I got my W-2 yesterday. Much earlier than most other companies I’ve worked for, which is great. What’s even better is that this piece of mail, which has my sensitive data, is no longer in the hands of the mail system, but in my own hands.
With all of the news in the past few months of Data security breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus (which didn’t have an effect on us) you kind of forget that there are other thieves out there as well. Yes, maybe I need to change my tinfoil hat, before the NSA reads my thoughts, but we all do need to consider this CNBC article from today’s USA Today. I’ve written security articles in the past and here, but the CNBC article paints a ‘race to the IRS’ picture that I’m going to pay attention to.
In short, thieves who may have your Social Security Number from any source have been increasingly filing fraudulent tax returns in the hopes of snagging any refund check that you might be due. The first sign of this is if you get a letter from the IRS telling you the claim you submitted is denied, because one has already been filed. TurboTax (and presumably other online products) will tell you within a day or so if the refund is accepted or not.
If you do get a message like this, IMMEDIATELY call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit right away at 800-908-4490, extension 245. This unit is trained to recognize and help victims of ID Theft. There has been a 66% increase in ID Theft investigations conducted by the IRS in 2013.
One of the things that goes through my head is that from recent reports indicate this type of data intrusion has been going on for months. It’s a large scale effort that appears to send it’s stolen information to servers in the former Soviet Union. In a 2011 podcast, NPR discussed the Credit Card Black Market.
Nightmare scenario: The grabs of data from these credit card breaches get peoples Social Security Numbers and those feed into the Tax Refund scheme. Yes, I know that Target says no SSNs were compromised, (of course, they first said only 40 million were affected, then 70 million and the latest is 110 million, so I don’t exactly trust them).
Behind all of this, according to MarketWatch blog, is a 17-year old Russian who is suspected as the author of the Malware used in the data breach.
The takeaway here is that all of us need to monitor your credit card accounts for odd transactions. Consider getting a new credit card number or begin paying with Cash.