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Susan Tompor: IRS: Tax refund fraudsters already had much of that Equifax stolen data

Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Home and Consumer News

So among other cybersecurity worries, now we're all wondering how the stolen Equifax data -- which includes Social Security numbers -- might drive up tax refund fraud.

But IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said last week he's doubtful the Equifax breach will make a noticeable difference in tax-related ID scams. That's because a significant amount of that data was stolen through earlier breaches in recent years at major employers, cyber attacks on the health care sector and even hacking incidents involving the federal government's computer systems, including records of the Office of Personnel Management.

Koskinen estimated personal information for more than 100 million tax filers was already stolen by hackers.

"You should assume your name, address and Social Security number are already in the hands of criminals and act accordingly," Koskinen said in a press briefing.

Equifax has reported that hackers had access to information, including Social Security numbers, for more than 145 million consumers.

Act accordingly, of course, means recognizing that cyber crooks aren't giving up. Instead, they're upping their game. So it's essential to pay attention to the latest tricks that go far beyond just impersonating the IRS and demanding money be placed on Amazon gift cards.

For example, now cyber crooks are trying to grab money out of your annuity or life insurance accounts. Seriously.

The Internal Revenue Service -- which has a boatload of warnings about tax-related scams -- has rolled out a new alert suggesting that tax professionals and taxpayers are being targeted in an elaborate scheme that can enable crooks to take out loans or make withdrawals from annuities or life insurance accounts. Or they might use some of that information to file fake tax returns, too.

Crooks want data wherever they can find it -- so they're targeting tax professionals, payroll professionals, human resource personnel and others.

Sometimes, it can start with phishing email that looks like it's being sent from the tax professional to the client.

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