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Identity thieves are shifting strategies, as evidenced by a surge in tax refund fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Tax refund theft involves stealing a Social Security number, filing a false tax return and then pocketing the refund.
The FTC released its yearly consumer complaint figures Feb. 26, 2013, and, for the 13th year in a row, consumers complained most often about identity fraud. In fact, complaints about ID fraud were more than twice as prevalent as complaints about debt collectors and more than three times as common as auto-related complaints.
Within the category of identity theft, however, is where things get interesting. In 2006, just 16 percent of identity theft complaints were related to tax refund theft. In 2012, that percentage jumped to 43 percent of complaints — more than 12,000 complaints total. Compare that with credit card fraud, which made up just 14 percent of identity theft complains in 2012.
The increasing prevalence of electronic tax filing may be partly to blame for this surge, as e-filing does not require printed W-2 forms.See related:Tax ID theft skyrockets; thieves feasting on a refund bonanza
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