Cyber Thieves Attack IRS Again

By: Jason F. Barr, Esq.
Legal Counsel with Barr, Jones & Associates LLP

If you think that your personal information in the hands of the IRS is safe, you may want to think again. The IRS keeps personal information for Americans, including addresses, incomes and social security numbers. This information in the wrong hands could lead to severe consequences for an innocent taxpayer that trusts the Federal government to keep the data secure.

The IRS released information that the electronic filing system was once again compromised by cyber thieves. In 2015 the system was breached resulting in the theft of taxpayer information for at least 334,000 individuals. The most recent attack did not lead to the theft of individuals’ personal information. However, the goal this time appears to have been an attempt to file fraudulent tax returns using taxpayer information that was obtained elsewhere, not to just obtain personal information.

According to the IRS, the cyber thieves’ goal was to create and/or access taxpayer’s electronic accounts. Then once accessed, to file fraudulent tax return and walk away with unsuspecting taxpayer’s tax return before the crime was even noticed. The most recent information released by the IRS indicates that the criminals attempted to create and/or access more than 464,000 electronic filings accounts, or social security numbers. It appears that the hackers were successful with 101,000 of these social security numbers. That means that the cyber criminals were victorious in hacking over 20% of the attempted accounts.

The IRS will notify any taxpayers impacted by the cyber threat. These notices are supposed to be delivered by U.S. Mail. Though the IRS electronic filing system was down in early February, the IRS claims that the downed system and the cyber-attack were not related. It appears that the matter is still under investigation. Rather than having to clean up the results from cyber-crimes after the fact, it would be nice to see the IRS establish more preventative measures, including increased security to protect such important records.