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Fraudsters are using stolen personal information to file fake tax returns for real Utahns, hoping to steal refund money, the Utah State Tax Commission said Thursday.
The commission has identified 28 fraudulent filings so far, but has flagged 8,000 others as potential frauds. It said 18 other states so far have identified similar problems.
Extra screening to detect fake returns means Utahns can likely expect a delay in processing of their refunds, a commission spokesman said.
"Utah taxpayers who filed state-income tax returns electronically prior to 2014 through third-party vendors are potentially affected," the commission warned. It said it will reach out "individually" to alert those confirmed as victims.
Commission spokesman Charlie Roberts said it found that personal information has been stolen from previous returns filed through third-party software.
More than 200,000 people filed electronically last year close to 20 percent of all returns and that number is expected to grow this year.
The problems were found through the commission's fraud-detection systems. It also said it was contacted by some taxpayers who tried to file returns through TurboTax who received a message that their return had already been filed.
The commission said its own data remains secure.
"Our systems have not been compromised," said John Valentine, chairman of the Tax Commission. "But we feel it is our responsibility to alert taxpayers who have potentially had their personal information compromised by a third-party tax preparation service, so they can take the necessary steps to protect themselves."
Valentine added, "We will continue to work with all commercial vendors to strengthen protection of taxpayers' identification and confidential information."
The Tax Commission said it "is taking extra precautions to verify filings and refunds to ensure that the correct taxpayer receives his or her proper refund."
Taxpayers concerned about the security of their personal information provided to a tax-preparation software service should contact the provider, the agency said.
The commission also said that when inconsistencies in returns are identified, it will send identification verification questionnaires to individual taxpayers. It said some people have already responded to such questionnaires, saying they have not yet filed taxes.
Taxpayers may verify the current status of their state income tax return by going to taxexpress.utah.gov, where detailed instructions are provided.
If a taxpayer finds something suspicious in that status such as showing a return has been filed when it hasn't they are advised to report it to the tax commission's fraud section at 801-297-3844.