PORTSMOUTH --Tiffany Whitney has filed her income taxes through Turbo Tax for three years in a row.
The Portsmouth resident has never had a problem until now. She received a $7,000 refund on February 1 and, like many Turbo Tax customers, she elected to have that money put on a Turbo Tax Visa card, which functions like a pre-paid debit card.
She spent a little more than $2,000 before a security hold was placed on the account that has a $4,484 balance. A company customer service representative told her she needed to verify Whitney's identity and asked her to fax over copies of her driver's license, social security and a utility bill.
Whitney did that and got worse news the next day.
'She told me it was closed permanently and I asked her why and she told me they were unable to verify that it was really me,' explains Whitney.
Confused and angry, Whitney spent the next several days trying to get answers from Turbo Tax.
In the meantime, she discovered that she wasn't alone. Consumer blogs across the Internet are dotted with complaints. One woman with an approaching wedding writes, 'Here it is 11 days until my wedding and I don't even have access to the money.' Another complains, 'The card never came and I called them and they requested information verifying my identity. I sent the information, but no matter what I send, they keep asking for more and will not give me my refund.'
She says she chose to get her refund on the card because it meant getting the money faster.
'This is not $100. This is $4,400! I'm a single parent. Nobody could help me,' she said.
In a Turbo Tax video on YouTube, a man identifying himself as Shawn, a member of the refund card team, says the security holds are the result of trying to prevent identity theft.
He explains, 'As a result of an increase we've seen across the industry in regards to identity theft and fraud related to customer refunds, there have been delays in responding to customer accounts and responding to customers. In order to address this, we have increased our processes and improved our communication to you, along the way to ensure legitimate customers get the refunds they deserve.'
Even though Whitney followed the steps outlined in the video to clear up any security questions, her account was closed.
It wasn't until the 13News Troubleshooters emailed the company about Whitney's case that things changed for her.
Four hours after we made contact, Whitney learned her account had been reopened and she could access her money. She says she plans to withdraw the money and place it in her personal bank account.