The IRS Data Theft Problem
Here’s how to minimize your risk
What better place for online thieves to target than a database that contains 300 million+ Social Security numbers and a treasure trove of financial information?
The IRS has 52 Internet applications to help U.S. citizens comply with their tax obligations. But these online portals, which collect, process and store large amounts of personal information and tax data, are also a potential gateway for online criminals and identity thieves.
While the IRS’s electronic authentication security controls have improved, the Treasury Inspector General recently said that the IRS’s internet applications are not yet compliant with the National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines.
Here’s what you can do to protect your tax-related identity and information while the IRS tries to improve its security controls:
- Use the IRS’s Internet applications judiciously. Think you need to use one of the IRS’s online applications? Consider requesting or obtaining certain information via the U.S. Postal service. Simply decide if you’re willing to take a risk using an application that isn’t compliant with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
- Get an IP PIN. An Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) is a six-digit number that helps prevent your Social Security number from being used on fraudulent federal income tax returns. If you are a confirmed victim of identity theft, the IRS will mail you an IP PIN after the fraudulent tax issue has been resolved. If you haven’t been the victim of tax-related identity theft, you can voluntarily ask the IRS to issue you an IP PIN if you live in certain states. Additional states will be added until the IP PIN program is available nationwide.
- Review your credit report once a year. Check your credit report for any unauthorized activity or errors. This periodic review can often be the earliest warning that your private information is compromised.