ICFE eNEWS #19-04 - February 11th 2019
Cybercriminals File Fraudulent Tax Returns
It's that time
of year again - tax season. Hopefully, you'll get a nice refund.
As you work with your accountant or submit your return through
do-it-yourself software, what happens if you learn that a return
has already been filed under your name and your refund has been
Tax-return fraud has become such a significant
problem that the government has coined a term for it: Stolen
Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF), and the Internal Revenue
Service (IRS) has a team of more than 3,000 people designated to
handle fraudulent tax filings(1). According to an article
published by LifeLock, employment or tax-related fraud accounts
for 34% of the six types of identity theft(2). A recent article
in Forbes indicates that cybercriminals are "ramping up their
attempts to steal information through tax filings and
preparers."(3) According to the Government Accountability Office
(GAO), "The IRS estimated online robbers attempted to steal at
least $12.2 billion, if not more, through identity theft tax
refund fraud in 2016. IRS vigilance thwarted most of those
attempts, but the fakers got away with at least $1.6
billion."(4) Cybercrime experts anticipate this type of crime
will not only persist, but expand.
pose as the IRS, a tax-filing agency, or other tax-related
organization to steal personal information through phishing,
which is an attempt to steal personal information through email,
smishing (SMS/text phishing), vishing (voice phishing) phone
calls, or fake mailings. Beware of any unexpected communications
that request personal information such as your Social Security
number, banking information, or other personal data.
type of crime does not discriminate. While criminals target
banking and other highly compensated professions, they also go
after patients in hospitals and residents in nursing homes,
victimizing the elderly, sick, and their grieving families when
they are most vulnerable. They work early in the year before we
have received the documents required to submit returns. By the
time you realize that you're a victim, the criminals have
disappeared with your money.
It is always important to
protect your personal information, but heightened diligence is
critical during tax season. Learn to recognize the most common
social engineering schemes and follow these helpful tips(5) both
at work and at home:
If you receive suspicious tax-related communication in whatever
form at work, whether work-related or personal, contact ITSecurity@labcorp.com or email@example.com.
Never share your or your colleagues' personal, tax-related
- Protect Personal and
Financial Records: Do not carry your
Social Security card in your wallet or purse and only
provide the number if it is necessary. Secure personal
information at home and protect personal computers with
anti-spam and anti-virus software. Routinely change
passwords for online accounts.
- Don't Fall for Scams: Criminals
often try to impersonate banks, credit card companies, and
even the IRS hoping to steal personal data. Review all
communications carefully. NOTE: The IRS
will not call a taxpayer threatening a lawsuit, arrest, or
to demand immediate payment.
- If you receive an email
claiming to be from the IRS that requests personal
information, immediately forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org,
then delete the message without clicking any links or
- If you receive an email
or telephone call claiming to be from the IRS, call the
IRS directly at 800-829-1040 to confirm the legitimacy
of the request, especially if the message is threatening
or demands immediate payment.
- Report Tax-Related ID
Theft: If you learn that someone has
filed a tax return using your Social Security number, take
the following actions:
- File a tax return by
paper and pay any taxes owed.
- File an IRS Form 14039,
Identity Theft Affidavit. Print the form and mail or fax
it according to the instructions. Include it with the
paper tax return and/or attach a police report
describing the theft if available.
- File a report with the
Federal Trade Commission using the FTC
- Contact Social
Security Administration and type in
"identity theft" in the search box.
- Contact financial
institutions to report the alleged identity theft.
- Contact one of the three
credit bureaus so they can place a fraud alert or credit
freeze on the affected account.
- Check with the applicable
state tax agency to see if there are additional steps to
take at the state level.
- IRS Letters. If
the IRS identifies a suspicious tax return with a taxpayer's
stolen Social Security number, that taxpayer may receive a
letter asking them verify their identity by calling a
special number or visiting an IRS Taxpayer Assistance
- IP PIN. If
a taxpayer is a confirmed ID theft victim, the IRS may issue
them an IP PIN. The IP PIN is a unique six-digit number that
the taxpayer uses to e-file their tax return. Each year,
they will receive an IRS letter with a new IP PIN.
- Report Suspicious
Activity. If you suspect or know of an
individual or business that is committing tax fraud, visit
IRS.gov and follow the instructions on How to Report
Suspected Tax Fraud Activity.
To learn more, please visit the OIS Resource Repository in
OneWorld for information on Identity
other information security topics. If you have any questions,
1. Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, "Identity theft
spreads to tax refunds: Cybercriminals file with others' ID,"
Joe Taschler, February 15, 2015.
2. LifeLock, "How Common Is Identity Theft? (Updated 2018) The
Latest Stats," April 13, 2018.
3. Forbes, "4 Ways To Prevent Tax Data Theft," John Wasik,
Contributor, January 11, 2019.
4. The Washington Post, "Thieves targeted $12 billion through
IRS tax fraud," Joe
Columnist, October 19, 2018.
5. IRS, "Eight
Tips to Protect Taxpayers from Identity Theft," ,
Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 09-Aug-2018
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Paul S. Richard
President - Executive Director
Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE)
About the ICFE:
The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by
the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
designation and founder of the College for Financial Planning in Denver, CO.)
The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending
practices, increase savings and use credit more wisely.
The ICFE is an
award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped
millions of people through its financial continuing education courses programs
and resources. In addition to eight Certification courses covering identity
theft, credit files, credit repair and credit scoring, among others, it also
publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated
annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning
Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.
The ICFE is a partner
with the national Jump$tart Coalition for Financial Literacy and the California
Jump$tart chapter. The ICFE staff is also active with San Diego Saves and
Military Saves, both offshoots of America Saves.
The ICFE is also an
on-line help for consumers who spend too much. ICFE's spending help was featured
in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips
are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.
The ICFE helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about
the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and
implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and
how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G
library, a free eNews service, and an online resource center for students,
parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools in the ICFE Book