Identity Theft of H&R Block Customers | Sileo Group

H&R Block identity theft

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.

Interview your preparer before you turn over sensitive information. Ask them exactly how they protect your privacy (do they have a strong privacy policy?). Are they meeting with you in a room full of client files, or do they take you to a neutral, data-free, conference room or office? Do they leave files out on their desk for the cleaning service to access at night, or do they lock your documents in a filing cabinet or behind a secure office door? Do they protect their computers with everything listed in the next section?

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.

 

Posted by Identity Theft Speaker in Fraud Detection & Prevention, Identity Theft Prevention and tagged , , , , , , .

8 Responses to Identity Theft of H&R Block Customers | Sileo Group

  1. Brenda L. Boettcher: April 14, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    I had my information compromised by H&R Block in Winona, Minnesota, by the office manager who was terminated for her illegal activity on May 1, 2009. H&R Block then allowed this terminated office manager to form a five-person partnership and purchase as a franchise the very office she was terminated from. H&R Block clients are at risk for further data breaches. Please contact the managers responsible for this lapse in security: Kelly Pearson kpearson@hrblock.com and Mike Duncan mduncan@hrblock.com H&R Block had an obligation to make a public notification after the data breach according to Minnesota Statute 325E.61. Protect your privacy… don’t use H&R block

  2. Steve Carlton: May 6, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    H&R Block had indeed terminated Becky Erdmann for illegal disclosure of financial data and she is now a business owner at the Winona Mall franchise in Winona, Minnesota. If you have any questions about Ms. Erdmann’s termination please contact me at scarlton@hrblock.com

  3. karen white: July 21, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    they are crooks. they took my social security number – and my families and filed a return..they hire anyone.

  4. conga drums: September 25, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I?ve just lately started a blog, the info you produce on this internet site has assisted me tremendously. Thanks for all of your time & operate.

  5. Mike Nolden: April 28, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    You are not alone in the identity theft issue concerns. This owner is suing Block to protect her clients info from the company!

    LOVELAND, CO — Linda Wild, owner of H&R Block Tax Service LLC franchisee Advantage Tax Solutions, has filed a complaint against H&R Block in Larimer County District Court over who has control and, ultimately, access to her customers’ tax return information.

    Wild, who employs as many as 20 people including seven Enrolled Agents during the tax season, contends that the Fortune 500 company is trying to force her to use a tax preparation software that it can’t contractually require her to use under her franchise agreement. And, more importantly, the use of such software would result in the sharing of any and all of her customers’ income tax information with all H&R Block agents, employees, affiliates and their employees. Doing so would not only violate IRS code restricting tax preparers from sharing tax return information without client permission, resulting in potential criminal penalties for her and her staff, but it violates her own ethical practices, as well.

    Seven of Wild’s customers are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

    Although H&R Block officials confirmed in 2002 that their franchise agreement with Wild does not require her to use their software, they informed her in March 2011 that they were terminating her franchise agreement for what they consider a breach in her refusal to use the software. Wild has been an H&R Block franchisee for 30 years.

    Wild disputes H&R Block’s authority to terminate her existing franchise agreement. Wild’s contract states that only she can terminate the agreement with 120 days’ notice. Not only did H&R Block fail to give her that much warning with its notice to terminate, but because what software she uses is not part of her existing franchise agreement, she is not in breach of it.

    http://denver.yourhub.com/Denver/Stories/Business-News/Story~976519.aspx

  6. L. Miller: December 9, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Not just at the physical sites for HR Block, but on line too. My information was sent and used by a person we never met. Meaning my account information went to a stranger’s email. HR Block denied it. I am still fighting that.!

  7. Sarina: March 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I am Dealing with the same situation now…. they are telling me my computer was hacked and they are not liable. funny enough they claim to have a safe and secure page upon entering the site.

  8. Kellita Joy-Storm Burnette: April 16, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    Any and all help is needed. Someone called and Ordered another card in my name. They took the rest of my money and H and R block denied my claim saying it wasnt fraudulent. Whoever it was spent it in another state and to me to get another card sent you would think it would take alot of security and they didnt just my name and last 4 of my social. Please help if anyone can

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