NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – – The IRS shut down its tax return e-file system on Wednesday, because of a problem with its computers.
Some of the systems will remain out of service until at least Thursday.
The shut down came at the same time as a warning to tax filers to beware of scammers trying to steal refunds.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, 33-year-old Michelle Quinn of Wappinger, New York filed her taxes online and had her identity stolen not once, but twice.
“It’s a very scary feeling. Sometimes I wonder what did I do wrong?” she said.
Quinn said she doesn’t know how they got her personal information last year, but once the ID thief had her social security number, they accessed her account with a popular online tax preparation service and stole her refund.
“Someone actually hacked into the site where they processed the transaction and they switched the bank account information,” Quinn said.
Quinn said this year she chose to use a different online service but her return was rejected.
“So I checked the reason and they found another return under my social security number,” she said.
Quinn said someone used her personal information to open a second account with the tax preparation company she used last year.
As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, the scammers are getting savvy.
“The identity theft with the tax returns has become a cottage industry,” tax attorney David Selig said.
Selig said he has been getting calls from clients about three separate tax scams.
Unsavory tax preparers have been telling their own clients to pay Affordable Care Act penalties directly to them instead of the IRS, scammers calling filers posing as the IRS and asking for bank account info, and tax preparers getting phone calls asking for their clients’ information.
“The best thing is to ask for a number to call back and if you’re not sure, call law enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, an attorney,” Selig said.
You can even Google the phone number that has just called you.
“Run their telephone number through the computer. Most come up as known scam artists,” Selig said.
It’s very unlikely that the IRS would contact you out of the blue without some kind of paper trail, but scammers only need a little bit of information to strike.
“All they need is a name, an address, maybe date of birth, social security number and they’re off to the races,” said Adam Levin.
Levin, founder of identity theft defense company IDT911, said one quick way of stopping hackers is by lying about your security question.
“If you say what your mother’s maiden name is, they’re (the company) not going to investigate as to whether that was what your mother’s real maiden name was,” he said. “You just need to make sure that whatever you choose is something you remember.”
Levin said you can also prevent hacking by following the three M’s.
- Minimize exposure of your personal information.
- Monitor your accounts by constantly checking your credit report for irregularities.
- Manage the damage by having a list of companies, credit accounts and bank accounts to call if you are victimized.
“The only reason why you haven’t become a victim of identity theft yet is because they haven’t gotten around to you,” said Levin.
It remains unknown if hackers accessed Quinn’s personal information through a break in the tax preparation site or from somewhere else, which stresses the importance of keeping your personal information secure.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has urged anyone who is the victim of a scam to report it.