"The IRS is trying to be more careful about refunds," said Ed Slott, a CPA and founder of Ed Slott and Co. in Rockville Centre, New York. "Identity thieves file fake returns early and collect the refunds."
Thieves have a variety of ways to snag your personal details, including impersonating the IRS on the phone or sending emails with malicious links.
Often, the victim of a tax refund scam doesn't figure out what's going on until he or she tries to file and the IRS rejects the return.
The IRS reported a 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents — identity theft over the web — during the 2016 tax season.