IRS warns about data theft as tax season kicks off

There are 1.4 billion breach attempts on IRS systems each year

In the early weeks of this year’s tax season, the IRS is warning taxpayers and preparers that thieves are coming for their data.

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According to the agency, nearly two dozen tax practitioner firms have reported data thefts already this year.

The agency is urging firms to use multi-factor authentication, which prompts users to enter additional credentials in order to sign in – like a security code sent to their mobile phone. That, it says, can prevent thieves from being able to access accounts.

"The IRS, state tax agencies and the private-sector tax industry have worked together as the Security Summit to make sure the multi-factor authentication feature is available to practitioners and taxpayers alike," Kenneth Corbin, commissioner of the IRS wage and investment division, said in a statement. "The multi-factor authentication feature is simple to set up and easy to use. Using it may just save you from the financial pain and frustration of identity theft."

The agency also warned against phishing scams, which cybercriminals use to try to gain control of computers.

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Tax forms like W-2s and 1040s are “increasingly sought after on the dark web” – and readily available for purchase. Because of the amount of personal information contained in the forms, cybercriminals who access them can carry out a multitude of crimes – leading to a lifetime of vulnerabilities for the victims. In addition to taxpayer data, criminals also sell “how-to” guides for cashing in on the data.

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said during testimony before Congress last year that there are 1.4 billion breach attempts on IRS systems each year, including some “sophisticated” attempts carried out by nation states.

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One way to avoid having your refund stolen is to file as early as possible. Dealing with a tax identity fraud case can seriously delay when you receive your refund money.

As previously reported by FOX Business, the IRS said it identified $1.8 billion worth of tax fraud in 2019. The agency’s criminal division spent three-quarters of its time on tax crime, including cybercrimes and refund fraud.

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