The Internal Revenue Service has closed down its electronic filing PIN tool after noticing suspicious activity.

The IRS said Thursday that it saw automated attacks taking place with more frequency and has closed both the online tool on IRS.gov in addition to the toll-free phone service.

The IRS had detected such activity in February, finding that cybercriminals were using taxpayer information they had stolen elsewhere, along with an automated bot attack, to access more than 100,000 e-File PINs using the online tool (see IRS Detects Attack on Electronic Filing PIN App). However, the IRS decided at the time to leave the service available online since it was the middle of tax season and links to it were embedded in nearly all commercial tax prep software programs. The IRS instead added more defenses to its processing systems to scrutinize any tax returns sent with an e-File PIN more closely. But the IRS has recently seen more automated attacks occurring with increasing frequency, prompting the shutdown.

The IRS noted that the e-File PIN mainly provides an alternative signature verification method for the Form 1040 series and helps with electronically filing the returns. Most taxpayers do not need an e-File PIN to transmit their tax returns, though. They can instead just use the adjusted gross income from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity with the IRS.

The IRS said the shutdown would not have an impact on most taxpayers.

“The IRS notes that the change only affects a smaller segment of taxpayers who have not filed their tax returns this year and need a replacement e-File PIN,” said the IRS in a statement. “The IRS continues to work with the tax software community to make this change as smooth as possible for affected taxpayers.”

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