MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Taxes is warning anyone who filed property transfer tax returns over the last three years to be aware of possible identify theft.
On July 2, the department was alerted to a security vulnerability for taxpayers who filed property transfer tax returns through the department’s online filing site between February 2017 and July 2020. While the department believes the risk of unauthorized access of any individual’s data is low, it is encouraging taxpayers who could have been affected to remain vigilant and take steps to help prevent identity theft.
Immediately after learning of the issue, the department disabled and then patched the part of the software that had the vulnerability. While the department cannot determine with certainty whether or not any individual’s data was accessed, it has had no reports of unauthorized access of property transfer tax returns. There are a few factors which lead the department to believe that the risk of unauthorized access of any individual’s data is low, including:
- to gain access to personal information, a user would have needed specialized knowledge to understand the functionality of verification credentials on the tax return,
- to gain access to personal information, a user would have needed access to the municipal records (in most Vermont towns, these records are only available with an in-person visit),
- there was no ability to obtain personal information from many tax returns at once (a user who had verification credentials from a tax return could only access information from that specific tax return).
A public notice issued by the department offers tips for guarding against identity theft and can be accessed at https://tax.vermont.gov/content/ptt-data-security-notice.