Warning from the IRS: Breach or No Breach, Your Identity Could be Stolen
Since this summer’s massive cybersecurity breach from Equifax that compromised personal information of an estimated 145 million Americans, consumers have been urged to check their credit reports and histories to determine their personal impact. However, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen recently announced that despite the breach, most Americans had already been impacted. “Our estimate is a significant percent of those taxpayers already had their information in the hands of criminals,” said Koskinen. It is safe to say if you are reading this, your credit history is at risk and was impacted by the breach, or possibly before.
Consumers are urged to be proactive with their credit histories and even place a security freeze on all credit files maintained by the three major credit bureaus Equifax, Experian, and Transperian. This will discourage hackers to access your credit history. However, a security freeze also limits consumers to initiating an inquiry on their own credit. Consumers can add, lift or remove freezes on their accounts, but fees vary by state.
Even if you place a freeze on your credit history, you’re not completely in the clear yet. The impact of the Equifax breach felt by consumers may not be damaging right now, but Koshinen and other experts anticipate next tax season (in early 2018) to be problematic. Appropriately coined “tax identify theft,” hackers have previously filed fraudulent tax returns by using a consumer’s name and social security number. The IRS urges everyone to file their taxes as soon as possible next season to combat this and beat hackers from submitting false returns.