The income tax (I-T) department’s electronic clearance system (ECS) was hacked and fraudsters transferred over Rs 14 crore worth refund to various bank accounts.
Though the incident occurred in December, the I-T authorities learnt about it only on Thursday last following which an inquiry was initiated.
The hacker stole password of an assessing officer and transferred the money.
The department has now handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation. It has also changed passwords of all the officials immediately.
Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Mumbai, R. K. Singh confirmed the incident. But he refused to call it hacking.
An Additional Commissioner of Income Tax posted at Bandra-Kurla Complex first noticed the fraud. He found that some part of the total amount meant to be given as refund to assessees falling under him was missing from the system.
He brought it to the notice of senior authorities who ordered internal probe. The stealing of password then came to light.
I-T officials said that after hacking the ECS the fraudsters entered bogus returns into it using Permanent Account Numbers of some people. They also processed the returns in the system showing refund claims. The refund amount was then transferred to bank accounts, which were specially opened for this purpose.
As per procedure, once assessees file the returns, the same are fed into the department’s system. The ECS processes the return and calculate if more tax is to be demanded or refund is to be given to the assessees. If refund is generated in a case, the system automatically gives instruction to I-T’s bank to transfer the particular amount (of refund) to assessee’s account.
The department is also investigating if some insider is involved in the fraud. Role of other agencies who does some technical work for I-T is also being probed.