Vt. architects report identity theft

BARRE — The head of the state’s chapter of the American Institute of Architects says around 40 Vermont architects just discovered they were all the victims of identity theft.

Carol Miklos, executive director of the AIA in Vermont, said she was contacted by a member a week ago saying he wasn’t able to file a federal income tax return. She said the member was informed by the Internal Revenue Service that a return had already been filed with his Social Security number.

On April 30, the Burlington Free Press published a story saying at least 69 physicians and health care workers in the state had similar issues with their federal tax returns. After reading that article, Miklos said the member reached out to the AIA to see if something similar was happening with the state’s architects.

Miklos then alerted her other members about the tax return incident.

“And then all of a sudden, I got a flurry of emails from what I’m guessing is about 40 people,” she said. “Forty other architects in Vermont who said the same thing had happened to them this year.”

Questions still remain as to how the architects’ Social Security numbers were obtained. In the case of the architects, it appears only their federal tax returns were impacted. No other byproduct of identity theft, such as fraudulent credit cards being opened in their names, has been reported. State tax returns also appear unaffected.

When reached for comment Friday, Peggy Riley, media relations specialist at the IRS for New England, New York, Maryland and Delaware, emailed a statement: “Identity theft starts outside of the tax administration system when someone’s personal information is stolen or lost. Identity thieves may then use a taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes nationwide, and refund fraud caused by identity theft is one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS. While we are prohibited by federal law from discussing any individual’s private tax matters, identity theft remains a top priority for the IRS.

“The IRS continues to increase both the number and efficiency of the identity theft filters that are used to identify potentially fraudulent returns. Since 2011, the IRS has stopped 15 million suspicious returns, and protected over $50 billion in fraudulent refunds. The IRS is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible, and we’re firmly committed to working with taxpayers to take care of these problems as quickly as possible.”

According to several previously published reports, those responsible can range from hackers to employees at the IRS.

Paul Belaski, of Windsor, is one of the 40 architects who says he ran into problems trying to file his federal return online.

After discovering that someone had already filed a tax return using his Social Security number, Belaski said he contacted the IRS. Belaski said they told him he would have to file his return in paper form along with a form claiming identity theft and several forms of identification.

Belaski said he’s confident he’ll get his tax return.

“I believe so, yeah,” he said. “But it’s going to take 180 or 200 days, or something like that, after the day I mail (the paper return).”

Miklos said she didn’t think architects were being specifically targeted in this case, as she’s reached out to the heads of other state chapters of the AIA and none of them reported dealing with similar problems. Belaski, however, said the fact that the incident involves around 40 architects did seem like a “larger than normal cluster.”

“That might imply that somehow they’ve got the Social Security numbers from some common denominator of architects,” he said. “That might imply that it was related to professional registration.”

eric.blaisdell

@timesargus.com

Article source: http://www.timesargus.com/article/20140526/THISJUSTIN/705269993/0/BUSINESS

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