Sometimes these callers may threaten you with arrest, license revocation, or even deportation.
If you think you might owe back taxes, contact the IRS for assistance at irs.gov. If you don't owe taxes and believe you have been the target of a phone scam, you should contact the Treasury Inspector General and the Federal Trade Commission to report the incident.
Tax return preparer fraud
During tax season, some individuals and scam artists pose as legitimate tax preparers, often promising unreasonably large or inflated refunds. They try to take advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers by committing refund fraud or identity theft. It is important to choose a tax preparer carefully, since you are legally responsible for what's on your return, even if it's prepared by someone else.
A legitimate tax preparer will generally ask for proof of your income and eligibility for credits and deductions, sign the return as the preparer, enter the Preparer Tax Identification Number, and provide you with a copy of your return.
Fake charities
Scam artists sometimes pose as a charitable organization in order to solicit donations from unsuspecting donors. Be wary of charities with names that are similar to more familiar or nationally known organizations, or that suddenly appear after a national disaster or tragedy. Before donating to a charity, make sure that it is legitimate. There are tools at irs.gov to assist you in checking out the status of a charitable organization, or you can visit charitynavigator.org to find more information about a charity.
Tax-related identity theft
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to claim a fraudulent tax refund. You may not even realize you've been the victim of identity theft until you file your tax return and discover that a return has already been filed using your Social Security number. Or the IRS may send you a letter indicating it has identified a suspicious return using your Social Security number. If you believe you have been the victim of tax-related identity theft, you should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490 as soon as possible.
Stay one step ahead
The best way to avoid becoming the victim of a tax scam is to stay one step ahead of the scam artists. Consider taking the following precautions to keep your personal and financial information private:
  • Maintain strong passwords
  • Consider using two-step authentication
  • Keep an eye out for emails containing links or asking for personal information
  • Avoid scam websites
  • Don't answer calls when you don't recognize the phone number
Finally, if you are ever unsure whether you are the victim of a scam, remember to trust your instincts. If something sounds questionable or too good to be true, it probably is.

Know Your Mutual Funds
Almost 100 million Americans, representing about 44% of U.S. households,
owned mutual funds in 2018. Saving for retirement was the primary goal for 73% of investors; other goals included saving for college or a house, building an emergency fund, or providing current income. 1
Mutual funds offer a convenient way to participate in a broad range of market activity that would be difficult for most investors to achieve by purchasing individual securities. With almost 8,000 funds available on the U.S. market, you should be able to find appropriate investments to pursue your goals. 2 However, it's important to periodically examine the mix of funds you hold.
If you are approaching retirement or already retired, this may be a good time to assess the risk level and growth potential of your funds, along with any other investments in your portfolio. Keep in mind that even though it is generally wise to reduce risk as you near retirement, you may also need to pursue long-term growth opportunities.
The following overview describes some basic types of funds in rough order of risk, from lowest to highest. Investments seeking to achieve higher returns also carry an increased level of risk.
Money market funds invest in short-term debt investments such as commercial paper and certificates of deposit and are typically used as a cash alternative. Although a money market fund attempts to maintain a stable $1 share price, you can lose money by investing in such a fund. Money market funds are neither insured nor guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency.
Municipal bond funds generally offer income that is free of federal income tax and may be free of state income tax if the bonds in the fund were issued from your state. Although interest income from municipal bond funds may be tax exempt, any capital gains are subject to tax. Income for some investors may be subject to state and local taxes and the federal alternative minimum tax.
Income funds concentrate their portfolios on bonds, Treasury securities, and other income-oriented securities, and may also include stocks that have a history of paying high dividends.
Balanced funds, hybrid funds, and growth and income funds seek the middle ground between growth funds and income funds. They include a mix of stocks and bonds and seek to combine moderate growth potential with modest income.
Growth funds invest in the stock of companies with a high potential for appreciation but low emphasis on income. They are more volatile than many types of funds.
Global funds invest in a combination of domestic and foreign securities. International funds invest primarily in foreign stock and bond markets, sometimes in specific regions or countries. There are increased risks associated with international investing, including differences in financial reporting, currency exchange risk, economic and political risk unique to a specific country, and greater share price volatility.
Sector funds invest almost exclusively in a particular industry or sector of the economy. Although they offer greater appreciation potential, the volatility and risk level are also higher because they are less diversified.
Aggressive growth funds aim for maximum growth. They typically distribute little income, have very high growth potential, tend to be more volatile, and are considered to be very high risk.
Bond funds (including funds that contain both stocks and bonds) are subject to the interest rate, inflation, and credit risks associated with the underlying bonds in the fund. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall, which can adversely affect a bond fund's performance. U.S. Treasury securities are guaranteed by the federal government as to the timely payment of principal and interest. Dividends are not guaranteed.
Asset allocation and diversification are methods used to help manage investment risk; they do not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss. Mutual fund shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.
Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.
1-2) Investment Company Institute, 2018

Donna Gordon

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