In early February, the Internal Revenue Service announced that cyber criminals attacked the agency's digital systems to steal the PINs of thousands of Social Security numbers. It is the latest in a series of online attacks that have endangered the personal data of taxpayers in Georgia and nationwide.
According to the IRS, hackers tried to steal the PINs for more than 464,000 compromised Social Security numbers. However, only 101,000 PINs were successfully accessed. The PINs are designed to help taxpayers verify their identities online. The agency said no other information was stolen and that it would notify the affected taxpayers of the breach by mail. In 2015, hackers also went after the tax return data of around 610,000 taxpayers through the "Get Transcript" feature on the IRS website. In addition to the online breaches of federal systems, there have been at least two cyber attacks on tax software providers. TaxSlayer recently reported that the accounts of 8,800 people may have been accessed by criminals. In January, TaxAct reported the theft of around 450 taxpayer usernames and passwords, though the company said suspicious activity was observed on approximately 9,000 accounts.
The Federal Trade Commission reported that identify theft complaints rose almost 50 percent in 2015 from the previous year. To address the issue, the IRS will now share information with state tax agencies and tax software companies to prevent fraud.
Georgia residents facing an IRS audit or any other complex tax issues have a difficult enough time as it is without having to fear identity theft. Those who are seeking to protect their assets may want to have the assistance of a tax attorney.
Source: Orange County Register, "Less Than a Month Into Filing Season, IRS Systems Breached," Jonnelle Marte, Feb. 14, 2016