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IRS hack affected more people than previously thought

It seems as the recent breach of the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has affected more people than originally thought, the government agency said.

According to multiple media reports published today, hackers gained access to the tax returns of more than 300,000 people, which is a much higher number than previously thought.

According to the New York Times, the IRS will notify some 220,000 people that hackers have had a chance to view their returns.

Previously, it was thought that 114,000 have had their data viewed. The IRS has released this information in May, saying it covered a period of four months, from February to May.

Criminals were using stolen data to gain access to tax returns through a software called “Get Transcript”, that allows taxpayers to retrieve their returns from previous years.

Hackers used previously obtained personal information such as birth date and street address to walk through a multistep authentication process. They then used information from the returns to file fraudulent ones, generating nearly $50 million (£31.8m) in refunds.

The IRS said it would inform the taxpayers whose accounts may have been breached, adding that they would be supported with free credit monitoring services.

"The IRS is moving aggressively to protect taxpayers whose account information may have been accessed," the agency said in a statement, according to the IB Times.

“Following this review,” its statement continued, “the I.R.S. has identified more questionable attempts to obtain transcripts using sensitive information already in the hands of criminals. As a result, the I.R.S. is moving immediately to notify and help protect these taxpayers.” The agency said it would take “a wide variety” of steps, such as offering free credit protection.