A heads up to regular readers. This post is a little ranty because I’m fairly frustrated with the criminal justice system on this issue. Stay tuned for another post soon where we talk about some moves that we’re taking to provide an even better security.
A few months ago, I found myself the unexpected victim identity fraud in the form of of unemployment benefit fraud. I followed all the steps to protect myself in that article, and have been since victimized again. This time, tax fraud. Or rather, attempted tax fraud.
So far, the steps that I outlined in my previous post did their jobs. My credit report is locked down for the next seven years. (An inconvenience, but worth it to not be stolen from.) I have filed alerts and complaints with what feels like 8 million different agencies, and I have my bank accounts so locked down that I need to show ID if I make a deposit in a branch. A deposit! It’s an annoyance for the tellers, but until this stuff calms down, I’m leaving that on there.
How Did This Happen If Everything Is Locked Down?
There are a few things that I have no control over locking down. You can file an IRS Identity Theft Affadavit, but until they investigate and (if!) they decide to issue you a pin number for filing future returns, your tax return status is wide open. Are you scared? (Apparently you should be if you are entitled to refunds…)
The other thing that is a bit wide open is my social security records. I have an account on socialsecurity.gov, where I can check and make sure the social security work records under my name are correct (someone working under your name can cause big problems down the road). But this information is only updated once per year, usually in the fall. So far it’s clean, but like I said… who knows what fun awaits after the next update!
Oh No! What Happened This Time?
Thanks so much for your concern, it means a lot. Truly. =)
I woke up a couple of weeks ago to a series of email messages from HRBlock.com. You might remember that we use a tax guy to file our taxes, and he’s not from HRBlock. So when I read the message subjects that in timestamped order are:
- H&RBlock: Online Account Created
- H&RBlock: Your Emerald Card Confirmation
- H&RBlock: Federal Return Submitted
- H&RBlock: Federal Tax Return Rejected
I said, “You’re f-ing kidding me, right? At least the last one says rejected.”
And So It Began Again
The process of filing complaints with the police, the FTC, H&RBlock, the IRS. The endless phone calls, the follow-ups, the faxing paperwork, making copies, organizing documentation.
I quickly found out that my email, my ssn, and my name were used to file a tax return that was rejected because we had already filed a tax return.
I’m now of the belief that these may be the stupidest criminals in the world since they filed for unemployment benefits after (I believe) getting my current employment information off of linked in. You know, where it clearly stated I was still gainfully employed. Then they filed for taxes in my name AFTER April 15th.
So right now I have luck (aka their lack of brain cells) on my side. But I still want something done about this! And this is what I am faced with.
Gridlock On Justice Blvd
Local Police – We can’t do anything since we don’t know what jurisdiction the crime took place in. Find out where it occurred and we can get you connected over there. *Sigh* I can try to get the address from H&RBlock.
IRS – You can send in an addendum to your original ID Theft Affadavit, but since you aren’t really a victim here since they didn’t get any money it’s probably not going to get investigated. If you know where the crime happened, that jurisdiction should pursue it. But we also can’t guarantee that you’ll be issued a pin to secure your 2013 filing. Really? How hard is it for you to assign a six-digit number?
H&RBlock – I called 17 different offices and numbers trying to get into what is legally “my” H&RBlock account. The criminals hadn’t used my information when filling in the security questions, finally was transferred to a nice kid in tech support who showed me how to break into “my” account, which was do-able since the stupid criminals used my email address for the login. Thanks tech support kid!
After getting the address to which they wanted the prepaid mastercard with the tax refund loaded on it sent, I now had a way to file a police report in the correct jurisdiction. Where is that jurisdiction?
1 mile from the address that I filed the unemployment benefits fraud reports in January.
1 mile away.
1 FREAKING mile.
I can’t help but think that this wouldn’t have happened had that jurisdiction actually done SOMETHING with the report instead of nothing – scratch that, they forwarded that complaint to the Florida Department of Financial Services and THEY did NOTHING.
What Did The Thieves’ Police Force Do?
I called the Police for the jurisdiction of the fraud this time around. Despite being so close, it’s technically a different jurisdiciton, so I was hopeful that MAYBE something would actually be done.
Nope. Instead this…
Police Woman: “There’s no crime here, you can’t file a police report. No crime, no victim, no report. And if they had succeeded it would be a federal crime anyhow.”
I (perhaps less kindly than I should have) reminded her that even if unsuccessful, fraudulent use of another person’s identifying information is against the Florida State Statutes. (In fact, it’s a felony according to Fla Statute 817.568 and if they can prove they attempted ID fraud on at least 28 other occurrences, that’s a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years whether they’re successful attempts or not!)
After some persuasion, she did eventually connect me with a superior who allowed me to file a report in that jurisdiction. And said that all he could do was offer to mail me an ID Theft packet that basically outlined all the steps I’d already taken 4 months ago. And quite clearly hadn’t prevented tax fraud.
Whether they’re just trying to suppress crime rates there or what, I really can’t say, but it’s very disappointing and frustrating that you would have to FIGHT to file a crime report when a FELONY has been perpetrated against you. (Sorry for the all caps. But seriously!)
I’ve called the FBI, who told me to call the FTC, who said all they are is a database of victims (mind you, the database has all the victims SSN’s, so we’re all doubly screwed if their system is ever hacked). The FTC told me to call the IRS… and so you can see this neverending cycle.
No one wants to take ownership of this. And it’s incredibly frustrating. Check out my awesome “Blame Game” diagram that I sketched out for all of the madness.
Not to jump on the issue of the day, but it was really frustrating that pretty much every agency was telling me the IRS should pursue the investigation, but the IRS passed the buck at the same time all the recent IRS scandals and reports of wasteful spending were coming to light.
The Bright Side
I’ve been able to trace this back to where I believe it began about 15 months ago. And while it’s been particularly frustrating immediately following these two recent incidents, the criminals haven’t gotten anything. My credit is intact. And I KNOW what to expect.
If we don’t get issued a PIN (though I’m really hoping we do), we will be filing our taxes as early as possible to prevent any window of opportunity for the thieves to file before us.
Perhaps more importantly, I’ve become aware of some of the vulnerabilities in the system, and Mr. PoP and I are devising ways around those vulnerabilities, which we’ll talk about in our next (significantly less ranty) post on this topic.
Have you ever been the victim of identity theft? Were the criminals ever prosecuted? What steps have you taken to prevent that from happening?