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Update On IRS Tax Filings and W-2 Access

Northwestern University employees whose Equifax Inc. accounts were accessed will be offered free credit protection for a year, University officials announced today. 

Approximately 125 Northwestern employees reported problems filing their federal income tax return or other issues related to their income tax. The Internal Revenue Service has said this has been a national problem for the past few years, and other universities are reporting similar problems this year. Reports of tax fraud involving Northwestern faculty and staff have occurred previously, but they appear to have increased this year.

Northwestern University conducted an investigation of its computer systems and a similar review with Equifax, the company that provides W-2 services to Northwestern. The investigations revealed that approximately 225 employees, including a number of those who previously had reported tax-filing problems, had their W-2 information accessed from what appear to be unauthorized locations. Those who are known to be affected have been notified, and if others who were affected are identified, they also will be notified.

In order to access the W-2 information, a person needed to have the employee’s Social Security number and date of birth. There is no indication that personal information was accessed by a data breach of either the Northwestern or Equifax systems, but was apparently obtained elsewhere previously and then used to access the Equifax system and obtain the W-2 information.

The online W-2 service was shut down as of April 19. Employees who still need a copy of their W-2 should contact the Payroll Office. A full review of Northwestern’s W-2 and other tax form distribution practices will occur in advance of the next tax reporting cycle.

In an effort to prevent any fraudulent attempts to use Northwestern University information, credit monitoring services will be offered through Equifax at no cost to all members of the Northwestern community whose Equifax accounts were accessed. The coverage will include free credit monitoring and identity theft insurance. Additional information on available services and support will be communicated in the near future. If more immediate assistance is needed, please contact benefits@northwestern.edu; this email box is checked regularly.

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