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IRS says 330,000 US citizens affected by hack

Hackers accessed the tax agency's Get Transcript feature using external sources

The US's tax agency, the IRS has reported that more than 330,000 citizens may have had their personal information stolen following a data breach.

Hackers managed to siphon off the data using the organisation's Get Transcript feature, which enables taxpayers to video their tax account transactions or line-by-line return information for the tax year.

Officials at the IRS think the data taken could be used to fraudulently claim tax refunds, explaining the information stolen relates to the 2016 tax year rather than 2015. It revealed that claims for $5.8bn (3.7bn) in fraudulent refunds were made in 2013.

"We're confident that these are not amateurs. These are organised crime syndicates that no only we, but everybody in the financial industry, are dealing with," IRS commissioner John Koskinen said.

"Unfortunately, the high number of large-scale data breaches has essentially transformed our personal information into public information; and this data should not be used as security or authentication checks."

Initially, the IRS thought that 200,000 attempts were made by hackers to obtain the information, but it has now reassessed its predictions, revealing nearer 600,000 attempts were made. So far, it would seem 330,000 requests were successful, with the others failing to make contact.

Immediately following the hack, the IRS's Get Transcript was taken offline, although it is now back up and running again it would seem. It advised taxpayers to file their tax returns as soon as possible before hackers used any information stolen to file fake tax returns.

It also said it would be offering those people affected with free credit protection on their accounts to prevent criminals claiming for credit cards falsely.

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