Utah state law allows the Department of Workforce Services to check Social Security numbers against the names of those applying for work or assistance through the department. This doesn't prevent credit fraud, but it can prevent imposters from applying for work through someone else's number.
"That's where a lot of people in the state of Utah are being identified as victims of identity theft," Morrill said.
Signs of a scam
There are other signs that can identify most scamming attempts.
"Any time somebody is asking you, 'We need your Social Security number,' red flags should pop up all over because those that need your Social Security number have it, and they won't be asking for that information," Roberts said.
Broschinsky said phone calls and emails from people claiming to be IRS agents demanding immediate payment are almost never legitimate.
"When the IRS wants to communicate with a taxpayer, they send a letter," he said. "The IRS never emails anybody. They really don't make any first contact by phone either. Once you've established contact with someone at the IRS, they may call. But the first contact will always be from a letter."
Morrill says timing is what often gives thieves the advantage in committing tax fraud through identity theft.
"Typically, thieves are acting early to file a tax return in order to beat the actual consumer, so they get the return before the victim does," he said. "I think the key to prevent this is to file your taxes as soon as possible so if somebody is using your information, they can't file your return quicker than you can."
Experts agree that consumers aren't defenseless against identity thieves.
O'Farrell says online banking is the most effective way to protect and monitor financial assets. Consumers can check the status of their accounts at any time and don't have to wait for a statement to come in the mail at the end of the month.
Taxpayers can also prevent fraudulent tax returns filed in their name by applying for a personal identification number or PIN through the IRS that will be required in filing the following year's return.
One of the best ways to prevent identity theft, Morrill said, is to keep Social Security numbers protected.
"A big preventative method is keep your Social Security number locked up at home," he said. "Don't carry it in your wallet with your driver's license. Once that number is gone, there's no way to prevent it from being used by someone else."
If a person suspects that their identity has been compromised, they can contact the IRS at 800-908-4490, extension 245. They are also encouraged to contact local police.
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