As you have probably seen on the news, identity theft is on the rise, and PSU’s HR and ITS offices have recently been made aware that a very small number of the PSU community members have become victims of tax-related identity theft. “Tax-related identity theft is when someone uses your Social Security number to file a false tax return claiming a fraudulent refund” (irs.gov). What we are seeing at PSU is not an isolated incident, but sadly, represents a significant national uptick. According to the IRS, the number of fraudulent return filings has been growing over the last few years. The General Accounting Office now reports that over 5 million fraudulent returns were submitted for tax year 2013, and 2.9 million of these were tax-related identity theft. Of the 122 million taxpayers in that year, 2.9 million represents 2.3% of the population. They expect the number for tax year 2014 will be far higher. PSU has been making an examination of our own systems, we have been working with the Information Security Office at USNH, and we have contacted cyber-security experts with the Office of Homeland Security. At this time, we have no indications that any PSU or USNH system was breached.
Knowing that you are not alone in this is of little comfort after it has occurred.
What should I do to prevent this?
We have reached out to the Department of Homeland Security and looked at IRS publications and have identified the following preventative actions you can take:
· Submit your tax return early
· Be careful of email messages claiming to be from the IRS or from a tax preparer (TurboTax, H&R Block, etc..) as they might be phishing
· Protect your computers by using firewalls, anti-virus software, update security patches and change passwords for any internet account on a regular basis.
· Visit the IRS site for more information (http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Identity-Protection)
What if I have already fallen victim to Tax-related Identity theft?
· File a police report with your local police department.
· Follow the instructions provided in the IRS notice.
Refer to the IRS publication for further actions (http://www.irs.gov/uac/Taxpayer-Guide-to-Identity-Theft)