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IRS Hacked, Again: What You Need to Know

  • 27 September 2016
  • Author: Alexander Carr
  • Number of views: 1824
  • 0 Comments
IRS Hacked, Again: What You Need to Know

Access to the IRS e-File PIN service was removed in June following what the agency calls “additional questionable activity.”  The PIN numbers are only the latest in a history of the IRS being hacked, compromising taxpayer information. 

In February the IRS announced that cybercriminals using taxpayer data stolen elsewhere and an automated bot accessed more than 100,000 e-File PINs. According to the IRS the tool only revealed the PIN. Criminals used taxpayers’ names, addresses, filing status, dates of birth and Social Security Numbers—which they obtained from other sources—to access the e-File PIN.

The tool was retained by the IRS because “links are embedded in almost all commercial tax software products that helped taxpayers file their returns.” Recently, the IRS reported that additional automated attacks have been detected.

“We were able to identify this issue because of additional defenses put in place earlier this year, and backend protections remain in place,” reads an IRS statement. “However, the IRS decided to remove the e-File PIN program as a safety measure.”

This comes after a long history of hacks on IRS systems. On May 26, 2015, the IRS announced it had discovered that cyber criminals accessed about 700,000 taxpayers on its relatively new Get Transcript application. The IRS maintains that most of these breaches occurred using taxpayer information like social security numbers that the hackers acquired elsewhere. So, to best protect your tax information, it’s important to keep your identity safe elsewhere.

The IRS recommends protecting your Social Security number by:

  • Keeping your card and any other document that shows your Social Security number in a safe place; DO NOT routinely carry your card or other documents that display your number.
  • Being careful about sharing your number, even when you are asked for it; ONLY share your SSN when absolutely necessary.
  • Protecting your personal financial information at home and on your computer.
  • Checking your credit report annually.
  • Checking your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually,
  • Protecting your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
  • Protecting your personally identifiable information; keep it private. Only provide your SSN when YOU initiate the contact or you are sure you know who is asking.

Beware that EIN numbers need to be protected, too. It’s estimated that the IRS could be issuing almost $2.3 billion in potentially fraudulent tax refunds based on stolen or falsely obtained EINs each year.  A target business from which an EIN was stolen and misused is usually completely unaware of the fraud—until the IRS insists on immediate payment of the falsely claimed refund.

If you’re concerned about your tax information and how to file with the IRS in the most secure way, contact us.

Image Copyright: hoboton / 123RF Stock Photo
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