tax-refund fraudWe’ve already warned you about the real dangers of tax-refund fraud, which is one of the leading causes behind a 47% spike in identity theft complaints to the FTC in the past year, and it seems like thieves are wasting no time hitting tax services this year and making these warnings justified. Two such services — TaxSlayer and TaxAct — have reported security breaches that compromised customer data within the past couple of months. Further cause for concern was posed by a computer crash within the IRS itself on Tuesday, Feb. 3 that resulted in the service being unable to process Internet-submitted tax returns for almost a full day. While the convenience of submitting your taxes online cannot be denied, the added security risks also make it a risky endeavor, as many people across the country are discovering. What can you do to protect yourself?

Customer data stolen from TaxAct and TaxSlayer

In mid-January, TaxAct reported the potential theft of customer data for approximately 450 customers. The service also froze the accounts of 9,000 additional customers due to suspicious activity while it investigated. Notification letters sent to the 450 customers said that social security numbers and other personal information had possibly been stolen and their stored tax returns accessed by infiltrators.

Following on the heels of the TaxAct disclosure is an even larger security breach reported by online filing service TaxSlayer. Approximately 8,800 customers have been notified as of Jan. 29 that criminals may have stolen their personal and tax return information. According to TaxSlayer, this illegal access occurred between Oct. 10, 2015 and Dec. 21, 2015. The company doesn’t believe its own systems were breached; instead, it thinks that criminals used information obtained elsewhere to falsely access customer accounts.

It’s entirely possible that some of the information used in both of these breaches came from the infiltration of the IRS’s “Get Transcript” database in 2015 — a security break that affected more than 600,000 taxpayers.

Different data breaches can be connected to each other

Unfortunately, due to lax security protocols across various companies and industries around the world, data breaches have become a common occurrence. All of this information being stolen from databases often makes its way onto the Internet black market, where it is traded or sold and then used to either open fake accounts in people’s names, file fraudulent tax returns, etc. This free flow of personal data means it’s more important than ever to safeguard your information and take whatever precautions you possibly can to keep it secure. It is safe to assume if you’ve been notified of your data being involved in one security breach, there’s a chance it might be involved in one or several more.

There are many steps you can take to safeguard yourself and your loved ones, from freezing your credit files to signing up for an identity theft protection service. Unfortunately, tax-refund fraud is one identity crime that can only be discovered after the fact rather than as it’s happening like credit card fraud. If you discover your tax return has already been filed when you go to do your taxes this year, be sure to follow the steps outlined in this post to report the crime.