SALT LAKE CITY – While most folks are scrambling to get their taxes filed before Monday, one Utah woman hit a hiccup in the process when she discovered she was a victim of identity theft.
Marci Peterson has been on Social Security disability since 2007, but last year she decided to go back to work part time. When she went to file her taxes she ran into problems.
She said: “It just kept saying that the information I was sending them didn't match what the IRS had on file, and I kept getting that error message and was like, 'What's going on?'"
After calling the IRS, Peterson discovered that someone else had used her Social Security number to file their taxes. The scam is becoming more prevalent. Someone will steal a Social Security number and file taxes using made up information. They set it up to send the tax refund to an address or bank account where they can access the money.
Peterson said she found it hard to believe she’d been an identity theft victim.
"I was shocked,” she said. “Because I'm really careful of the information I put out there on the Internet."
Dolores Furniss, Utah State Tax Commission, said tax fraud is a growing issue.
"That's been incredibly huge this year with the IRS and the tax commission,” she said. “Just recently we had even one of our employees effected by that and didn't even know it."
Peterson said she isn’t sure how someone got her Social Security information, but she said she was the victim of a data breach at the Utah Health Department. She said she had no warning of the theft.
"I've had no alerts,” she said. “You know nothing shows that anybody applied for credit cards, car loans, anything like that."
Furniss said there are things people can do to protect themselves from identity theft.
"At least annually pull your credit report,” she said. “See if there's something on there that's suspicious, and you can get a credit report online free of charge at least once a year."
Furniss also urged people to be careful about choosing the people who will prepare their taxes.
"If you have these folks that say, ‘We'll give you a loan right now, for your taxes,’ be wary of that,” she said. “They can charge very high interest rates for that."
The IRS knows the person who took Peterson’s Social Security number, but they told her it could take more than five months to investigate the situation.