Experian credit reporting bureau replaces hacked competitor Equifax as supplier of taxpayer identity proof to Internal Revenue Service.
Remember when credit reporting bureau Equifax was hacked? Sure you do because you probably were among the more than 143 million folks whose data, collected without your knowledge or consent, was exposed to criminals.
Remember when the Internal Revenue Service had a deal with Equifax to tighten security processes used by taxpayers to get their tax information online from the agency? You probably do, since that no-bid Equifax-IRS contract got a lot of attention.
Well, the IRS agreed to revisit that $7.25 million federal deal last fall and it changed its mind.
Now another credit bureau, Experian, is in charge of Secure Access.
Tighter security loop: Secure Access is the IRS' online system that helps ensure that its web portals can be opened only by properly vetted taxpayers. It was unavailable to new users as the agency switched from Equifax to Experian.
However, effective Sunday, Dec. 10, the vendor transition was completed and the IRS re-opened full online access to apps that are protected by the new, more secure system.
Secure Access helps protect these online databases two ways.
It has a more rigorous identity-proofing process which helps ensure the users are who they say they are. It also requires returning users to use a two-factor access process by entering their credentials (username and password) plus a security code sent as a text message to their mobile phone.
Secure Access verification also can be completed through a security code generated by a new security feature on the tax agency's IRS2Go app.
This two-factor authentication process, says the IRS, meets required federal standards for protecting information.
Registering for more secure online IRS access: All e-services users who do not currently have a Secure Access account must re-register using the more rigorous two-step identity-proofing process.
To register for Secure Access, go to the online IRS service you wish to access.
Before you do that, though, you'll need some personal and financial information that you'll be asked to supply during the registration process. This includes your:
- Social Security Number,
- Date of birth,
- Filing status and mailing address from latest tax return,
- Access to an email account,
- Personal account number from a credit card, mortgage, home equity loan, home equity line of credit or car loan and
- A mobile phone with your name on the account.
If you don't have a mobile phone with texting capability in your name, the IRS will send you a verification code via U.S. Postal Service mail.
Hey, it happens. In my case, for example, my cell phone technically is in the hubby's name, not mine, as he's the one who set up our family plan, so I couldn't immediately complete the registration.
You can go ahead and complete the rest of the registration process and then sign on when you get your snail mailed code in five to seven days.
Taxpayers also may use the IRS2Go app to access their accounts by using a new "Security" feature. This allows the mobile app to generate a unique security code without being connected to the internet.
New system prompted by ID theft attempts: This stricter identity verification was instituted after several IRS online services were breached or targeted by identity thieves.
IRS online options taken offline included the agency's Get Transcript online tool, which was inoperable for more than a year and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, online assistance tool, which was suspended for several months.
e-Services protections for tax professionals: The IRS also is extending Secure Access protections to e-Services, the suite of online tools for tax professionals.
This includes electronic filing, transcript delivery systems and taxpayer identification number matching. All these tools lead to sensitive taxpayer information used by tax pros, who are increasingly targeted by cyber criminals.
As with individual taxpayers, tax pros who use e-Services users but who do not currently have a Secure Access account must register using the more rigorous Secure Access process, either at IRS.gov or using the IRS2Go "Security" feature.
Do you use IRS online tools, either via your computer or mobile device? Does the Secure Access process ease your concern about tax identity theft and fake filing to collect fraudulent refunds in your name?
Or will you still with getting your tax information from the IRS via the old-fashioned methods like phone and snail mailed correspondence?
You also might find these items of interest:
- Securing taxpayer data is the IRS' biggest challenge
- Fear you might be a tax ID theft victim? Here's what to do
- Beware year-end ID theft and quick cash scams