The Vermont Department of Taxes today disclosed that taxpayers’ private information was exposed because of a security issue affecting its online filing site discovered on July 2, 2020.
The data breach affected all Vermonters who electronically filed Property Transfer Tax returns using the tax department’s site between February 2017 and July 2020.
“Verification credentials for electronically filed property transfer tax returns available in public municipal records could be used to access previously submitted tax return information,” the breach notification says.
“The credentials could have been used to access private information including the social security number of the buyer of the property, and last four digits of the social security number of the seller of the property.”
According to Vermont’s Department of Taxes, once it was alerted of the security vulnerability affecting taxpayers’ data on July 2, 2020, it immediately disabled functionality that may have allowed unauthorized third parties to get access to others’ tax data.
The Tax Department recognizes that knowing your information is secure is an important part of filing taxes and understands there will be concern and frustration. The security of personal data is the highest priority of the Department and notifying taxpayers of the steps they can take to help protect themselves is critical. — State of Vermont, Department of Taxes.
The department addressed the vulnerability blocking the use of municipal records as part of future searches for earlier submitted property transfer tax returns.
“The Department is not able to determine whether any individual’s data was accessed and has had no reports of unauthorized access of property transfer tax returns,” the notification also reads.
However, although the risk of any taxpayers’ data being accessed during the last three years because of this issue should be low according to Vermont’s Department of Taxes notification, those who have electronically filed property tax returns between February 2017 and July 2020, are advised to take a number of steps to defend against potential identity theft attempts.
The list of tips for guarding against identity theft fraud includes checking credit report for the next two years, as well as:
• Reviewing your bank, credit card, and debit card account statements over the next twelve to twenty-four months and immediately report any suspicious activity to your bank or credit union.
• Monitoring your credit reports with the major credit reporting agencies.
• Calling your local police or sheriff’s office and file a report of identity theft if you find suspicious activity on your credit reports or other account statements.
• Place a fraud alert on your credit files so creditors will contact you before opening new accounts if you find suspicious activity on your credit reports or on your other account statements.