Some MU employees report identity theft after filing tax returns

Officials say the reports of theft were not related to any university-level breach.
Photo Illustration.

MU officials are working to warn university employees about keeping their personal information secure after some workers reported cases of identity theft in April.

Around 20 employees reported that their personal information was stolen over the past two weeks, MU spokesman Christian Basi said.

Many people reported having their identities and tax information stolen during tax reporting season, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s investigation of the Internal Revenue Service. Between October 2012 and September 2013, the IRS handled 267,692 cases of identity theft related to tax refunds.

Brandon Hough, MU’s information technology security director, said identity thieves use personal information during tax-reporting season to file a false tax return and steal any returns to which the victims may be entitled.

“(The employees) reported that they had been victims of the identity theft specifically related to their tax filings,” Basi said.

Jatha Sadowski, interim vice chancellor for human resources, sent an email to every employee after receiving reports of the theft to notify employees of the situation and what they can do to prevent or mitigate cases of identity theft.

Victims of identity theft should contact a credit reporting agency as soon as they become aware of the incident, Sadowski said. She said MU has a contract with the credit reporting agency Experian and all MU faculty, staff and retirees are eligible for a discount for Experian’s services. Employees are also insured by “a designated third-party insurer” up to $10,000 related to identity theft, she said.

Sadowski said victims should also submit a report to the police and the Federal Trade Commission.

“We worked with (human resources) to send that information out,” Hough said. “We have the Make IT Safe program … where we try to provide resources and materials to employees and students about identity theft and what they should do.”

MU is frequently bombarded with cyber attacks, but the recent reports of identity theft were not the result of any data breach, Basi said.

Hough said the Division of Information Technology provides security at the network, individual servers and systems, and user levels. He said practicing safe use of technology is key to preventing an information breach.

“My personal opinion and belief is that the most important (layer of security) is at the user level, because once a user provides their password inappropriately, anything we do with the technology becomes weakened,” he said.

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