Help Better Protect Yourself Against Tax Identity Theft
January 31, 2017 : Allie Freeland – Contributing Editor
It’s Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. Why does it need its own week? Unfortunately it is an ever-growing problem that can be a headache to resolve.
Tax identity theft occurs when someone takes your personal information and uses it to file a fraudulent tax return in order to obtain a refund from the IRS. They have the refund sent to their own bank account. Then, when you go to file your tax return, the IRS may reject it because it sees your tax return as a duplicate.
Handling a case of tax identity theft can take months – and that means months of you not getting your tax refund. The burden of proving that the initial tax return is false rests on the victim. You would have to provide proof that you are the legitimate filer and the other tax return is fraudulent. Most importantly, you have to show you didn’t receive the refund.
What’s Being Done to Address This?
For one, the IRS has instituted the Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) program. The IP PIN is a unique identifier that is only available to the rightful filer of the return. The IP PIN changes every year, and once you obtain one it must be used on every tax return you file, indefinitely.
Further, the IRS is also dedicating more employees to victim case resolution and pursuing more criminal investigations and enforcement.
H&R Block is also working to help provide products that can help better protect you from tax identity theft. For the third year, we are offering Tax Identity Shield®. Tax Identity Shield® offers unique tools to help you better protect yourself from this painful problem and gives you confidence knowing you’re taking steps to help reduce your risk of becoming a victim when you file your next tax return.
What is Tax Identity Shield®?
There are several features included in Tax Identity Shield®.
Tax Identity Theft Protection Features
- IRS Protection Assistance – We’ll help you request tax identity protections from the IRS (subject to availability).
- Tax Identity Theft Risk Assessment – We’ll calculate your potential risk for tax identity theft in December or January, and offer recommendations to help reduce your chances of tax identity theft.
- Education – From self-assessments to email newsletters and breach alerts, we’ll keep you informed of tax identity theft-related issues that might affect you.
- E-File Monitoring – We’ll monitor your tax return information in our H&R Block system and inform you if someone tries to e-file a tax return through our H&R Block system using your personal details.
- Credit Score & Credit Report – We’ll give the primary account holder access to one Equifax® Credit Score and Credit Report. Based on an Equifax® Credit Score model – third parties likely use a different score to assess your creditworthiness.3
Tax Identity Restoration Features (If You Become a Victim Next Year)
- Tax Identity Restoration Assistance – A dedicated H&R Block Restoration Agent will walk you through the restoration process to help restore your tax identity. They’ll give you advice, answer questions you have, and help you file an FTC identity theft affidavit. In most states, your H&R Block Restoration Agent will also be able to assist with state tax identity restoration.
- One-Year Access to Equifax Complete™ Premier – We’ll give you a 1-year subscription to Equifax Complete™ Premier, so you can get a review of your Equifax 3-bureau credit report, as well as credit monitoring and identity monitoring to watch for further fraudulent activity. We’ll also help you place an automatic fraud alert which encourages lenders to take extra steps to verify your identity before extending new credit.4
If you are interested in learning more, talk with your H&R Block tax professional or visit the Tax Identity Shield® website.
What if My Identity has Already Been Stolen?
If you go to file your tax return this year and discover that someone has already filed a tax return using your personal information, H&R Block can still help out. Talk with one of our tax professionals about Tax Identity Victim Restoration Assistance. This service will help you file the correct form with the IRS, and give you a checklist so you know the steps to take to make the necessary police reports, notify the credit bureaus as well as the FTC and Social Security Administration, contact your financial institutions and more.
Tax identity theft is definitely a headache, but we are here to help make it a little easier on you.
Footnote 1: Qualifying individuals only. See www.irs.gov for qualifications .
Footnote 2: Please refer to your Tax Identity Shield® Terms, Conditions and Limitations document for a complete description of Tax Identity Shield®, as well as applicable conditions and limitations.
Footnote 3: The credit score provided under the offers described here use the Equifax Credit Score, which is a proprietary credit model developed by Equifax. The Equifax Credit Score is intended for your own educational use. It is also commercially available to third parties along with numerous other credit scores and models in the marketplace. Please keep in mind third parties are likely to use a different score when evaluating your creditworthiness. Also, third parties will take into consideration items other than your credit score or information found in your credit file, such as your income.
Footnote 4: The Automatic Fraud Alert feature is made available to consumers by Equifax Information Services LLC and fulfilled on its behalf by Equifax Consumer Services LLC.
Equifax is a registered trademark of Equifax, Inc. Other product and company names mentioned herein are property of their respective owners.