Consumers are increasingly aware of and concerned about tax-related fraud



Consumer awareness of identity theft and tax-related fraud is on the rise this year, and along with it increased concerns over becoming a victim. Experian recently surveyed consumers nationwide for its annual tax study, focusing on a number of tax related topics including filing habits, identity theft and what they are doing to protect themselves this tax season.

The number of survey respondents familiar with identity theft and tax fraud has risen almost 20 percent over the past two years, to 76 percent. This is compared with only 57 percent in 2014 and 63 percent in 2015. In addition, 42 percent of respondents are now concerned that someone could access their personal data through their tax return, compared to only 35 percent in 2014 and 38 percent in 2015.

“Tax season is a busy time of year for identity thieves,” said Michael Bruemmer, vice president, consumer protection, at Experian. “Those filing taxes, especially electronically, should educate themselves on what precautions need to be taken, and what assistance is available to them if they become a victim of identity theft.”

According to the survey, 28 percent of respondents have been a victim or know someone who has been a victim of tax fraud. Those who have been affected most commonly file a police report (59 percent) and place a fraud alert on their credit reports (58 percent).

Despite the number of people affected by tax fraud, almost half of respondents (45 percent) aren’t aware of the IRS-issued Identify Protection PIN. An IP PIN is a unique number assigned to eligible taxpayers that helps prevent the misuse of their Social Security number and protects against thieves attempting to file fraudulent federal income tax returns. Furthermore, only 30 percent of actual victims surveyed requested the IRS-issued IP PIN last year.

Even though the concern over tax fraud has grown significantly, a majority of survey respondents aren’t planning to take theIRS recommended steps to protect themselves. Only 12 percent are planning to check their credit report, an important first step in monitoring for fraudulent activity that could indicate identity theft. Also, a mere 6 percent will file their taxes on a computer with up-to-date antivirus software.
Other key survey findings:

Tax filing continues to be increasingly electronic
·         Half of the respondents file their taxes themselves, electronically
·            Eighteen percent scan and save their tax documents electronically, up from 14 percent in 2015
·            More than three-quarters have used electronic fund transfers for tax refunds

Of the 56 percent of respondents who prepare their own taxes, most do so on their home network
·         Seventy-six percent inside their own home, on a secure network
·         Fourteen percent at work on a secure network
·         Seven percent outside of the home using free Wi-Fi

Most respondents (80 percent) expect to receive a tax refund and plan to use it to increase their personal savings or pay down credit card debt
  • Forty-one percent — savings fund/investment
  • Thirty-five percent — pay off/down credit card debt
  • Nineteen percent — pay off/down personal loans

Actions consumers can take to protect themselves
·         Thoroughly research any paid preparer or tax-preparation software. Scammers set up fake websites and software downloads solely designed to trick consumers into providing their personal information.
·         When filing electronically, ensure that the computer used is on a secured network, and is protected with the most up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software.
·         Ask potential tax preparers to explain how they file and what steps they take to protect their customers’ information.
·         Enroll in credit monitoring and take action by filing a fraud claim if an alert indicates potentially fraudulent activity.
·         Don’t respond to any emails or text messages from anyone who says they’re with the IRS, as the organization contacts individuals via mail and phone only. Also note that no IRS representative ever will ask for immediate payment via phone.
For the survey report, and to learn more about tax identity theft and other credit topics, please visit the Ask Experian blog athttp://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/2016/01/22/tax-time-and-id-theft-survey-results/

Female Scientists at the Forefront of Revolutionary Solutions for a Healthier Planet

Did you know that despite making up about half of the workforce overall, only about a quarter of workers in science, technology, engineering and math fields (otherwise known as STEM) are women?

When it comes to the women at REGENESIS® - that’s not the case! Led by Dr. Kristen Thoreson who oversees the chemical research and product development program, the Southern California team of female scientists is at the forefront of revolutionary research, developing and implementing smarter and more cost-effective technology-based remediation solutions for a healthier, happier planet.

Taking on the challenge of hazardous waste in order to rescue our planet’s most precious natural resources, the global leading experts at REGENESIS are interested in sharing their unique perspectives on the complex environmental problems of the 21stcentury and more.

I had the honor of Interviewing Dr. Thoreson.  

Faten Abdallah: What encouraged you to go into the science field?
KT: I was inspired by my high school chemistry teacher who made the subject fun, even for those students that didn’t necessarily understand all of the concepts. She had a special skill for showing how science is involved in daily life and how everything involves chemistry in some form or another. In class, we performed numerous fun and interactive experiments such as making ice cream and peanut brittle, which I think was important for making the subject relatable to all students. Most importantly for me, my teacher encouraged me to pursue my love of science and provided an environment that made it acceptable to be good at it.

I was also lucky to have both my parents involved in the sciences. My mother is a pharmacist and used to have me do experiments in our kitchen with simple household items. My father, a physical therapist, was also very supportive of my interests.

FA: How can we get more females to enjoy science and to major in fields of science?
KT: Exposure and role models! During my time in grad school at the University of Minnesota, I was involved with the Women in Science & Engineering (WISE) group that put on “Cool Chemistry” day camps for middle school girls. These camps created a safe environment for the girls to participate in experiments and to be scientists. Our goal was to remove any barriers created by gender norms or peer influences so that the participants could freely explore subjects that they may be interested in. By creating safe environments like WISE, we empower young women to pursue their goals and also provide role models to help the girls understand what their path may look like. In addition, it’s important for young boys to see women in these roles so that it’s no longer such a foreign idea for them to see female scientists leading discoveries.

FA: How does science help the earth?
KT: How does it not? We need a scientific understanding of how our actions influence the world around us. Driving cars, buying new gadgets, disposing of our garbage– all of these things have a reaction and affect our resources. Scientific monitoring and analysis of the resulting changes help us to understand the reactions and thereby develop strategies to address their affects.

REGENESIS® can help solve some of these issues because the products that we develop have the ability to overcome some of these undeniable problems. Using science to develop new solutions is key to our continued success.

FA: What do you hope to do with your work/inventions/discoveries?
KT: The ultimate goal is to clean up our groundwater. Eventually water is going to be the primary resource that everyone is paying attention to. Figuring out the best way to clean up water and to prevent it from becoming contaminated is crucial to long-term global health. Water is a sacred resource that we must conserve and preserve.



Dr. Thoreson is the the manager of research and development at REGENESIS®, a global environmental remediation company leading in the research, development, and commercialization of technology-based solutions designed to restore contaminated soil and groundwater. In addition, she actively presents at industry conferences and has served on panel sessions, platforms, and has presented in poster sessions. Dr. Thoreson has also published papers and articles on environmental topics as they relate to soil and groundwater remediation solutions and innovations. Additionally, she enjoys meeting with clients and speaking with people outside of their industry about their preservation of their  resources because it is a topic that everyone can appreciate. For more information, visit www.regenesis.com, like them on Facebook and follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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UNESCO and L’Oréal Foundation launch manifesto to promote gender parity in the sciences

A manifesto for women in science was launched in Paris at the close of Thursday’s L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science award ceremony, which recognized five outstanding scientists and 15 researchers. The Manifesto aims to draw attention to the need to ensure gender parity in science.

The Manifesto sets out to improve women’s access to science at all levels and in all disciplines. Its first signatories were Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, Jean-Paul Agon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of L’Oréal and head of the L’Oréal Foundation, and Elizabeth Blackburn, President of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Jury.

“The UNESCO Science Report shows that the disparities between men and women are still very considerable,” said Ms Bokova. “More equality and parity in the sciences would create more opportunities to attain scientific excellence, which is part of UNESCO’s mission.”

“Women and their discoveries are needed in our fast changing world as never before,” said Mr Agon. “With the For Women in Science programme, the L’Oréal Foundation is committed to promoting women scientists who will change the world. We are determined to fight on their side, for science, to build a better world.”

The Manifesto @4womeninscience promotes a six-point agenda:
  1. Encourage girls to explore scientific career paths,
  2. Break down the barriers that prevent women scientists from pursuing long term careers in research,
  3. Prioritize women’s access to senior positions and leadership positions in the sciences,
  4. Celebrate with the general public the contribution that women scientists make to scientific progress and to society,
  5. Ensure gender equality through participation and leadership in symposiums and scientific commissions, such as conferences, committees and board meetings,
  6. Promote mentoring and networking for young scientists to enable them to plan and develop careers that meet their expectations.
Over the past 18 years, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme has been celebrating women scientists from all over the world. Each year, it distinguishes five women researchers from every part of the globe for their exceptional discoveries and awards 250 fellowships to women researchers from 112 countries who are in the early stages of their careers.

To sign the Manifesto: http://www.fwis.fr/en/manifesto

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Interview with Lisa Bloom, Attorney

You’ve seen celebrity attorney Lisa Bloom providing analysis and legal advice on NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, TODAY, CBS Early Show and many other network shows. As an attorney and author, Bloom has spent her career advocating for better access to legal support for all people with issues large and small. The internationally renowned attorney discussed a new service designed to provide affordable legal help for more people, as well as her role as a legal analyst for the legal assistance website Avvo.com, and how it promotes her goal of providing better access to quality legal advice for people with issues large and small.

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