Thieves stealing tax refunds boosts ID theft 47% - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Thieves stealing tax refunds boosts ID theft 47%

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BY KEITH WAGSTAFF, NBC News

(NBC News) - Hoping to get a big tax refund this year? So are identity thieves.

Last year, there was a 47 percent jump in complaints about identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission said. A large percentage of them were related to tax refund fraud.

"As most Americans know, we live in an age when it's not a matter of if, but when you will become a victim of identity theft," said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in a statement.

She was promoting IdentityTheft.gov as part of the FTC's "Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week." The website allows people to file official complaints about identity theft to the government and provides tips on what do do if you become a victim.

In 2015, there were 490,220 identity theft complaints in the U.S. — a 47 percent increase from the previous year. A little more than 45 percent of them (221,854) were complaints about tax or wage theft. In most cases, that involves somebody stealing personal information and then using that to claim a tax refund.

"Your best defense against tax refund fraud?" wrote cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs. "File your taxes as soon as possible."

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