Guidance on protecting yourself from fraudulent tax return filings

The following email was sent today to the Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine communities by Stephanie Reel, vice provost and CIO for information technology at JHU and senior vice president for management systems and information services at Johns Hopkins Medicine; and Keith Hill, vice president for corporate security, JHU and JHM:

Dear Colleagues,

During the 2015 tax season, several members of our faculty and staff made us aware that fraudulent tax filings were made on their behalf. During the 2016 tax filing season, we wanted to provide you with some important information that may help keep you from becoming a victim of identity theft. You should, of course, consult with your tax preparer if you have questions or concerns.

Based on guidance provided by the IRS, here are some things you can do to protect yourself:
+ File your taxes early for both federal and state, even if you expect to owe money. You can defer your payment until April 15 if you file before that date.
+ The IRS and most states' comptroller's offices will send notices or requests through the U.S. mail, not by email or telephone. If you have any questions about a communication from the IRS or a state comptroller, do not hesitate to call them to verify.

If you suspect or have confirmation that your taxes have been fraudulently filed, we encourage you to visit the identity protection page on the IRS website for information about prevention, detection and victim assistance. We also suggest that you notify Corporate Security at Other important steps to consider:
+ Request an Identity Protection PIN from the IRS as an additional measure of security to prevent future false filings.
+ Place a fraud alert in your name with the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if you are a victim of identity theft and submit a copy of a valid identity theft report that you filed with a federal, state or local law enforcement agency, then you may request an extended fraud victim alert from the three credit bureaus, which lasts for seven years.
+ Create an identity theft report with the FTC. The FTC may require that you file your report on a desktop computer rather than a smartphone or tablet. It also provides a useful checklist of steps you should take to recover from identity theft.

While we don't endorse any third-party websites, here are several sites that may be helpful:
+ Obtain a free copy of your credit report at to ensure that no one has obtained credit or opened an account in your name. Since each credit bureau maintains a file on you, consider accessing one bureau every four months to cover an entire year.
+ Monitor your credit report and credit scores. Credit Karma, Credit Sesame and Quizzle are free services that provide you with a copy of your credit report and credit scores, and will monitor any changes reported to the credit bureaus.

We sincerely hope that no Johns Hopkins faculty or staff member becomes a victim of identity theft. For additional information or tax questions, contact your tax preparer or visit the IRS website.