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Privacy of your tax information: IRS reboots transcript service

Data privacy is a critical concern in the online. Breaches of personal information can lead to identity theft, fraud and other serious problems for those who information is compromised.

In recent years, there have been numerous widespread significant data breaches in the private sector, at companies such as Target and EBay. Breaches have occurred in government agencies as well, including a major breach last year at the IRS.

In this post, we will update you on IRS's recent relaunch of Get Transcript, the online service for validating income that was so badly hacked last year.

The Get Transcript service has several uses. It is a convenient way for lenders to verify incomes for people who are applying for mortgages or for student loans. Taxpayers can also use it to obtain income information from the previous year to be used in e-filing.

The IRS began the Get Transcript service in January of 2014 to make this information conveniently available though a tab on the IRS website. During the 2015 filing season, taxpayers used the service about 23 million times.

But there were insufficient security safeguards. Cyberthieves broke in and got access to information about nearly 700,000 taxpayer accounts before the IRS shut down the Get Transcript service in May of 2015.

Access to such information can help criminals steal refunds by evading the usual filter for tax refund fraud. And of course other problems can result as well when personal data is compromised, such as becoming vulnerable to identity theft.

Not surprisingly, the IRS says that the rebooted service has proper safeguards this time. Get Transcript will now require "multifactor verification." This involves requiring the use of a one-time code that the IRS texts to a mobile phone. Other specific information will be needed to sign in as well.

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