How can I avoid something like the recent ADP W-2 data hack from happening to me with my employer?

The month of May got off to a stressful start for many, as cyber criminals managed to hack the payroll company ADP and access a batch of personal and tax data.

The breach was tied to W-2 forms, the documents many employees receive earlier in the year, that are required to file annual tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state tax departments.

Specifically, identity thieves used workers’ confidential personal information –names, birth dates and Social Security numbers -- obtained from other sources, to register as the employees at one of the companies using the ADP portal. Once logged in, the crooks viewed or downloaded the W-2's.

In total, more than 700,000 taxpayer accounts were compromised.

According to a U.S. Bank letter to its affected employees, the breach occurred “because ADP offered an external online portal that had been exploited.”

Going back to your question, there’s little you or your employer can do to preemptively prevent this kind of an attack from happening, but if you suspect your ID has been stolen, the IRS recommends you send them Form 14039, which is an Identity Theft Affidavit. This puts the IRS on alert.

According to, even if you suspect someone filed a fake return pretending to be you, you should still file your real tax return on paper and attach a copy of the Form 14039. Also watch out for other financial data that might be compromised, like your credit reports.

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