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Tax refund debit cards possibly hacked

By Kay Bell · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Posted: 3 pm ET

JPMorgan Chase was hacked last month in what law enforcement officials say was a sophisticated cyberattack.

During the infiltration of the institution's records, the criminals obtained data on bank customer accounts.

Some Louisiana taxpayers now are learning that the debit accounts they were provided as part of their state's tax refund system may be at risk.

The Louisiana Department of Revenue says it was notified by JPMorgan Chase on Aug. 28 that "personally identifiable information it holds under contracts with state agencies might have been breached."

For the past few years, Louisiana has issued some tax refunds via its My Refund Card, a Visa card issued by Chase.

Why plastic is preferred

The Pelican State is not alone. At least four other states -- New York, Georgia, South Carolina and Oklahoma -- also use tax refund debit cards. Those states' tax departments, however, have deals with other bank card issuers.

The move to plastic by state tax departments generally is touted as better for taxpayers.

State officials argue that the debit cards are great for taxpayers who do not have bank accounts and therefore cannot receive refunds via direct deposit.

Tax departments also claim the debit cards allow folks to get their refunds more quickly and are safer than paper checks.

True, theft of refund checks from curbside Postal Service mailboxes is a problem. But as cyberattacks continue and expand, the safety issue is no longer such a great selling point.

There's also a budgetary factor, for states not taxpayers. State tax offices save money by using refund debit cards instead of printing and mailing paper checks.

Check your credit

Louisianans who received their state refunds on a My Refund Card are encouraged to monitor their credit statements and financial reports for any suspicious activities.

As a precaution against possible identity theft, state and bank officials suggest cardholders change the passwords on their respective accounts.

Even if you got a tax refund debit card in another state and the card was backed by another bank, such security follow-up is a good idea.

Although no details have been provided, the initial report of the JPMorgan Chase security breach noted that at least four other U.S. banks were struck by hackers in a series of coordinated attacks last month.

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Veteran contributing editor Kay Bell is the author of the book "The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes" and co-author of the e-book "Future Millionaires' Guidebook."

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