Steps to Take if Your FAFSA was Hacked

A recent student aid application data breach has lead to the filing of thousands of fraudulent tax returns. According to the IRS, personal data of up to 100,000 taxpayers may have been hacked and used to file the fraudulent returns. Through the IRS Data Retrieval Tool used to upload information to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), hackers posed as students to automatically populate applications with tax information.

Who was Affected by the Breach?

Around 8,000 fraudulent federal income tax returns were filed and have resulted in refunds issued. Another 66,000 were filed but caught before refunds were issued. The IRS shut down the Tool at the height of financial aid application season; however, they expect the Tool to be secure and operational by late October.

Was My FAFSA Hacked?

If the IRS is suspicious that your account has been hacked or possibly used to file a fraudulent return, they will notify you by letter.  If you receive a letter, it’s important to complete the steps below:

  1. File a local police report in case the hackers take further action with your private information
  2. Alert one of the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian or Transunion, and they will notify the other two.
  3. Check and monitor your credit score to make sure that the problem is limited to tax information theft
  4. Consider ordering a tax transcript and consult with a tax advisor to determine if tax filings for this year and previous years appear correct
  5. Ensure safeguards on your credit and debit card accounts such as 2-factor identification and balance alerts
  6. Notify your bank and see what additional safeguards are available to protect your cash accounts

If your personal information has been hacked, following the steps above will minimize damage and protect you in the future. Contact an Anders advisor with any questions.