Herb Weisbaum
CNBC
January 14, 2014

Thieves usually just make up phony income numbers for the tax returns they file. Credit: 401(K) 2012 via Flickr
Thieves usually just make up phony income numbers for the tax returns they file. Credit: 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

What’s worse than filing your taxes? Having an identity thief steal your return check.

Identity theft is already a serious problem—the No. 1 complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, and tax-related identity theft is a growing part of this crime spree. In 2010, about 15 percent of all identity theft complaints to the FTC dealt with tax returns. In 2013, that jumped to 43 percent.

“It’s a lucrative crime and relatively easy to commit,” said Adam Levin, chairman and founder of Identity Theft 911. “All you need is a Social Security number and some counterfeit documents. It’s much easier than selling drugs or stealing cars and a lot less risky for the bad guys.”

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