Identity theft is a growing problem, plaguing both taxpayers and the IRS. Scammers commonly steal personal information such as Social Security Numbers, legal names, and filing statuses, and then use that information to file a fraudulent tax return using made up financial information that generates a large tax refund.

Earlier this month, Jonathan Bochese, Senior Managing Licensed Tax Professional at Tax Defense Network, spoke with The Fiscal Times about ways to prevent identity theft and return fraud. The Fiscal Times is a digital news publication focusing on financial news. The article can be accessed the company’s LinkedIn profile.

While there is no way to completely protect yourself from identity theft or return fraud, there are a few steps you can take to make it less likely. Bochese, who sees the toll identity theft takes on Tax Defense Network clients, advises taxpayers to file as early in the tax filing season as possible, in order to file ahead of any possible scammers. Many times an identity thief will file a fraudulent return and claim the refund before the taxpayer even has a chance to file.

“The IRS processes the first return it receives, so when the real taxpayer sends in his return it will be rejected,” Bochese told The Fiscal Times.

The IRS then sends the taxpayer notice that more than one tax return has been filed using their information. It is important for the taxpayer to contact the IRS as soon as possible if they receive such a letter, so the IRS can take steps to secure their account.

Other measures to take to prevent identity theft include filing electronically, thoroughly vetting your preparer and safeguarding important documents. However, given the nature of the crime, there is no way to completely protect yourself.

“The identity theft landscape is constantly changing, as identity thieves continue to create new ways of stealing personal information and using it for their gain,” the IRS said in a statement on their website. “The IRS is firmly committed to working with taxpayers to take care of these problems as quickly as possible.”

While the threat of identity theft may seem bewildering and overwhelming, Jonathan Bochese of Tax Defense Network advises, “When it comes to ID theft, don’t live in fear – just live aware.”

Tax Defense Network is a national tax debt resolution company that assists individuals and small business across the country with their IRS and state tax issues. A+ rated by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Tax Defense Network has helped over 90,000 clients resolve over $120,000 in tax debt. The company’s Twitter profile is an excellent resource for tax news and tax tips.