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IRS restores enhanced online ID number service

Victims of tax identity theft must use a special tax number when they file since their Social Security number has been appropriated by crooks.

Tax return-social security card_iStock_000012249890Medium

This new six-digit tax ID is known as the Identity Protection Personal Identification Number, or IP PIN. Others who aren't ID theft victims, but who want to use that number instead of their nine-digit Social Security ID for added security when they file, also can opt in to the program.

But that option has been on hold for months because, you got it, concerns about tax identity thieves hacking into Internal Revenue Service systems. Now the service is back.

Getting, retrieving an IP PIN: You can apply for an IP PIN online. If the IRS OK's your request for the new tax ID number, you'll receive your IP PIN online and you'll get a new IP PIN each December by postal mail.

Getting Your IP PIN IRS page screenshotClick image to go to the IRS Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) page.

If you happen to lose or forget that number, you can use the same online service to retrieve it.

The online IP PIN service, however, had been on hold since March 7.

That day, the IRS suspended its use as part of what the agency called an "ongoing security review" in the wake of concerns about attempts to hack its systems, most recently its Get Transcript online service.

But now the IP PIN online tool is back and, says the IRS, better than ever.

Added authentication steps: The "Get an IP PIN" tool has returned to IRS.gov with a stronger authentication process to help protect taxpayers, according to an IRS statement.

In addition, notes the IRS:

The re-launched tool uses a multi-factor authentication process that will help prevent automated attacks.

Taxpayers must verify their identities using a more rigorous Secure Access process that requires them to have immediate access to an email address, account information from a credit card or other loans types and a text-enabled mobile phone. New and returning users must follow the Secure Access steps outlined in Fact Sheet 2016-20, How to Register for Get Transcript Online Using New Authentication Process.

Part of continuing ID theft fight: So while not many taxpayers use the IP PIN option -- there are fewer than 3 million holders of the special filing ID number out of around 150 million taxpayers -- the online option to get an IP PIN is part of the larger issue of taxpayer filing security.

The IRS is looking at its Future State that includes more electronic taxpayer interaction. But that's a major challenge in a time when computer hackers are stealing individuals' personal information, both connected to general finances and taxes, every day.

As we've seen, the IRS is not immune from such attacks. So it's using what it has learned to upgrade its security.

The IRS first used the Secure Access process now applicable to the IP PIN tool on its online Get Transcript option. And, says the agency, it is continuing to review the security of its other IRS.gov services to determine which ones it will convert to the stronger verification process.

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