IRS explains how Social Security numbers became available to the public

The IRS explains how Social Security numbers became available to the public. The extent of this breach of private information is unknown but the IRS says it’s continuing to look at what happened.

The IRS says its committed to preventing identity theft from happening. But news of this release of Social Security numbers does not appear on its website. The IRS also says its temporarily removing public access to certain records.

Officials say they found out last week that a “substantial” number of numbers were available on the government’s website. The information was available to the public, including criminals.

“The Social Security number couples with other information they could obtain on the Internet can lead to bigger problems for you,” says attorney Bob Briggs.

The Social Security numbers came from forms filled out by political organizations.

The IRS says it’s required by law to publicly post these forms, but frequently and routinely reminds organizations of the public disclosure of these forms, and urges these organizations not to include personal information, including Social Security numbers in their public filings.

Attorneys that handle identity theft cases say don’t wait, investigate.

“Everyone is entitled to a free credit report from the three primary credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax and Transunion,” says Briggs.

A criminal can sometimes pair a Social Security number with a person’s car, or cities lived in, using information from social media and use that knowledge to seem like the real “John Doe” even more.

“Now, all of a sudden, they have all the information they might need to try to authenticate to this credit reporting site that they are in fact you,” says Briggs.

The IRS didn’t give an approximate number of people effected, or in what states the effected people live.

But the government organization says its assessing the situation and exploring available options.

We also asked the IRS for a phone interview with a representative about this leak of information. Workers there said no.