It came to our staff’s attention this week that the Internal Revenue Service informed 38 UCA employees that they were victims of tax identity theft.
In a news article, we referenced an email sent from UCA Associate Vice President of Human Resources Graham Gillis, which emphasized that this situation is not unique to UCA, and the IT department confirmed that it had no knowledge of a security breach prior to the IRS notification.
In situations such as this, people are often quick to blame IT departments or their employers for faulty security.
It should definitely be examined, but remember that security also requires personal safety measures.
Before anyone starts pointing fingers at the Google Apps transition or at a faulty IT department, consider the steps everyone should take to secure personal information.
First of all, if there had been a security breach involving Google Apps, there would have been a nationwide outcry.
Google Apps is used by many universities and businesses across the nation, and a major security concern involving the company would receive broad media attention.
The HR associate VP was right to clarify that this situation is not unique to UCA.
In fact, the IRS saw a 66 percent increase in tax fraud from 2012–2013, according to the criminal investigation section of its website.
Every year, more people find ways to scam the government in an attempt to get larger tax refunds.
It happens to people all across the country who work different jobs.
It’s possible that employers or faulty Internet security is a factor, but the diversity of affected people suggests the issue is more personal.
However, the IRS website says that there were approximately 1,492 accounts of federal tax fraud in that same year.
In that context, UCA employees would amount to 2.5 percent of tax fraud victims.
The number of victims has undoubtedly grown in the last tax year, but that still seems like a lot for one university.
So it is entirely understandable that some people will want to blame the university for the problem.
We should strive to tighten all aspects of security.
Employees should expect and insist that the university assess its staff members who handle tax or payroll information, and some concern is understandable.
The IT department is already taking steps to investigate its role in personal information security, and those who handle financial records should do the same.
However, keep in mind that these situations can often require strengthening personal security.
It’s easier than you’d expect to have your social security information stolen.
Some simple research into your personal life can give someone access to your email, and that opens a door to a lot of personal information.
Be aware of simple things such as always logging out of email and Facebook accounts on public computers, securing or destroying documents with personal information and not using simple passwords or security questions.
Looking into social media profiles or Google searches can give people an idea of how to get through security questions and gain access to email accounts.
It does prompt a raised eyebrow that such a large amount of UCA employees were notified of tax fraud using their personal information, but the fact remains that it is a growing concern among all American citizens.
We need to be sure we’re protecting ourselves, as well as reinforcing security concerns involving employers’ records.