UW IT Security has noticed a slight increase in the number of reported cases of tax fraud perpetrated on UW employees. The typical case involves a fraudster filing a tax return with a person’s Social Security Number (SSN), address and approximation of income. Those three elements could have been obtained from a variety of sources. Addresses are easily obtained. UW
income is available online as a public record. SSNs are protected by the UW and there is no known exposure of UW Social Security Numbers stored on UW servers.
This fraud is a nationwide problem. However, the number of fraudulent returns being reported by UW-Madison staff to-date is extremely small considering the total population. The recent increase may be due to late filers just now discovering that fraud is the reason for delayed notice of a return. IT Security is looking at UW systems that contain data elements that could be used in filing a false tax return. We are validating again that UW systems have not been breached. It is important to understand where else tax-filers may have shared their SSN information, and to ensure appropriate precautions are taken.
While IT Security continues to check our systems’ integrity, we have published information on how to address the issue below, similar to the guidance you may have received from your tax specialists.
If you believe your tax return was filed without your knowledge, please file a report with the law enforcement jurisdiction where you reside. Also contact the University Police Department (UWPD) and request to file information regarding case 15-00638. UWPD will request specific information including name, date of birth, social security number, address, law enforcement agency taking your initial report, and the case number associated with your tax fraud report. UWPD will continue to work with the IRS and other investigative agencies to determine if links exist between those UW employees who have reported tax fraud. The UWPD non-emergency contact number is 608-264-2677.
Tax Fraud Background
By its very nature, tax season is stressful. With the filing deadline right around the corner, it can be made even worse if tax fraud comes in to play. While there is no specific or increased risk to the UW community, we should be aware of the current issues out there today.
In 2015, there has been at least one incident of tax return fraud on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. At least one other campus in the UW System has reported up to seven tax return fraud incidents. There are no identified incidents relating to a data breach in our course systems.
Nationally, there has been an increase in the number of people who have tried to e-file their taxes, only to find someone has already fraudulently filed on their behalf. In February, TurboTax stopped filing state income taxes for 24 hours after a reported increase in suspicious filings to use stolen identity information, file fraudulent returns, and claim the refund.
UW-Madison IT Security has received alerts from the FBI and IRS stating the increase in reported fraud incidents is expected to grow significantly as we get closer to the April 15th filing deadline.
What can you do right now?
The best advice is to take steps to protect your identity and report any problems.