Identity theft is a growing problem, and some law enforcement officials have declared that there is no end in sight for these thieves. It has basically become too easy to do, too easy to get away with, and too lucrative for these criminals to stop. But as awareness of identity theft grows, some states are putting safeguards in place for their consumers.

The state of Oregon has now added an online reporting form to its state department of revenue website which will allow identity theft victims to report these crimes, especially where fraudulent tax return filing is concerned. It also links to the IRS for federal ID theft reporting and the three credit agencies to inform them of the crime for a simplified, streamlined effort in reporting the theft.

More and more consumers are working to get their returns filed electronically, only to discover that someone has already helped themselves. Instead of a refund check or an amount owed message, would-be taxpayers instead receive a message that a return has already been filed under their Social Security numbers.

While this feature is handy for the residents of Oregon, those of us who don’t live in a state that offers online ID theft reporting options will have a little more legwork to do if we think we’ve been victims of this crime. The first step is always to reach out to the department of revenue, both your state’s and the federal, and report the crime, as well as to file a police report in your jurisdiction since you’ll need to provide that report to the state and federal IRS. If you think a fraudulent tax return has been filed under your name and Social Security number, don’t assume that the criminals stopped there; get copies of your credit report from the three reporting agencies, and check them over to make sure there are no credit cards or loans that you didn’t authorize.

One of the most important proactive steps you can take is to file your taxes as early as possible. A lot of us wait until the last minute because we see it as a bit of a hassle. But not waiting to file means you’ll have more time to handle any issues that arise, and will also mean that your state and federal tax agents will have more opportunity to work with you professionally.

You’re more likely to get a human response and better information if you’re not sitting on hold while hundreds of revenue agents work on the April 15th filing rush. As with everything related to identity theft, the best course of action is always to work hard to prevent it in the first place. Guard your Social Security number, shred any identifying documents or papers, and monitor your credit reports and Social Security activity regularly to keep surprises from cropping up.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.