How to Protect Yourself Against Tax Identity Theft
Tax identity theft occurs when someone takes your personal information and uses it to file a fake return to get a refund from the IRS. They have the refund sent to their own bank account. Then, when you go to file your return, the IRS might reject it because it sees your return as a duplicate.
There are important steps you can take to protect your personal information and make yourself less vulnerable and help to protect against identity theft:
- Protect your Social Security number (SSN). Treat your SSN as confidential information. Don’t give any business your SSN unless you have a legitimate reason.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card or other documents that include it in your wallet or purse. Instead, keep them stored securely at home.
- Check your credit report periodically for strange activity.
- Protect personal computers and other electronics with firewalls and security updates.
- Change passwords regularly.
- Don’t give your SSN or other personal information out over the phone unless you initiated the call or know it’s a reliable person or agency requesting it. H&R Block and the IRS will never call you to ask for your SSN or personal information.
Handling a case of tax identity theft can take months – and that means it will take longer to get your tax refund. The burden of proving that the first return is false rests on the victim. You would have to provide proof that you are the legitimate filer and the other return is fraudulent. Most importantly, you have to show you didn’t receive the refund.
What’s being done to address identity theft?
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 owner of the return. The IP PIN changes every year, and once you start using an IP PIN, you have to use one on every return you file.
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 better protect you from tax identity theft. Our Tax Identity Shield® service offers unique tools to help you better protect yourself from this painful problem. It also gives you confidence knowing you’re taking steps to help reduce your risk of becoming a victim when you file your next 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, then 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 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 a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) identity theft affidavit. In most states, your H&R Block restoration agent can also help with state tax identity restoration.
- One-Year Access to Equifax Complete™ Premier – We’ll give you a one-year subscription to Equifax Complete™ Premier, so you can get a review of your Equifax three-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
To learn 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 return using your personal information, H&R Block can still help. 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
- 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
Tax identity theft can be frustrating, but we’re 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.
Find out how to reduce your tax liability with help from H&R Block. You can find out if you are withholding enough taxes with our tax liability formula.
Are you doing a good job of protecting yourself from tax fraud? Take this short self-assessment from H&R Block to see where you stand.
Learn more about Letter 1616, why you received it, and how to handle a substitute for return notice with help from the tax experts at H&R Block.