The digital age brings a new kind of stick up

The Internal Revenue Service was in front of the Senate Finance Committee this week to answer questions concerning a breach that allowed hackers to steal tax information from 140,000 taxpayers. Before we use the situation to castigate the IRS, the breach started long before the thieves matched information on the IRS website. The hackers already had Social Security numbers, addresses and birth dates in order to use the IRS’ “Get Transcript” website.

What is the lesson in all of this? Several large data thefts have occurred involving millions of identities. Unfortunately, many businesses that have been hacked have not been forthcoming with information that would help their customers protect themselves. Now these professional data thieves have taken it up a notch, using the data to enter IRS files. Thieves may use the information to open up fraudulent accounts, file fake tax returns or sell the information to other crooks. The nightmare never ends.

Some advice:

Scrutinize all bank and credit statements. Don’t hesitate to call your bank or credit card company immediately.

Be careful making online purchases.

Do not give out personal information online or over the phone.

There are a number of tips on the Internet that will help in efforts to prevent identity theft, but it is a fact of life in this digital age. Acccording to regionalnews.com, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told a group of civic leaders in Chicago last year “identity theft is not a matter of ‘if,’ but a matter of ‘when.’”