Security Experts:

IRS Relaunches "Get Transcript" Service With Improved Security

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced last week that it relaunched its Get Transcript online service after making some security improvements to its authentication process.

The “Get Transcript” online service was launched by the IRS in January 2014 to allow users to view and download their tax transcripts. It was shut down in May 2015 after the agency discovered that it had been abused by fraudsters.

According to the IRS, Get Transcript now uses a more rigorous authentication process that should prevent fraudsters from abusing the system. The new secure access framework, which will be used for all of the agency’s online tools that require a high level of assurance, was created in collaboration with the government’s US Digital Service and other security authorities.

Before it was shut down, fraudsters could gain access to Get Transcript accounts by knowing the targeted individual’s name, date of birth, social security number and filing status, along with answers to some knowledge-based authentication (KBA) questions from credit bureau Equifax, such as previous address and loan amounts.

In the new registration process, which must be completed even by users who already registered via the old process, taxpayers must also provide financial account information (e.g. credit card number, car loan number, mortgage account number), an email address, and a mobile phone number.

The agency noted that only US-based phones can be used and the taxpayer’s name must be associated with the account – prepaid mobile phones, landlines or virtual phone services are not accepted. Individuals who have placed a credit freeze on their records through Equifax need to temporarily lift it in order to complete the registration.

As part of the new verification process, users will receive one-time activation or security codes via email and SMS. Taxpayers will also be able to see the date and time when their Get Transcript account was last accessed, which allows them to identify potential fraud attempts.

The IRS initially reported that fraudsters abused the Get Transcript service to access the accounts of roughly 114,000 taxpayers. However, further analysis revealed that the actual number of affected accounts exceeded 700,000.

Several individuals have been identified and prosecuted for their roles in tax fraud schemes involving the Get Transcript service.

Related: Identity Thieves Use Stolen SSNs in IRS Attack

Related: IRS Suspends Identity Protection PIN Tool Over Security Concerns

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.