I’m going to deviate from my usual blog this week because it is important for all readers of this blog to be made aware of a serious breach of personal information.
On May 26, 2015, the IRS announced that they had detected a “huge data breach” with the Get Transcript application on irs.gov. This application allows taxpayers to request transcripts of their prior years’ tax returns. In order to request the transcripts, the taxpayer must enter their Social Security number, birth date and street address. In addition, they must also enter other information that presumably, would only be known by the taxpayer.
Criminal access to the records happened from February through May. These criminals were able to obtain access to the tax transcripts of 104,000 taxpayers and attempted to gain access to 100,000 more records. This means criminals have access to the Social Security numbers, birth dates, and street addresses of more than 200,000 people. It also means that they have obtained the tax returns of more than 100,000 taxpayers.
We need to remember that “taxpayer” in this instance is the person(s) filing the return. So, for the married couple with children, the criminals now have the entire family’s names, address, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and income information as all that information is on the tax return. In addition, those criminals also have additional personal information that allowed them to get past the security questions in the Get Transcript application. The security questions often relate to prior loans or prior addresses. These same types of questions are used on socialsecurity.gov to gain access to your lifetime income and information on your Social Security benefits.
The IRS has shut down the Get Transcript application until they can increase the security features in the application. In addition, the agency will be sending letters to the 200,000 taxpayers informing them of the breach and will be offering free credit monitoring services for the 104,000 taxpayers whose information was accessed. The IRS expects that the criminals are planning on using the information obtained from these taxpayers to file fraudulent tax returns claiming refunds.
Please note: The IRS will NOT contact anyone by phone or email regarding this matter. Any phone calls or emails you may receive related to this will be scams. Please forward these emails to the Federal Trade Commission at [email protected].
There are additional dangers for the folks that are affected by this breach. The tax information could be sold to others and used to obtain credit cards, loans, purchase homes and cars. I caution everyone, not just those affected, to be very diligent in monitoring your credit and also your children’s credit. Be very careful about giving out Social Security numbers and other personal information. Criminals have been known to use children’s personal information to obtain loans.
You can obtain a free credit report annually at www.freecreditreport.com. Since there are three reporting entities (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), you could get a free credit report every four months — Equifax today, Experian in four months, and TransUnion in eight months. Then repeat the process each year. Be sure that you request the credit report for each person in your family, not just the adults.
For more information on the IRS data breach, please see this article:
http://www.accountingtoday.com/news/tax-practice/irs-detects-massive-data-breach-in-get-transcript-application-74709-1.html?Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.