As Americans prepare to file their tax returns, H&R Block is warning them to protect themselves from stolen tax identity refund fraud.
In 2013, the IRS identified nearly three million possible fraudulent returns and more than $5 billion in fraudulent refunds.
Most fraudsters act early to maximize the window of opportunity. According to H&R Block, the ideal tax fraud victim has some of the following five characteristics:
- If someone does not have to file a return, a fraudster can easily submit a fake one.
- Those not expecting a refund or expecting to pay have little incentive to file early, leaving a larger time gap.
- living in a state with no income tax return are susceptible to having their information used by someone in another state.
- Families with multiple dependents have more social security numbers to protect. Fraudsters often take children’s numbers and file false returns.
- People who move but do not tell the IRS can have their W-2 sent to the wrong address where it is intercepted by someone with nefarious aims.
The IRS introduced the Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) program. Both the agency and taxpayer use the IP PIN during e-filing to confirm taxpayer identity.
H&R Block has augmented IP PIN through its Tax Identity Shield program, introduced as a partnership with Equifax. Tax Identity Shield provides several fraud prevention tools, including IP PIN application assistance, fraud risk assessment, Equinox score and credit report, detection alerts, and H & R Block identity restoration assistance.