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Hackers steal personal information from 104,000 tax payers

Hackers stole personal information from more than 104,000 taxpayers this spring, the International Revenue Service (IRS) said yesterday (opens in new tab).

Commissioner John Koskinen said in a press conference that the information included several years’ worth of returns and other tax information filed with the IRS, and explained exactly what happened.

The thieves hacked into a system called “Get Transcript,” clearing a security screen that requires users to know the taxpayer’s Social Security number, date of birth, address and tax filing status.

They tried to access information from 200,000 taxpayers, and successfully got information on 104,000 of them.

Those who successfully downloaded the transcripts gained access to information from prior years’ tax returns that could be used to file fraudulent tax returns that more closely resemble those of legitimate taxpayers, officials said.

The system, which is now shut down, was targeted from February to May. While the system is shut down, taxpayers can apply for transcripts, sometimes needed for tax returns and mortgage applications, by mail.

“To get these, our criminals already had to have personal identifiers available and personal information for each taxpayer,” Koskinen said, adding that whoever’s behind this is definitely not an amateur.

“We’re confident that these are not amateurs but organized crime syndicates that not only we, but others in the financial industry are dealing with,” he said.

The criminals were able to use the information to submit fraudulent tax returns, he said, adding that the IRS is notifying taxpayers whose information was accessed, and providing them with credit monitoring services.

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.