Unite for a Better Internet: Have the Smart Talk

Navigating life online

(Sponsored Post) My boys are nine and eleven-years-old. This means that we’ve had “the talk” — yes, that one about the “birds and the bees.” But in our fast-moving, digital world, where children are engaging more and more on social media, playing online games and reading news online, we need to have a different kind of talk — one that teaches them the rules of the road for navigating life online.

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 50% of children receive their first smartphone by age 11, and 74% have access to laptops and desktops as early as six-years-old. There’s no doubt technology is playing a huge role in our children’s development. It just doesn’t make sense to ignore this enormous part of their lives. Having open and ongoing conversations about online safety and responsibility is essential to the well-being and overall safety of children.

However, when I chat with other parents about having a digital safety talk with our kids, I get the sense they find it overwhelming because they don’t know what topics to cover. And that’s understandable. How can we possibly know how to approach talking about everything our kids see online when we didn’t grow up with the same devices, sites and apps they use today? Not to mention the fact that parents often tell me that they also feel pressured to buy their kids new devices that their peers and classmates are using, regardless of whether or not their kids are ready for that kind of responsibility.

Fortunately, there’s a free, online tool to help families navigate these issues and talk about digital safety. It’s called The Smart Talk. National PTA and LifeLock developed it for families who want their digitally savvy kids to learn and have fun through technology, but also make sure that they are building positive habits to stay safe and be responsible online. The Smart Talk gives families an opportunity to talk about the issues that can come up as kids use smartphones, social media and apps — while they’re still developing emotional intelligence skills.

Since the tool is online, you can have The Smart Talk as a family whenever it works best for you. After developing an agreement together, you can print a copy of the agreement, hang it where you’ll see it (like on your fridge) and revisit as needed.

I’ve had The Smart Talk with my each of my boys — and they even enjoyed it (at least more than they enjoyed having that other talk)!  We plan on regularly checking in on our digital safety agreements. When that happens, I’m sure they’ll teach me a new thing or two, and we’ll have to evolve our agreements accordingly.

Join me in partnering up with your kids as we try to make the internet better and safer — have The Smart Talk tonight.

Kim Allman is the Vice President of Government Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility at Lifelock.

A New Year for Family and School Health


(Sponsored Post) It’s a new year, and for many of us it’s a time to assess our health and resolve to shed a few pounds, add more fruits and vegetables to our diets, get more exercise and generally do what we can to make ourselves and our families healthier.

It’s also a good time to take stock of the health of your child’s school. After all, that’s where they spend most of their time outside of your home—nearly 1,200 hours each year. Start with a simple quiz to see what you know about your child’s school. Does the school:

  • Allow adequate time for kids to have recess?
  • Provide active indoor recess to ensure kids get physical activity during inclement weather?
  • Ask parents to bring healthy snacks instead of sweet treats for birthdays and celebrations?
  • Incorporate active games and non-food rewards as part of classroom celebrations?
  • Provide opportunities for physical activity during the school day, such as brain breaks in the classroom?
  • Adhere to Smart Snacks standards for school meals and foods sold in school?
  • Host healthy fundraisers involving nutritious foods or physical activity?

If you answered “no” or “I don’t know” to any of these questions, don’t despair. Join your school’s or PTA’s wellness team and find out! Then pick an area where you can make a difference. Get inspired by others like Tara Fisher-Munoz, a parent in Austin, Texas who took her passion and expertise in gardening to form the Go Green Team PTA with other volunteers and start the school’s garden program. Or Dana Dougherty, a parent and substitute teacher in Arlington, Virginia, who worked with her PTA to set up the 2FIT2QUIT team, that organized 5Ks and family fitness fairs and secured pedal desks to keep kids active while learning.

These parents started with big ideas but small steps. They and many others will attest that once you get started, it’s hard to stop, because just one program can spur a culture of health at school. By getting involved in school wellness, you can also help reinforce those healthy habits your kids are learning at home – and likely learn something new for a healthier you, too.

Learn more about how to get involved in school health at ActionforHealthyKids.org and celebrate your school’s health and wellness during Every Kid Healthy Week.

Amy Moyer, MPH, RD, is the VP Field Operations with Action for Healthy Kids and mother of two girls.

Action for Healthy Kids is a National PTA sponsor and has been invited to submit a blog post as part of their engagement with PTA.

Is Using a Mobile Wallet a Smart Idea for Your Teen?

(Sponsored Post) So, your teen has a new smartphone and, in true teenager fashion, wants to set up a mobile wallet—now! Not so fast. Make sure you know the advantages and disadvantages of Apple Pay®, Samsung Pay or Android Pay.

With the rise in iPhone® usage among teens (69% of American teens use an iPhone*), and smartphones in general, Apple Pay®, Samsung Pay® and Android Pay™ can help them learn to manage the funds they earn. But is it always a good idea to give teens—or even younger children—so much power over their finances?

Before we answer that, let’s consider the qualifications for using a mobile wallet system: 1) a debit or credit card and 2) a compatible smartphone or smartwatch.

Debit card. It’s a common misconception that any of these services must be linked to a credit card—it turns out that a debit card works just as well. If your teen doesn’t have a debit card linked to their personal savings account, look into a Mountain America Teen Savings Account. As the parent, you’ll have the option to add a debit card to the account for your teen.

Smartphone. If your teen already has a compatible device, you’re ready to get started. But if he or she doesn’t—and your teen is interested in the benefits of a mobile wallet—you may encourage your teen to save for one. Learning to set financial goals at this age can be a great way to instill lifelong saving habits.

Why Using a Mobile Wallet Is a Good Idea for Your Teen

Convenience, accessibility and security are what makes mobile wallet systems so appealing. Consider this scenario: Your daughter keeps losing her wallet. Every time she’s about to leave the house, the entire family has to help her search for it. Or she calls from the movies when she realizes she has no way to pay for her ticket.

Sound familiar? Most likely, your daughter always has her phone in tow. In fact, an IDC research report revealed that 79% of smartphone users have their phone on or near them for all but two hours of the waking day.

With fingerprint authentication required to login, mobile wallet systems are secure, convenient and can help your child learn how to manage their money in the way they will likely use it in their financial future—with your supervision, of course.

Things to Consider Before You and Your Teen Decide on a Mobile Wallet System

Turning the reigns of a bank account over to your teen requires a little trust, a little education and a lot of patience! Like anything else, they are going to have to learn how this digital system works. There might be a few hiccups along the way.

If you are concerned that signing up for a mobile wallet system will give your teen too much access, here are a couple of things you can do to minimize any damage they might do.

  1. Start them out with a limited weekly or monthly allowance in the account that is connected to the mobile wallet. That way, if they go through all their allotted money, they won’t be able to access additional money until the account is reloaded.
  2. Get a joint account and set up notifications. Both you and your teen will be notified of each purchase as well as the current balance.

A Chance to Learn and the Right Time to Do It

Youth is all about learning and growing. This may be one of the very best reasons to use a mobile wallet. Built-in security features often make these systems safer than carrying cash. And if your teen overspends, the lesson learned—that they’re accountable for every single dollar—can quickly turn into a lifelong educational opportunity. Most parents will agree that learning this lesson when the teen lives at home and spends money on movie tickets or a pizza, is more beneficial than when the teen moves out and rent is due on an apartment.

Money management is an important skill to master. Setting limits and creating goals are ways parents can work with teens to help them learn the ins and outs of their finances. Using tools like a mobile wallet system can help take the lessons one step further. Talk to your teen and make sure you both understand your decision. And remember that regardless of the method you and your teen decide to use for money management, self-control and long-term planning are always part of the solution.

For more information on mobile wallet systems or other financial questions, contact Mountain America Credit Union.

Bryan Packer is the AVP Public Relations at Mountain America Credit Union.

Mountain America Credit Union is a financial sponsor of National PTA and has been invited to submit a blog post as part of their engagement with PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

The Latest Tech Gadget Requires a Safety Talk with Your Kids

A LifeLock security expert and dad discusses why a conversation about tech safety with your kids is a must when gifting them the latest tech gadgets. He offers The Smart Talk as a fun, free, online tool to help facilitate the conversation.  

The holidays are here and most of us are busy looking for gifts. In fact 42 percent of parents with children under 18 plan to give their child a smart device as a holiday gift this year, according to a survey by Harris Poll conducted on behalf of LifeLock. Maybe it’s finally time for a smartphone or to purchase a new family computer or some other kind of connected device. There are a lot of things to choose from, and these days more and more of them involve having your kids online.

As you gift your child such a device, consider having a conversation about security with them. It’s important to your child’s safety, and while it may sound like a chore, it doesn’t have to be. The Smart Talk is a free, online tool to that’s here to help you facilitate a conversation.

The Smart Talk covers a range of topics, including:

Safety

Whether it’s texting with friends (or strangers), engaging in a video game chat room, or uploading pictures to servers halfway around the word, online safety should always be top of mind. It’s critical for your children to understand that it can be very hard to tell the difference between good people and bad. In fact, anyone can pretend to be anything on the Internet.

Kids need to realize that online “friends” that they’ve never met are still strangers—strangers that may want to know more about their personal lives and habits. Predators may pretend to be a kid, and ask your child for photos of themselves. Kids should be in the habit of treating online “friends” the same as they would a stranger walking up to them on the street, for the same reasons.

Privacy

Your kid is in her room, the door is closed, everyone else in the house is asleep. She shares personal thoughts on social media or she’s texting with friends, possibly sharing pictures. It feels private to them. The harsh reality is that what they are sharing is anything but private. Once something is available on the Internet, it’s pretty much staying there. As the saying goes, “the Internet never forgets”.

Maybe your kid wants to share a silly “selfie” with someone who promises to delete it. The supposed friend doesn’t delete it. In fact, they share it. Maybe someone gets ahold of your child’s smartphone (or her friend’s) while it’s unlocked, and starts going through the photos.

Help your kids understand the privacy isn’t something you can count on when sharing data online.

Bullying

Online bullying through social media is a constant problem. It’s important to help your kids understand that it’s not okay to fully or be bullied. By having those conversations with your kids, they’ll feel more comfortable telling you about when something comes up. This includes videogame chats, where your child may be exposed to all kinds of angry taunts and verbal abuse. If this is seen as “the norm,” it can be tempting for your child to join in or start their own attack later.

Another topic that goes beyond the trend of holiday gift giving, but that relates to connected devices your kids use is the Internet of Things.

More and more household devices and toys can connect to the internet. Toys want to download content from the internet—stories, new game modules, sounds, pictures. They also want to collect your kid’s name, maybe have your child take a picture of themselves with a built-in camera and display it as part of their online account. Some kids’ toys even have built-in Web browsers. They claim to have “child-safe filtering”, but earlier this month a security researcher demonstrated how to bypass the filtering on one toy tablet to access adult material. Frankly, it’s a mess.

Think twice about giving your child a toy that wants to go online. If you decide it’s worth it, spend time with your kids while they play with the toys and be alert for anything the device is doing (or asking your kids to do) that just doesn’t feel right.

Connected devices can open a whole new world for our kids. As parents, it’s our job to help them explore that world safely.

To have The Smart Talk with your kids, visit TheSmartTalk.org


Joe Gervais is a LifeLock cybersecurity expert.

Is Your PTA in Compliance with the IRS?

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Are you looking to support your PTA by becoming a better leader? One way you can help your Local Unit PTA excel is by making sure it is in compliance with the IRS!

Many local and state leaders don’t realize that every PTA, due to being a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, must file some type of paperwork with the IRS every year. To help support our local and state PTAs with this issue, National PTA is developing a series of e-Learning courses on how to maintain your 501(c)(3) status regardless of your PTA size or income!

The first of these courses, Maintaining Your PTA’s 501(c)(3) Status, is set to be released Nov. 14. This course looks at the issue of revocation through the eyes of a Local PTA leader and walks you through the process of maintaining your Local PTA’s 501(c)(3) status.

In just 10 minutes, this e-Learning course will help you will identify the last time your PTA filed paperwork with the IRS and learn how to properly fill out your IRS paperwork for filing on time each year.

Have more questions about managing your PTA’s IRS paperwork? No problem! Maintaining Your PTA’s 501(c)(3) Status will be only the first in a series of finance courses based on this subject that will be released over the next few months!

Have general questions about managing your PTA’s finances? We can help with that, too! Over the past few months we have released other finance-related e-Learning courses to help local PTA leaders with some other areas of interest:

  • Quick Guide to Budget Basics
  • Quick Guide to 501(c)(3) Status
  • Quick Guide to Taking & Approving Meeting Minutes

All three of the above e-Learning courses cover a specific topic in under 10 minutes or less! These “micro-courses” are different from normal full length courses in that a specific topic is covered in depth over a short period of time, rather than covering many different topics over 30-45 minutes.

We believe that these new micro-courses give our members the flexibility to learn about a subject they are interested in or need help with over a very short amount of time, which fits better into all of their busy lives.

To access the PTA eLearning courses, visit PTA.org/eLearning. You will find our entire e-Learning library of 17 full-length courses, three micro-courses and four of our most popular e-Learning courses in Spanish!

Make sure to be on the lookout for more updates on National PTA eLearning courses in the future via National PTA’s Twitter and Facebook pages!


Jonathan Baker is the e-learning manager at National PTA.

Mathnasium + PTA: Helping Your Child Succeed

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(Sponsored Post) 

Across the nation, Mathnasium’s neighborhood math experts are working with PTA’s parent leaders toward a common goal—building stronger communities through quality education! Becky McDaniels, owner of Mathnasium of Brandon, Fla.—and a dedicated PTA member for over two decades—is a great example of this collaboration.

“PTA does so much for teachers and schools, and I wanted to be a part of it and make a difference,” Becky recalled.

As a mom and former teacher at public, private and charter schools, Becky’s worn many a PTA hat. She’s served on her local unit’s board, penned newsletters, driven fundraising initiatives from the ground level, bridged the gap between parents and educators as teacher liaison and served on event committees.

Mathnasium’s collaboration with National PTA through the STEM + Families initiative provided yet another avenue for Becky to show support once her children left school and she transitioned out of classroom teaching.

Now a business owner and STEM advocate, Becky’s math expertise takes center stage. Whether she’s presenting at PTA meetings, engaging families through fun in-school math nights or contributing to fundraising efforts, Becky’s clearly in her element. Many years after her first PTA meeting, she still finds it incredibly fulfilling to see a large scale project come to fruition and glows happily with every “thank you” she receives.

Colleen Horan Green, PTSA vice president at Randall Middle School, offered one such “thank you” to Becky. “Mathnasium of Brandon sought us out and became actively involved in supporting our events,” Colleen recalled.

“Now we are working together to create a seminar to help parents like me support our children in seventh-grade math. As a PTSA member, I’m looking at our common goals and filling the needs with Mathnasium.”

“The fact that Mathnasium exists is wonderful,” Colleen added. “They provide so many resources at any level, work in tandem with the curriculum, reach out to teachers and help us better serve our students. It’s more than just a partnership; they really do go above and beyond to understand needs at every school.”

For Becky and her team, the future brings more school sponsorships and fundraising as they host the Mathnasium TriMathlon the weekend of November 5 and 6. Mathnasium donates money to schools for every student who participates in this fun, free math competition. Find the event nearest you and help raise funds for your PTA!


Damaris Candano-Hodas is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Mathnasium Learning Centers.

Mathnasium is a Proud National Sponsor of PTA and was invited to contribute a blog post as a benefit of this relationship. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service. No endorsement of Mathnasium is implied. Learn more at PTA.org/Sponsors.

How to Pause the Internet

circle-sponsored-blog-post-pic(Sponsored Post)

Parents have always played catch-up to their children’s technology use. As a parent of four sons ages 13-21, I feel this struggle more than ever. The iPhone was brand new technology when my oldest son entered seventh grade, but by the time my youngest got to middle school, most of his friends had smart phones. Our family rules became obsolete within seven years. We had to get creative.

The Struggle Is Real

This year, from his high school Cell Phone Bill of Rights, my child learned “phones and other technology are the greatest distraction to academic focus ever invented and will be treated as such.”

But on his Chromebook check-out forms, we learned the school district is “excited to bring innovation into the classroom.”

As our children face these conflicting messages, I’ve watched huddled groups of parents whisper, “What are you doing about the Chromebooks?”

We Use Circle

When other parents ask us how we manage devices and time online, I tell them that we have Circle.

Circle is a device that pairs wirelessly with your home Wi-Fi and allows you to manage every device on your network. Using the Circle app, families can create unique profiles for each family member.

We use Circle to set time limits for YouTube, Netflix and online games to remind our kids to prioritize school work. Because sleep is important, we set a Bedtime so the Wi-Fi turns off on every one of their devices. They still choose when to go to sleep, but they have a fighting chance with that early alarm.

On the weekends, I sometimes Pause the Internet (which is easy with Circle) so that we can reconnect and the kids can rediscover offline activities they love.

It’s Made an Impact

My eighth grader recently confessed that it was “actually good” that he had a Time Limit. Circle helps me encourage good tech habits. When the “Looks like you’ve hit your Time Limit” message appears, my kids know I care about them.

Want to pause the internet and reclaim some family time at your house, too? Learn more about Circle and use code PTA2016 to get $10 OFF at MeetCircle.com.


Editor’s Note: In addition to considering devices like Circle, check out TheSmartTalk.org for a free resource from National PTA and LifeLock that gets parents and kids together for a guided conversation about being responsible with new technology.


Circle is a financial sponsor of National PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.


Anne Bryan is a long-time school volunteer and served as President and Treasurer at her local middle school parent group. She is an advisor to Circle Media Inc.

Schwan’s Cares Continues Commitment to Help PTAs Raise Funds

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(Sponsored Post)

As a PTA local leader, you volunteer so many hours and do so many great things—because you are committed to helping not just your own kids, but all kids. We at Schwan’s Home Service also support kids in all the communities where we do business across the United States.

We are thrilled that Schwan’s continues to be a National PTA Member Benefits Provider. For three years, Schwan’s has listened to PTA members and learned how the program has increased the ability for PTAs to meet their fundraising needs while reducing the demands placed on members and volunteers.

We are excited to have helped PTAs fund that amazing after-school program or supply that new technology for the classroom or meet some other critical school need. You’ve probably dealt with traditional fundraisers of the past. You know the drill: you handle the cash, push products, corral parents to come get the stuff they ordered—it’s time-consuming, unsustainable and the results are often disappointing. We created the Schwan’s Cares™ program to eliminate all the frustrations of traditional fundraisers, because we believe that great service organizations like the PTA deserve something better.

St. Mary School in Muncie, Ind. adopted the Schwan’s Cares™ program in 2015 and has been able to achieve terrific results, raising over $2,400 in the last year. When asked why the Schwan’s Cares program has worked for them, a parent group representative responded,

“The fundraising program couldn’t have been easier. Parents, teachers and members of the community were eager to help the school, while at the same time, stock their freezers with quick and tasty foods. The program makes sense for all. It was a win-win for the school and for families.”

The program is hands-free. Schwan’s Home Service takes the orders, delivers the food to supporter’s homes and handles all money. There are no order forms and n o need for PTA members or children to knock on doors.

Schwan’s Home Service renewed their commitment as a Member Benefits provider for the third year so PTA groups can continue to use this fantastic fundraising option. The back-to-school season is upon us and PTA planning for the year is in full swing. Hopefully Schwan’s can help support your school’s fundraising needs this year.

To learn more about the Schwan’s Cares™ program, please visit Schwans-Cares.com.


Robb Kaufenberg is a New Business Development Specialist for Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. In this position, he leads the growth and development of the Schwan’s Cares fundraising program in addition to other growth initiatives for Schwan’s Home Service.

Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. is a financial sponsor of National PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

How Do They Do It?

(Sponsored Post)

One hardworking local PTA meets the wide-ranging needs of 1,800 K-8 students and their families spread across four grade level centers.

Kim Mayton, a mom to seven-year-old twins, has a familiar story about how she ended up in a PTA leadership role. “When my kids were entering pre-K, the teacher told us parents that the class needed a Room Mom. I was interested in getting involved, but also intimidated. You couldn’t volunteer as a Room Mom unless you first joined the PTA. That made me pause. I had certain stereotypes in my head about the PTA and I definitely hesitated. But I wanted to help my kids transition well into school, so I went ahead and joined.” Kim laughs as she recalls, “It kind of snowballed from there.”

Kim now serves as the vice president of fundraising, co-chair of hospitality and chair of the school supply committee at Homewood PTA. Located 25 miles south of Chicago in the village of Homewood, Ill., this one hardworking PTA supports 1,800 K-8 students and their families spread across four grade level centers. “It definitely can be a challenge to have one PTA spanning multiple campuses,” remarks Kim. “We probably don’t run exactly like a traditional elementary school PTA but I’m betting we are more alike than different.”

Homewood PTA currently has their dues set at $10. With a little over 600 paid members and a typical annual operating budget of approximately $40,000, successful fundraisers are critical to ensuring they have adequate resources to deliver the depth and breadth of programs their PTA has become known for. “We simply cannot afford to have unsuccessful or underperforming fundraisers,” says Homewood PTA president Ann-Marie Webster. “We have to get this right to hit our budget. We carefully consider which fundraisers will yield the best results while not being a burden to our volunteers and families.”

So, that prompts the burning question: Which fundraisers does Homewood PTA choose?

A member of the Homewood PTA board was a longtime Schwan’s Home Service customer and advocated for the group to consider the Schwan’s Caresprogram (the charitable fundraising platform within Schwan’s Home Service, Inc.). When Homewood PTA discovered that Schwan’s Home Service delivers right to individual customers’ doors, instead of requiring a scheduled pick-up by families or requiring the PTA to accept and manage inventory for distribution, “We were thrilled!” says Kim.

Homewood PTA launched their first Schwan’s Cares campaign this school year. In addition to all the “usual” promotions, such as featuring the campaign on the PTA’s website, Facebook and sending home printed materials to families, they recognized that “tasting how great the food is would probably lead a lot more people to buy it.” So the PTA used a small amount of funds to purchase a selection of Schwan’s® foods and encouraged tastings at two PTA general meetings. Kim notes, “I highly recommend offering samples for any food-based fundraiser based on this experience – even if you have to buy the sample food out of PTA funds. It really helped people decide what to order!”

The PTA took some additional steps to promote the fundraiser, including:

  • Passing out Schwan’s® catalogs (tagged with a sticker for the Homewood PTA fundraiser) at local libraries and senior centers, after receiving permission to do so at those locations
  • Collaborated with the secretaries at the four campuses to compose and send an e-blast to all families about the campaign
  • Making sure that fliers and catalogs are featured at any school events during the campaign

Ann-Marie cautions that the relationship with Schwan’s Home Service is new and they don’t yet have a full grasp on how profitable these campaigns will be, but she is optimistic based on how things are going. “Have you had Schwan’s® ice cream? It’s amazing. If people just order lots of that, we’re going to do fine.”

Advice for Fellow PTA Leaders

Given Homewood PTA’s success over the years, what advice does Kim and Ann-Marie have for other local PTAs?

Ann-Marie has plenty of suggestions. To start: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. One or two people cannot run a PTA! If people indicate a willingness to serve in some way, actually ask them to serve! Delegate!” In addition, she suggests:

  • Homewood PTA prioritized having a modern website for their PTA and they keep it current so members will want to check it frequently and rely on it for information.
  • Use all forms of communication. Paper is fine, such as the typical PTA newsletter that goes home in the backpacks. But also use social media. Find parents who are really good at those and ask them to take responsibility for updating. Homewood PTA values social media because “it creates two-way dialogue.”
  • Show appreciation constantly to your volunteers, administrators and teachers. Homewood PTA has a strong bond with their campus principals and “they are amazing allies. They promote the value of PTA at all opportunities. They encourage all the teachers to join PTA and always are supporting us.”
  • Always talk about and “promote” what PTA is doing to support the students. “When individuals know all the things that PTA has been doing to benefit their kids and the community, they will pay dues and maybe even donate more than the dues.”

For more info about the fundraising opportunities and discounts available to schools and PTA members through the Schwan’s Cares™ program, visit PTA.org/Benefits.


 

Kris Carey Prevatte is the Associate Director of Corporate Alliances for National PTA and a former local PTA president in Maryland.

Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. is a financial sponsor of National PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

No Refund Coming? Tax Fraud is Still a Threat

LifeLock is a financial sponsor of National PTA, and has been invited to submit a blog post as part of their engagement with PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

Even if you expect to write a check to the Internal Revenue Service this year—rather than receive a refund—you should still file your taxes as soon as possible. Why? You’re still at risk of becoming a victim of income tax fraud.

Fraudsters don’t care about your actual tax or income figures. All the crooks need is your personal identification information—your name and Social Security number. Everything else— address, job information—they’ll make up, so that they’ll get a return, of course.

If you’ve been the victim of identity theft or a data breach, the Identity Theft Resource Center says that becoming a victim of tax identity theft is a very real possibility. In other words, your personal information is “out there,” and a tax thief may have it and put it to use. The crooks get to work as soon as the filing season opens. (This year, that was Jan. 19, 2016, for electronic tax returns.)

The General Accounting Office says the IRS paid out $5.8 billion for the 2013 tax year. So many tax returns being processed means that if you’re the victim of tax identity theft, it could take months to resolve your claim. As painful as it is to gather your documents and file your taxes, it’s no doubt much easier and less stressful than discovering you’re a victim of identity tax fraud.

Here are three different ways you can report a tax fraud issue:

  1. If you suspect someone stole your identity and used your Social Security number, then complete Form 14039 and mail a printed copy to the IRS.
  2. If you suspect fraudulent activity or abusive tax scheme by a tax return preparer, then complete Form 14157 and mail a printed copy to the IRS.
  3. If you suspect or know of an individual or business that isn’t complying with tax laws, then use Form 3449-A and mail to the IRS, Fresno, CA 93888.

Take advantage of LifeLock’s protection plans. As a proud supporter of National PTA, LifeLock is offering all PTA members and their families a very special offer. Learn more about the offer.

You can also visit the Identity Theft Resource Center and Internal Revenue Service websites for additional resources.


Cory Warren is the blog editor of LifeLock UnLocked.