Internet security awareness firm, KnowBe4, explains why identity theft will remain rampant—despite bills being passed—unless Americans are trained to recognize and avoid cyberattacks
(Tampa Bay, FL) Apr 23, 2015--In light of the increasing cases of identity theft tax fraud, congressional legislators said they would push for tougher laws to help cut down on what law enforcement officials continue to call an “epidemic” of tax-related theft in the South Florida region. Internet security training firm, KnowBe4, stresses that Floridians should also be proactive in in their own security by learning how to not fall prey to the tricks utilized by cybercriminals.
For the third year in a row, South Florida leads the nation’s largest metro areas in reports of identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties had 35,914 reports of identity theft in 2012—more than doubling in just a year, the FTC found (1). According to the IRS website, last year 78% of taxpayers—112 million people—filed their taxes online. Because so many people e-file, the possibility of their falling victim to identity theft is increased; tax season has become a field day for identity thieves, particularly in South Florida, where ID theft is abundant.
The trend of e-filing offers many perks: you can submit your return online without leaving your home, and you also generally receive refunds faster when you’ve filed online. However, sharing personal information over the Internet exposes you to a greater risk of falling victim to tax identity theft, says KnowBe4 CEO, Stu Sjouwerman.
“Cybercrime is not limited to businesses,” said Sjouwerman. “Criminals are now infiltrating personal computers and setting up dummy public Wi-Fi networks—all to gain access to sensitive personal information, such as your name and social security number.”
Armed with just this information, cybercriminals can collect your tax refund simply by entering falsified information in other required fields, and then modifying banking information.
“It’s just that simple,” Sjouwerman said.
Case in Point:
When Angela Beasley of Miami tried to file her tax return last year, it was rejected by the IRS because someone else already had submitted a return using her Social Security number.
Beasley, 38, who is a search engine optimization manager for an Internet marketing firm, was shocked to learn that she had been a victim of tax ID theft.
The IRS told Beasley to fill out an affidavit and send in her identification information, including a police report if she had one. From there, Beasley’s problems snowballed, leaving her to piece together her finances.
When Beasley decided to go back to college for another degree, she was told that she was not eligible for in-state tuition because records showed that Beasley, who is a Florida resident, was married and lived in California. The issue still isn’t resolved (2).
Sjouwerman says that the biggest way to limit these cases is by people being informed about Internet security measures so they can protect themselves before they get into trouble.
To counteract the growth of tax identity theft, legislators vowed to push for stricter laws to cut down on this epidemic. The STOP Identity Theft Act would increase imprisonment for convicted ID thieves from five to up to 20 years; it would also concentrate law enforcement efforts where crime is most frequented, such as South Florida.
“The new laws will enforce harsher punishment for cybercriminals, but that doesn’t address the root of the problem,” said Sjouwerman. “If people don’t change the way they operate online, they will continue to be victims of identity theft. We have to stop the problem where it starts.”
Protecting Against Identity Theft
In response to the tax identity theft epidemic, KnowBe4 has created a family-friendly security awareness course specially designed for non-tech-savvy consumers. Knowbe4 has primarily been in the business-to-business market, but Sjouwerman noticed that individual consumers are also susceptible to cyberattacks.
To better provide at-home security to individuals, Knowbe4 developed the Kevin Mitnick Home Internet Security Course. Once the world’s most wanted hacker, Mitnick now applies his expertise in helping organizations and individuals defend themselves against security breaches. Some benefits of the Kevin Mitnick Home Internet Security Course include:
● Increased safety during online interaction—A browser-based interactive course that teaches users to recognize the most recent scams being used by cybercriminals;
● Higher confidence in relaying information over the internet—Eight sections using real-life case studies which show how someone got in trouble using the Internet, and what you need to do to stay safe;
● Cost effectiveness—The cost of cleaning up a security breach can be severely detrimental to business and individuals. Security training eliminates that cost;
● Better understanding of internet security issues—Each section has a live Kevin Mitnick video with security do’s and don’ts, and a “security check” quiz at the end;
● Peace of mind—Security training leaves you with the tools to recognize potential scams and safely navigate the web.
Sjouwerman believes that proper security training will significantly help reduce the volume of identity theft tax fraud cases. He says it’s been proven in business, and it can translate over to personal security, as well.
“Fraudulent tax claims typically take months to resolve, severely hurting those who depend on their tax refunds to pay bills,” said Sjouwerman. “Security training will give people the tools to help prevent their identities from being stolen and potentially decreases cases of tax identity theft.”
For more information on how KnowBe4 can protect against cybercrime, visit
About Stu Sjouwerman and KnowBe4
Stu Sjouwerman is the founder and CEO of KnowBe4, LLC, which provides web-based Internet Security Awareness Training (ISAT) to small and medium-sized enterprises. A data security expert with more than 30 years in the IT industry, Sjouwerman was the cofounder of Inc. 500 company Sunbelt Software, an award-winning anti-malware software company that he and his partner sold to GFI Software in 2010. Realizing that the human element of security was being seriously neglected, Sjouwerman decided to help entrepreneurs tackle cybercrime tactics through advanced security awareness training. He and his team at KnowBe4 work with companies in many different industries, including highly-regulated fields such as healthcare, finance and insurance. Sjouwerman is the author of four books, with his latest being Cyberheist: The Biggest Financial Threat Facing American Businesses Since the Meltdown of 2008. Visit www.knowbe4.com or www.knowbe4.com/cyberheist-the-book/.
1. Gehrke-White, Donna. “New Laws Urged to Cut ‘epidemic’ of ID Theft.” Sun-Sentinel.com. Sun Sentinel, 16 Apr. 2013. Web. 17 Apr. 2013. sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-id-theft-law-20130415,0,5030102.story