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Identity theft, unemployment fraud, and tax fraud

As in years prior, identity theft, unemployment fraud, and tax fraud scams continue to be a source of frustration throughout the United States. The typical scenario involves a fraudster filing a tax return or unemployment claim with a person’s Social Security Number (SSN), address, approximated income, and in the case of unemployment fraud, a driver’s license number. This information is often obtained from several sources: financial institutions, insurance companies, healthcare agencies, credit agencies, IRS, etc.

Each year, only a very small number of MSU employees have been victims of these particular types of fraud. Over the past year, MSU has devoted considerable attention and resources to reduce the amount of sensitive personal information such as SSNs it stores and uses and to maximize the security of all SSNs that still need to be stored on its servers.

Unemployment fraud and tax fraud continue to be a nationwide problem. MSU’s Information Security office and the MSU Police Department (MSUPD) evaluate each case of reported tax fraud and unemployment fraud and analyze it for suspicious activity in connection with the victim’s MSU accounts. Information Security will continue to monitor our systems’ integrity, but there are steps employees can and should take to prevent these kinds of fraud.

Here are five ways you can protect yourself:

  1. Be wary of clicking links in unsolicited emails that appear to be from online tax filing services or the IRS.
    This is a popular phishing scam. Intuit, which operates TurboTax, provides a list of phishing emails currently making the rounds in its online security center. The IRS also produces a list of the most common scams on their “Dirty Dozen” page.
  2. Take advantage of the security features provided by your tax preparation service. 
     Many new anti-theft features have been created by tax preparation services in response to the rise in tax-time identity theft. For example, TurboTax provides security measures to their users such as a six-digit code for increased security when logging in, as well as Touch ID technology for accessing one’s information. The IRS has also published guidance surrounding Identity Theft on their “Prevention, Detection, and Victim Assistance” page.
  3. Know the warning signs . 
     Being contacted by the IRS about one of the following may indicate fraudulent activity:
    • Multiple tax returns were filed with your SSN.
    • You owe taxes for a year that you did not file a tax return.
    • IRS information shows that you received wages from an employer for whom you did not work.
    • Your employer receives notification regarding a claim for benefits while you are still employed.
    • The IRS sends you a statement of benefits collected (Form 1099G) from the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)

The IRS has published a full guide of steps to take regarding Identity Theft here.

  1. Remember, the IRS uses mail for official communications. 
     Beware of emails claiming to be from the IRS. According to the IRS, they do not initiate communications via email with taxpayers to request their personal information. Be equally wary of phone calls claiming to be from the IRS. There is currently a scam involving callers identifying themselves as IRS employees — with knowledge about the victim — calling from a phone number that even appears to be the IRS. The IRS will never call you and ask for financial or personal information over the phone. Additionally, the IRS does not ever threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment, or other enforcement action.
    • If you receive an email or call claiming to be from the IRS, you can confirm it by calling the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.
  2. Be proactive. 
    • File your tax return as early as possible. By doing so, you could be beating scammers to the punch.
    • As much as possible, track where you have given out your SSN and limit who and where you give it out. If a company wants your SSN but provides the option to use another unique identification number for you, such as your driver’s license number, opt to give them the less sensitive information.

If you believe your tax return was filed without your knowledge, here’s what you should do:

  1. Call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 for guidance.
  2. Complete Form 14039-Identity Theft Affidavit to prove that you’re the real taxpayer.
  3. Notify your local police department. If you need to file the report with the MSUPD, their non-emergency contact number is 517-355-2222.
  4. Contact the MSUPD at 517-432-7942 and ask for Fraud Detective Nicole Simi.
  5. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

If you believe you are the victim of Unemployment Identity Theft:

  1. Contact the Unemployment Insurance Agency immediately to report the fraud, either at or by calling the UIA Fraud hotline at 1-855-842-7463
  2. Complete Form 14039-Identity Theft Affidavit to report the fraudulent payment.
  3. Notify your local police department. If you need to file the report with the MSUPD, their non-emergency contact number is 517-355-2222.
  4. Contact the MSUPD at 517-432-7942 and ask for Fraud Detective Nicole Simi.