Americans will soon have to smile to pay taxes or, at least, they will have to send a selfie or a photo of their ID card to log in to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) online services.
Starting this summer, Americans will no longer be able to log in to the IRS portal with their username and password. Instead, they will have to provide a profile photo and ID card to the Virginia-based verification company, ID.me, in order to pay their taxes online.
“To verify their identity with ID.me, taxpayers need to provide a photo of an identity document such as a driver’s license, state ID or passport,” reads the document announcing the new identification process.
“They’ll also need to take a selfie with a smartphone or a computer with a webcam. Once their identity has been verified, they can securely access IRS online services,” the document concludes.
The change in the form of access is not minor, as Americans will now have to provide photos of themselves to log into portals that allow them to apply for child tax credits, a tax payment plan, access their online account and tax record, and obtain an ID number to protect their identity, all through a portal managed by a single Virginia company.
The change was noted by reporter Brian Krebs, a security news expert, who states in his blog that the ID.me company is “an online identity verification service that many states now use to help stanch the loss of billions of dollars in unemployment insurance and pandemic assistance stolen each year by identity thieves.”
About 27 states use ID.me services to target identity thieves and prevent them from accessing federal or state benefits using someone else’s name.
The IRS will use a new system that is burdensome and asks too much information from citizens
The ID.me system currently in operation requests more information than current verification systems, such as asking for a driver’s license photo, copies of utility or insurance bills, and details about cell phone service.
According to Krebs, when the applicant does not have any of the requested documents, the application may take it as a potential fraud, so the company may request an online conversation with the person applying before allowing him or her access to government benefits.
The verification process on the ID.me platform begins by requesting an email to send a six-digit code to authenticate the account. After authenticating the account, ID.me prompts the user to choose a multi-factor authentication (MFA) option.
These options include sending a new six-digit code via text message, confirming via a phone call or inserting a code generated through the ID.me app.
When the account is authenticated, the system asks applicants for an image of their driver’s license, ID or passport, either by photos or by a scan made from the ID.me app itself.
If the documents are accepted, ID.me will ask for a selfie with the user’s cell phone or webcam. The ID.me software may request a new photo several times, as it compares the selfie images with the user’s photo in the scans of the driver’s license or ID card.
Next, ID.me requires verification of the cell phone, where it will have to corroborate with the user’s phone company that the phone number provided does indeed exist and the user can be contacted in this way. Verification for many Americans is paused during this step.
After verifying the phone number, ID.me goes on to send an email to the applicant to complete the verification process, where it asks not only to re-upload the previously requested documents, but also requires photos of the social security card, a copy of the U.S. birth certificate and health insurance card, among other documents.
Once the documents are uploaded, the ID.me system will send a message to the user requesting: “Stay on this screen to join the video call”. A person from the company will call back in a few hours (3 hours and 27 minutes in Krebs’ case) to verify that you are who you say you are, if you filled out the form, provided your phone number, personal documents and your profile picture in order to pay your taxes.