(NEW YORK) -- If you haven't started working on your tax returns yet, you may want to get going -- tax thieves could claim your refund before you do if they have your Social Security number and other information. Last year, the Internal Revenue Service issued billions of dollars of tax refunds to thieves.
"They have computers and they come up with fake ID numbers and they file tax returns and they create phony W-2 forms," says Kevin McCormally of Kiplinger's Personal Finance, explaining how criminals get away with it. McCormally says refunds go out before all the documents are checked.
"The IRS will not even see your W-2 form until long after it has sent you your refund. It doesn't get that from Social Security until the summertime," he points out.
If somebody does manage to snatch your refund, McCormally says "it can take a year to get things straightened out."
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