Defending Against Identity Theft as Tax Season Approaches

by the Information Security Office of The University of Texas at Austin

ATTN: Faculty & Staff

As tax season approaches, the Information Security Office would like to remind you that targeted phishing attacks are already starting to hit the campus.
Please be very vigilant when reviewing e-mails and clicking on URLs.  
Attackers prey on unsuspecting individuals and are counting on carelessness.

More information can be found at the UT Information Security Office's website:

  https://security.utexas.edu/outreach/phishing

There have been two major phishing attacks over the last 2 months that have impacted close to 200 campus users.  
Fortunately, all of these victims were quickly identified and there were no breaches of university data or additional impacts to the affected individuals.  
Also, these particular attacks only focused on having the victim divulge their UT EID credentials and not a Social Security Number, which could be used in other identity theft attacks.

Last year the IRS advised that approximately 1 out of every 100 taxpayers would be victims of tax fraud.  There are no expectations that this number will improve in 2017.

Last year roughly 130 UT Austin faculty and staff were affected by IRS tax scams in which attackers filed a forged return and received a fraudulent tax refund.  Roughly 70% of the reported victims at UT Austin were faculty members.
Please note that while there were no breaches associated with UT Austin information resources, attackers employed a variety of tactics to carryout their fraud. 
Many taxpayers fell victim to highly targeted phishing scams, spoofed calls from law enforcement agencies, compromised tax preparation software, and malware infections on their personal devices that logged keystrokes.
Reports also emerged of attackers stealing W2 forms from their victim's mailboxes.

What can you do?

1. Setup UT Austin Two Factor Authentication.  If you have not yet setup the Duo second factor option - which helps protect your W2 with an additional layer of authentication --- we would encourage you to do so: <https://utdirect.utexas.edu/apps/duo/register/duo_login/?next=/apps/duo/register/>

2. We would strongly urge you to set up a transcript account with the IRS if they haven't already (http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Get-Transcript) and do so before an attacker does.

3. We also suggest that you create an account with the Social Security Administration before attackers do so on your behalf (http://ssa.gov/myaccount/).

4. You should also review these articles about common IRS scams which offer practical resources for victims of tax fraud along with some insight into how the attackers are operating:

    Article: Creating an IRS transcript account before the attackers do
    http://krebsonsecurity.com/2015/03/sign-up-at-irs-gov-before-crooks-do-it-for-you 

    Article: Consider freezing your credit file
    http://krebsonsecurity.com/2015/06/how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-embrace-the-security-freeze/ 

    (NOTE: Consider doing this for your underage children as attackers will often try to exploit credit of minors which is generally not being monitored by their parents)

    Article: Expect Phishers to Up Their Game in 2016
    http://krebsonsecurity.com/2015/12/expect-phishers-to-up-their-game-in-2016/

    Article: IRS Identifies Five Easy Ways to Spot Suspicious Calls
    http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Scam-Phone-Calls-Continue;-IRS-Identifies-Five-Easy-Ways-to-Spot-Suspicious-Calls 


5. There are a variety of services that can proactively monitor your credit activity for abuse or misuse. One such service that the university has had good luck with is AllClearID: https://www.allclearid.com/plans/pro-plan

The University also continues to adapt security defenses to best defend against these evolving attacks that target our community.

If you have any questions or concerns or if you believe you have been a victim of such fraud please do not hesitate to contact the Information Security Office at security@utexas.edu.

Thank you for your vigilance!

Information Security Office
http://security.utexas.edu 
security@utexas.edu  

Written by the Information Security Office of The University of Texas at Austin
Questions or comments? The best and easiest way to contact us is via the CNS Help Desk form.