IRS Data Breach Larger Than First Reported
In May of last year, the IRS notified the public that cybercriminals had been able to access the transcripts of about 114,000 taxpayers. On Friday, they announced this hack was much larger than they first believed, and now say more than 700,000 social security numbers and other personal information may have been stolen.
Hackers were able to take advantage of the IRS “Get Transcript” program, which was launched in January 2014 and allowed tax payers to check their tax history online. The cybercriminals were able to gain access by gathering personal login information from other online sources (like bank accounts) to answer the personal identity questions on “Get Transcript” forms.
Since the initial announcement in May, the agency has discovered many additional stolen records. In August 2015, they revised the number of exposed records to 334,000, and now they believe the total number of victims is closer to 724,000.
The IRS is notifying affected taxpayers by mail and are offering free identity protection for a year.
“The IRS is committed to protecting taxpayers on multiple fronts against tax-related identity theft, and these mailings are part of that effort,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We appreciate the work of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to identify these additional taxpayers whose accounts may have been accessed. We are moving quickly to help these taxpayers.”
The “Get Transcript” service has been suspended since the breach was initially discovered in May 2015. The IRS plans to restore the service after it has enhanced security.