H&R Block customers warned of tax-season text scam

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By Jim Carr By Jim Carr

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Charlee Pennington and her mom both received the text message causing trouble for taxpayers nationwide.

The text appears to come from H&R Block, and reads “H&R Emerald Card issue” and asks you to call. Pennington did.

“It says to activate your card, pretty much, to put in your account, your 12-digit card number and your pin number and the four digits of your Social [Security number],” she explained.

Pennington had her taxes done at H&R Block two weeks ago and chose to put her $3,000 refund on a debit card that  H&R Block offers called an Emerald Card.

The refund is important to Pennington. She plans on using the card, with the refund on it, to support her family after she gives birth in a few weeks.

“It was pretty much my rent, and everything, my food, all that kind of stuff for us to live off of while the baby is born,” she said.

Pennington entered all that personal information she was asked for by that recorded message.

But then days later, she got a courtesy call from her H&R Block tax preparer, warning her about a scam.

“She said that her boss, when she got into the office, her manager had said something about a scam, that she didn't know any information but someone did a scam to someone,” she recalled.

Pennington says her heart dropped, because she realized that the text message she had received was in fact a scam in an attempt to steal her refund money off that debit card.

“That's a lot of money to just, poof, to someone who we don't even know who they are, probably can’t trace them, nothing. It's just gone,” Pennington said.

In a statement, an H&R Block representative tells 3 On Your Side:

“We believe the text was sent by someone with a random list of cell phone numbers and we have no reason to believe our systems were unlawfully accessed. We’re advising recipients not to respond to the text, not to call the number provided or to offer any personal information in response. H&R Block does not send urgent text messages asking clients to provide, update or confirm sensitive data.”
(Read H&R Block's online security notice.)

Lucky for Pennington, she caught on to the con just in time.

H&R Block rerouted her refund money just two hours before it was set to be deposited onto her Emerald Card. Pennington says she can't believe she was that close to losing $3,000.

“This can't happen to me. I can't be scammed,” she said. “I mean, you hear about it but it was like, I just didn't believe it.”