As end-of-year 2016 tax statements start rolling into Americans' mailboxes in advance of the April 15 income tax filing deadline, Johns Hopkins wants its employees to be on the alert for possible scams.
During the 2014 and 2015 tax filing periods, several faculty and staff members alerted Johns Hopkins authorities that fraudulent tax filings had been submitted on their behalf, and the IRS is seeing an increase in these fraudulent filings across the country.
In an email to employees, Stephanie L. Reel, JHU vice provost and chief information officer and JHHS/JHM senior vice president and CIO, and Keith Hill, JHU and JHM vice president for corporate security, provided employees with information that may help keep them from becoming a victim of identity theft.
The text of the email is as follows:
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 DICC_Security@JHMI.edu. Other important steps to consider:
- Request an [Identity Protection PIN (https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-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](https://identitytheft.gov/) 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 annualcreditreport.com 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](https://www.irs.gov/).
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