The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a part of the U.S. Department of Education used by college students to apply for much needed financial aid to assist them in furthering their education. Some of the forms used in the application process require inserting information from past income tax returns. To make the process more convenient, FAFSA provided for a data retrieval service directly to the IRS to obtain the necessary information, however scammers hacked into the data retrieval system of FAFSA applicants to get the tax information which they then used to commit income tax identity theft.
In response to these problems, FAFSA temporarily suspended its data retrieval system. Now however, the Data Retrieval Tool has been returned to service in a manner that the tax return information will be encrypted and hidden from view of even the borrower as well as someone hacking into the borrower’s account. When you use the tool, instead of numbers will appear the words “Transferred from the IRS” in the data entry fields in the FAFSA form. You also should be aware that if you use the Data Retrieval Tool, you may get a snail mail letter from the IRS notifying you that your tax information has been transferred.
Quite often, as Shakespeare said, the fault is not in the stars, the fault is in ourselves. Too often we become victims of identity theft when the security of particular websites, companies or government agencies that have our personal data is compromised because we provide our passwords and user names to identity thieves by falling prey to spear phishing emails or downloading malware. It is important to never click on a link in an email or download an attachment unless you have confirmed that it is legitimate. Also, never provide personal information to anyone unless you have confirmed that the request is legitimate.
As for students seeking to use the Data Retrieval Tool of the IRS for filing a FAFSA form, the tool is much more secure now. Online filing of the FAFSA form for the 2018-2019 filing season is now open and available. You can access the form online at https://fafsa.ed.gov/