Was Your Tax Info Hacked?

Much like a bad hair day, rush hour car accident, or an impromptu visit from your not-so-favorite in-laws on Super Bowl Sunday, tax season can bring the worst out in people. As if worrying about audits, back taxes, and whether or not you’ll be getting the full amount of your return on time wasn’t bad enough, a whole new kind of stress has been thrust upon taxpayers – identity theft.

If you don’t already have a tax lawyer, you might want to look into getting one pretty soon if you are among the several thousand taxpayers who were recently hit by a band of money hungry hackers.

In a statement released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Monday, officials explained that hackers have infiltrated the agency’s database, gaining access to the income tax return information of over 300,000 consumers.

Wondering if you were one of them? Well, you won’t have to wait too long to find out.

The IRS stated it will be sending letters to taxpayers whose information was most likely viewed by the offenders. Another 170,000 or so consumers whose accounts the hackers attempted but failed to break into will also receive a notice.

As scary as the idea of having your tax info seen by cyber criminals is, what’s even more frightening is the fact that this isn’t the first time the IRS database has been hacked. Back in May, 114,000 had their tax returns illegally accessed by the hackers.

According to the agency, the tax criminals were using the victims’ personal data – such as birth dates, addresses, and Social Security numbers – to gain access to their past returns via a program called “Get Transcript”, software that allows taxpayers to review their old returns. The offenders then used the information to file fraudulent returns, racking up a spine-chilling $50 million.

IRS officials also mentioned that the agency will be taking “a wide variety” of measures to protect consumers, like offering free credit protection services. But is this enough?

The IRS is often quick to slap a hefty fine on taxpayers for even the slightest of transgressions, like an innocent calculation error that was overlooked on a return or submitting a return a few hours after the cutoff point. Yet, the bureau seems to think that comping the $10 or so fee that credit monitoring services often charge is enough to sweep the issue under the proverbial rug and keep angry taxpayers at bay.

One also has to wonder about the integrity of the IRS’ firewalls, if these kinds of hacks are happening on a seemingly regular basis. If hackers can break into the IRS database this easily to file fraudulent returns, who’s to stop them

The hackers have wreaked all kinds of havoc with their digital mayhem, but that’s not even the half of it. Equipped with everything they might need to commit identity theft, the hackers’ antics could lead innocent, law-abiding citizens to be falsely accused of tax fraud.

Without the help of a tax attorney, individuals who have absolutely nothing to do with the tax scam may actually be convicted on charges they didn’t even commit and have to suffer the consequences of a tax crime, like expensive fines and even incarceration.

Hopefully the IRS will handle this issue swiftly and successfully before more innocent taxpayers become the casualties of a tax crime war.