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2:14PM

Tax Tip: Protecting Your Refund from Scammers

iStock/ThinkstockIdentity theft is a fast growing problem for taxpayers.

The Internal Revenue Service says it investigated nearly 1,500 cases of tax fraud in 2013, up 66 percent from the year before.

"The scams are usually what they call phishing, where they're fishing for information. So you should not give out any information -- banking or Social Security numbers or anything like that -- on the phone," New York certified public accountant Charles Stein says, explaining the most common way criminals get their hands on people's tax refunds.

The IRS says it will never contact you for personal information over the phone, email or social media, and asks taxpayers to report suspected phishing to phishing@irs.gov.

Mixing up your online passwords also helps. Always use a mix of numbers and special characters, and make sure to keep all those passwords stored in a safe place.

The best way to protect yourself from scammers is to file your taxes as soon as you have all of your documents, Stein says.

If you think you've been scammed, call the IRS right away and they'll find a way to get you that refund.

"The IRS will send you a letter and they'll generally ask you to file via paper instead of electronically because somebody's probably beat you to filing," says Stein.

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