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Tax watchdog says IRS missed thousands of hacked 'Get Transcript' accounts

IRS' Get Transcript full service is back online
New enhanced security process again allows for direct transcript downloads

Get Transcript is back. The Internal Revenue Service's online tool where taxpayers can download copies of their prior year filing data had been effectively out of service for more than a year after it was hacked in in early 2015.


The online service still worked as long as you were willing to request your old filing data online, but wait for the actual information to be mailed to you in paper form.

IRS efforts to upgrade the site's security recently progressed to the point where it was allowing some transcript requests to be randomly downloaded.

Today, June 7, the IRS announced that the Get Transcript option is again working fully for all, thanks to a more rigorous e-authentication process.

Doubling up on security: The relaunch of Get Transcript Online addresses increased cybersecurity threats by using a new, more secure access framework, the IRS said in a statement announcing the return of the online service. A two-step authentication process is required for Get Transcript.

The enhanced authentication process will also provide a foundation for additional IRS self-help services in the future, according to the IRS.

Basically, the agency plans to eventually convert all of online tools and applications "that require a high level of assurance" -- which essentially is everything related to taxpayer data -- to more stringent taxpayer/requester authentication standards.

Old-school options remain: The IRS acknowledges that the more rigorous Get Transcript e-authentication process could be a bit of an inconvenience for some taxpayers as they find it more difficult to authenticate their identities.

But, says the agency, it is committed to making sure everyone accessing its website tools will be able to do so in a safe and secure way.

The IRS also will provide options for taxpayers who may be unable to access online features or who prefer to obtain information in more traditional ways. This includes ordering transcripts online or by phone and having them sent by mail to the individual's address of record within five to 10 days.

Trying to stay ahead of cyber crooks: The IRS, along with other federal agencies, are still playing catch-up when it comes to new technology and criminals. The crooks don't have to deal with a bureaucracy and obviously aren't worried about protecting anyone other than themselves, so they move quickly, adapting their criminal enterprises quickly.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen noted that challenge in announcing the return of the Get Transcript service:

   "The IRS is committed to the protection of taxpayer information and the security of our systems. Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated and continue to gather vast amounts of personal information as the result of data breaches at sources outside the IRS.

   "In the face of that threat, we must provide the strongest possible authentication processes, while trying to enhance the ability of taxpayers to legitimately access their data and use IRS services online. We recognize that enhanced security will increase the challenge for taxpayers accessing our on-line services."

The security changes, the IRS says, were the result of its work, begun after the Get Transcript hack was discovered, with the U.S. Digital Service and other security authorities. The new secure access process meets the security standards set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Getting started with the new Get Transcript tool: The IRS has issued a fact sheet to help those using Get Transcript under the new e-authentication system.

To get started, new users will need:

  • A readily available email address;
  • Your Social Security number or Individual Tax Identification Number;
  • Your filing status and address from your last-filed tax return;
  • Access to certain account numbers for either:
    • credit card, or
    • home mortgage loan, or
    • home equity (second mortgage) loan, or
    • home equity line of credit (HELOC), or
    • car loan
  • A readily available mobile phone. Only U.S.-based mobile phones may be used. Your name must be associated with the mobile phone account. Landlines, Skype, Google Voice or similar virtual phones as well as phones associated with pay-as-you-go plans cannot be used;
  • If you have a credit freeze on your credit records through Equifax, it must be temporarily lifted before you can successfully complete this process.
  • Because this process involves verification using financial records, there may be a “soft notice” placed on your credit report. This notice does not affect your credit score.

You can read more on how to register for Get Transcript under the new authentication process in the IRS' online fact sheet, or download a PDF copy of the procedure requirements.

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