Three of the well-known and national entities, the FBI, the IRS and the Catholic Archdiocese (of Seattle), are now working together to determine the what, why, and how one of the largest security breaches has occurred. This event has become the poster-child for a growing tax fraud problem in the northwest. Victims of the security breach have been alerted to review their credit scores, and to do some research to verify if they are indeed, victims or potential victims of fraudsters using the “tax refund fraud scheme.”
Major news stations have been following this situation; KIRO-TV is quoted as saying that, “as many as 90,000 staff and volunteers in Western Washington” could possibly be vulnerable or actual victims. This is just an estimate and there are no figures from any source to provide an actual number. And the rumor is that there may not be a way to get close to a number.
KING 5 mentioned on their website that their research shows that “at least 80 people from six different parishes across the Puget Sound had their tax returns falsely filed.” One individual stated that due to a name change years ago, and that the IRS had decent filters in place, the false return attempted with her former information was caught quickly. Others may not be as lucky.
While the IRS is referring to this situation as the largest of its kind on the West Coast, the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen states that in 2010 and 2011 this type of fraud took a jump in activity with the epicenters being in Florida, Georgia and Washington D.C. and is now working its way from east to west.
The fraud community is very familiar with identity theft, tax scams and in general, fraudulent behavior. However, even we are shaking our heads at the level and complexity that fraudulent behavior is moving both locally and nationally. The age of digitized information and limited training have resulted in the ability for hackers, data miners and phishers to locate, sell and/or use someone’s information.
While fraud insurance is on the rise as a product of choice, the greatest and most effective method to reduce identity theft is old-fashioned awareness and prompt review of one’s activity.
The March 20th, 2014 posting by KiNG5.com stated that Washington, D.C.’s government watchdog mentioned that the IRS has been dealing with approximately 20,000 tax payers who claimed to have been targeted by fake IRS agents via the phone. Individuals refusing to comply are threatened to be arrested or worst deported and or the loss of a business and/or driver’s license. All of which J. Russell George an IRS Inspector General, stated, “that real IRS agents usually contact people first by mail….and they don’t demand payment by debit card, credit card or wire transfer.”
For those of you in the ‘fight against fraud’ or wanting to stay informed, please take time to help your elderly, friends and family and community at large about the need to diligently protect your information.
I have been targeted by someone looking over my shoulder and memorizing my card number. It is easy to get relaxed and not pay attention to those around you or your information, let alone having it stolen through a security breach.
Here are the links for more information and how to respond if you are concerned about your possibly becoming a victim of this situation.
And to end on a funny, albeit morbid quote from Oregonlive, “As for when the cause and culprit come to light, God only knows.”
May your compass point remain truth-true my friends!