April 23, 2015

Take steps to help prevent becoming an identity theft and tax fraud victim

As part of a national trend in recent months targeting the public, and in
particular health care professionals, there has been an increase in
identity theft that is resulting in fraudulent tax filings. A typical
scenario is when an individual's stolen personal information is used to
file a false tax return in the victim's name in order to receive the tax

This form of identity theft is not new. According to widely reported news
accounts in 2014, the Internal Revenue Service sent out nearly three
million fraudulent refunds last year.

Many of the techniques employed by the identity thieves are similar to
those seen before through email phishing schemes. These attacks however,
when combined with tax fraud, are increasing in rate and intensity.

There are measures you, your spouse/partner, and/or dependents can take to reduce your risk and enable early detection of tax fraud.

The following steps are recommended:

* Set up an IRS.gov e-services
before someone else sets one up in your name or that of your
spouse/partner, or your dependents.

* Set up an SSA.gov account <http://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/> (My Social
Security) for yourself, your spouse or your dependents.

* Consider signing up for Opt-Out to reduce unsolicited credit card
requests by calling 888-5OPT-OUT or registering online at
optoutprescreen.com <https://www.optoutprescreen.com/?rf=t>.

* Order your free credit report yearly and review it by visiting
annualcreditreport.com <https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action> or calling 877-322-8228.

* Set up a separate email address to be used exclusively for your
financial and tax information. Consider using a login process that
requires more than one method of authentication on this email account.

* Consider reviewing your digital footprint (all of your email
addresses, log-ins to shopping sites, social media sites, etc.) and take
steps to reduce your footprint whenever possible.

* Consider the use of a professional identity protection service, or
check with your insurance carrier to learn about any services they offer.

Vanderbilt University Information Technology will continue to monitor
internal systems for any relevant breach, none of which has been detected
to date.

If you believe you are the victim of identity theft, please file
a report with the Vanderbilt University Police Department in addition to
contacting the Internal Revenue Service. Filing with VUPD will establish
a record of those impacted in the workplace and help determine
commonalities among victims.