The number of identity theft victims rose 22% last year! Although it’s important to always protect your identity, tax season makes people more vulnerable to this crime and you should be especially cautious.
H&R Block identity Theft
A recent article in the New York Times uncovers an H&R Block office in the Bronx that was infiltrated by identity thieves (apparently it was not the only office affected).
Last year, Kevin Johns, a construction worker in the Bronx, did his taxes at the H&R Block store on Riverdale Avenue that he had used for the past 20 years or so. The next day, though, he got a call from the tax preparer: his return was rejected because he had already filed. Or at least, someone had filed in his name. That someone helped himself or herself to a $8,499 refund.
Sharon Hawa, a disaster-relief coordinator with the Red Cross and another longtime customer at the same office, had a similar experience. Ms. Hawa said she went to have her taxes done, only to be told that someone had already e-filed her taxes and collected $6,145.
Both Ms. Hawa and Mr. Johns said they were told by police detectives investigating their cases that at least 20 customers of the branch and possibly many more had been robbed by identity thieves who were very likely H&R Block employees. Both said the fraudulent filers used their previous year’s adjusted gross incomes as proof of identity.
Top Tips for Tax Time Identity Theft Protection Safe Preparation
Your greatest risk of identity theft during tax season comes from your tax preparer. In this case it was because they are dishonest, but sometimes it is because they are careless with your sensitive documents. Just ask yourself how easy it would be for your tax preparer or anyone in their office to walk off with a few client folders containing mounds of profitable identity. Here are a few effective solutions:
Choose your preparer wisely
How well do you know the person and company preparing your taxes? Did they come personally recommended, or could they be earning cash on the side by selling your personal information. Do they have an established record and are they recommended by the Better Business Bureau? Don’t be afraid to ask for references.
Asking professional tax preparers these questions sends them a message that you are watching. Identity thieves tend to stay away from people they know are actively monitoring for fraud. Remember, losing your identity inside of their accounting or bookkeeping business poses a tremendous legal liability to their livelihood. When it comes to the case with H&R Block it causes a huge loss of clients due to a damaged reputation.
John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.