Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

February 01, 2018 : Diamond Lambert

Editor’s Note: In honor of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, the H&R Block team has collected up-to-date facts and tips to increase awareness and promote tax data education all-year-around.

 

As our world becomes further enmeshed with the capabilities of technology, opportunities are on the rise for data hackers to obtain your most confidential information. Each year, thieves attempt to claim billions of dollars in fraudulent refunds from the IRS, and the problem is not expected to disappear.

In 2017 alone, over 1,500 data breaches exposed the sensitive information of millions of Americans. These incidents spanned across various U.S. industries including banking, business, education, government, and even health care. Many of these breaches included names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers – the essentials needed to file a return in your name.

The Identity Theft Resource Center identified nearly 178 million exposed records and warns consumers to become proactive. Read on as we explore the dark web and several options to consider when filing your 2017 tax return.

 

What’s Happening?

The dark web is the portion of the internet where criminals purchase and sell personal information (also known as the Black Market portion of the internet).

Much like a marketplace, data thieves can obtain countless items such as:

  • -A U.S. credit card that can sell for as little as $12
  • -A replica driver’s license that goes for an average of $100
  • -Fabricated Social Security number’s (SSN’s) starting at $250

If you already suspect that your information has been compromised, we highly suggest requesting a security freeze to avoid potential damage. This can be done by contacting one of the credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian) directly.

 

What Are My Options?

There are three key things you can do to protect yourself against tax identity theft this tax filing season:

 

Black Market Internet Scanning – Tax Identity Shield® is an H&R Block product that helps to protect your tax identity for next year’s tax return. We are proud to unveil a new feature of Tax Identity Shield this year: Black Market Internet Scanning, offering members more value and more protection for the same price.

This feature includes a daily sweep of the dark web for your personal data. If your personal data is identified as being for sale, Tax Identity Shield® will notify and guide you to take the appropriate next steps.

 

File Early – Our tax pros are ready and accepting appointments. Keep in mind: a falsely-filed tax return can delay your refund up to 6 months or more. Visit our Find A Tax Pro page to arrange an in-office appointment today.

No time to visit an office location? Consider alternative options like our H&R Block Tax Pro Go product which allows you to submit your W-2’s and relevant materials to a certified Tax Pro. Your Tax Pro will prepare the return for you, you will review and approve the return remotely, and you’ll never have to step foot in an office.

If you’re someone who prefers the d.i.y. approach, check out Tax Pro Review which allows you to complete your taxes using our online software, but before your tax return is submitted to the IRS, one of our Tax Pros will review your return.

 

Monitor Your Credit– Checking your credit should be more than an occasional task. Review your credit report regularly, at least once a year with myfreecreditreport.com. Also, if you purchase Tax Identity Shield®, you get access to a one-time copy of your credit score and credit report.

Some national banks also provide FICO score monitoring. Ideally, each time you log into your account, your up-to-date score is readily accessible.

 

Let’s Get Started

Guarding your personal information from dark web lurkers should be top-of-mind 365 days a year.

Make a proactive decision and contact your local H&R Block Tax Pro to discuss enrolling in Tax Identity Shield®. Or, give us a call at 1-800-HRBLOCK.

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Diamond Lambert

Diamond Lambert

Diamond Lambert, M.Sc., is a marketing manager within the advertising and brand team. She is a graduate of Franklin University holding a master's degree in marketing and mass communications. Her contributions include a mix of IRS tax news, lifestyle pieces, and consumer information.