(March 18, 2015) – As tax day nears, a growing number of Hoosiers are finding out they’ve become victims of tax fraud.
The federal government reports the problem cost American taxpayers $5.2 billion in 2013 and is expected to grow to $21 billion by 2016.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said the recent Anthem data breach shed light on the larger problem.
“We’ve talked about this as a problem that’s going to gain traction,” Zoeller said. “It’s unfortunate it’s taken something like the Anthem breach to get people’s attention.”
Last month the second largest U.S. health insurer announced its computers were hacked, compromising the data of as many as 80 million customers, including an estimated 4.5 million in Indiana, according to the attorney general’s office.
Zoeller recently returned from a nationwide meeting of attorneys general, specifically addressing massive data breaches from companies like Anthem, Target, Home Depot and JP Morgan Chase.
Zoeller, though, is still careful not to directly link this year’s increase in tax fraud to the Anthem breach.
“Quite frankly I think by the time they steal 80 million data points, it’s going to take them a little while to synthesize,” he said. “So if they can turn it around that fast, they must have been planning this for a good long time, but I don’t know we should make that assumption just yet.”
But Lynn Toops, a class action attorney with Cohen & Malad, is suing Anthem on behalf of customers in Indiana and across the country.
“We certainly believe it’s connected to Anthem,” she said. “We heard from an individual where the IRS itself told this individual that Anthem was the cause.”
In a statement, an Anthem spokesperson said in part, “We are continuing to investigate along with the FBI and a cyber-security firm. At this point, there is no evidence that would link the Anthem cyber-attack with the filing of fraudulent tax returns.”
The numbers in Indiana, Zoeller said are eye-opening: 395 reports of data breaches in Indiana last year alone.
“We’re hoping we’ll get something from the federal government before too long,” he said. “But in the meantime states aren’t really in a position to wait.”
Zoeller said the best protection for consumers is to freeze their credit.
Anthem is offering free credit monitoring for 24 months.