Hackers successfully accessed—stole—personal information, including tax return data, from over 100,000 U.S. taxpayers. In a series of attacks that took place from February to mid-May, the hackers utilized the IRS’s “Get Transcript” system to access all of the personal information that would be on a tax return, from birthdays and social security numbers to addresses. The motivation behind the attack is, apparently, an extensive plot to claim fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities. According to the IRS, over $5.8 billion USD in fraudulent refunds were sent out in the year 2013, alone.
According the IRS, the criminals create a fake tax return that is eligible for a sizeable refund. They make sure to do this early in the tax season, before the actual taxpayer’s employers have had a chance to send the IRS legitimate wage documents, and before the genuine taxpayer has filed a return. These tax refunds are often automatically sent directly to prepaid debit cards, allowing the criminal organizations to walk away with the money.
If you haven’t been able to apply for your tax records through the IRS website, it is because the IRS has shut down the online “Get Transcript” feature since they noticed the attacks. So, if you need copies of previous tax filings for something like a loan application, you will need to apply the old-fashioned way, by mail.
These aren’t your run-of-the-mill independent hackers. According to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen,
“We’re confident that these are not amateurs. These, actually, are organized crime syndicates that no only we, but everybody in the financial industry are dealing with.”
It will be difficult for the IRS to try to sweep the security breach under the rug. U.S. Congress is needling the IRS for information, and the IRS has already launched a criminal investigation in the matter.
If you are concerned whether your information was accessed, the IRS says it will be contacting taxpayers whose data was accessed during the breach.