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Tax information of more than 100,000 US citizens stolen via “Get Transcript” service of IRS



Washington: A group of hackers stole confidential data on more than 100,000 US taxpayers over the past four months, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen, reported.

At a Tuesday press conference, Koskinen said that the hackers accessed tax returns containing a large amount of personal data via the IRS “Get Transcript” service between February and May.

“Get Transcript” is a way to download several years of tax forms when a taxpayer would like to apply for a mortgage or educational financial aid, for instance.

Of the 200,000 attempts by the cybercriminal group to download individuals’ tax data between February and May, about half were successful, but – although an investigation is under way – US authorities still do not know who could have carried out the hack attack.

The IRS chief said the agency is sure that the hackers were not novices. “We’re dealing with criminals with a lot of money and using expensive equipment and hiring a lot of smart people,” he said.

Koskinen said that the aim of the info-pirates was to use personal data they had already stolen from taxpayers to request fraudulent tax refunds in their names, and about 15,000 such refunds were issued.

The IRS will send letters to the 200,000 people potentially affected by the data theft starting this week to inform them of the problem.

According to the agency, the hackers already had acquired – possibly through the social networks – private information, including names, addresses, social security numbers and certain other personal details, on citizens whose tax data they then attempted to steal.

The IRS has temporarily disabled the “Get Transcript” service. Over the past few months, Americans used it to download 23 million transcripts, the agency said, but – for the moment – those requests will have to be filled by sending out paper copies of past tax returns.

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Facebook, YouTube dominate social media use in US

A majority of Americans across a wide range of demographic groups now use Facebook

Facebook one of the most popular apps in US. Pixabay
Facebook employees 'secret police' to catch information leakers. Pixabay
  • Facebook and Youtube are most popular apps in the US
  • The apps are particularly very popular among youngsters
  • Other popular apps are LinkedIn, Snapchat, WhatsApp etc.

When it comes to social media penetration in daily life, a majority of Americans are hooked on Facebook and YouTube but millennials prefer photo-sharing platforms Snapchat and Instagram, a new survey has revealed.

mobile apps that all women should have
Youngsters use a lots of app these days. Wikimedia Commons

According to the Pew Research Centre, 68 percent of all Americans use Facebook and three-quarters of that access the social media platform on a daily basis.

Nearly 74 percent of adults use YouTube and 94 percent of young users visit YouTube on their computers or smartphones.

Also Read: Apple takes the op spot in global wearables market

With the exception of those 65 and older, a majority of Americans across a wide range of demographic groups now use Facebook.

“Younger Americans (especially those ages 18 to 24) stand out for embracing a variety of platforms and using them frequently. Some 78 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds use Snapchat, and a sizeable majority of these users (71 percent) visit the platform multiple times per day,” the findings showed.

YouTube is another most popular app in the US. Pixabay
YouTube is another most popular app in the US. Pixabay

Similarly, 71 percent of Americans in this age group now use Instagram and close to half (45 percent) are Twitter users, the survey noted.

“These findings also highlight the public’s sometimes conflicting attitudes toward social media. For example, the share of social media users who say these platforms would be hard to give up has increased by 12 percentage points compared with a survey conducted in early 2014, the Pew Research Centre said.

Also Read: Google launches three new apps for photography

By the same token, a majority of users (59 percent) say it would not be hard to stop using these sites, including 29 percent who say it would not be hard at all to give up social media.

Some 88 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds indicated that they use any form of social media. That share falls to 78 percent among those ages 30 to 49, to 64 percent among those ages 50 to 64 and to 37 percent among Americans 65 and older.

Pinterest remains substantially more popular with women — 41 percent — than men (16 percent). LinkedIn remains especially popular among college graduates and those in high-income households.

WhatsApp is one of the most popular apps in Latin America.
WhatsApp is one of the most popular apps in Latin America.

“Some 50 percent of Americans with a college degree use LinkedIn, compared with just 9 percent of those with a high school diploma or less,” the survey said.

The messaging service WhatsApp is popular in Latin America, and this popularity also extends to Latinos in the US – 49 percent of Hispanics report that they are WhatsApp users, compared with 14 percent of whites and 21 percent of blacks. IANS