The Internal Revenue Service has toughened its security for their online applications. The upgrade was taken this year in an expanded effort to protect the nation’s taxpayers from identity theft. The new process means a few more steps for taxpayers using the IRS tools – but much better security in the long run.

The security system is known as “two-factor authentication,” and it’s becoming much more common in areas such as social media and the financial sector. The two factors are basically two steps to verify the user is who they claim to be, The usual user name and password are in turn verified by a security code sent as a text message.

The new IRS security process is called “Secure Access,” and combats the efforts of cybercriminals to impersonate taxpayers. Thieves use taxpayer data – stolen from sources outside the income tax system – to file fraudulent tax returns or access taxpayer accounts.

That’s why the IRS added the extra layers of security to their Get Transcript Online and Get an IP PIN online tools. To use these two applications, here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • An email address;
  • Your Social Security number;
  • Your filing status and address from your last filed tax return;
  • Your personal account number from a:
      • credit card, or
      • home mortgage loan, or
      • home equity (second mortgage) loan, or
      • home equity line of credit (HELOC), or
      • car loan
        • A readily available mobile phone. Only U.S-based mobile phones may be used. Your name must be associated with the mobile phone account to complete the process in one session. (If you have a Google Voice or similar virtual phones or a pay-as-you-go plan, you can opt for an activation code by mail, which will take five to 10 days for delivery. Landlines and Skype won’t work.)

    Once you’re set up, to access either tool you’ll need your user name, password and your mobile phone handy to receive your security code. That’s true for every time you log in.

    To learn other ways taxpayers can protect their personal and financial data, visit “Taxes. Security. Together.” And check out Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers.