DENVER (CBS4)– Time is running out to file taxes and the IRS is warning some filers of a popular scam this time of year.

The IRS said identity theft is the number one tax scam. People usually notice they have become victims when they tried to E-file and the IRS wouldn’t accept it or they didn’t receive their return as anticipated.

The IRS also sends out letters that multiple returns were submitted in the victim’s name.

The thieves will strike anyone at any time.

Sgt. Adam Ray died fighting the war in Afghanistan. Before his family could file his taxes someone else did. The thieves collected $1,400 on a refund that should have gone to Ray’s parents.

“How could someone do this? My son gave his life for you and now you’re going to stel what little few dollars he had left,” said Ray’s mother Donna Ray.

The military family was a victim of what the IRS said is a growing crime called tax return fraud.

“We are seeing it here in Colorado,” said IRS Special Agent Bryan Thiel.

Here’s how it works: Thieves steal Social Security numbers and other personal information from the dead and the living. Then they file a tax return in that person’s name.

The IRS said there are ways to protect yourself.

  • File Early- Scammers will file early hoping to beat you to the punch and claim your refund.
  • E-filers should connect their computer to an ethernet cable. Using a wireless connection is not as secure.
  • Submit Returns- don’t leave returns on your computer. Once you’ve filed transfer the information to a flash drive or a CD.

The IRS said they will work with those who have been victims of identity theft and tax return theft.

“The IRS will work with you. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a little bit of time but the IRS will work with the taxpayer,” said Thiel.

The crime is gaining traction because online companies like TurboTax make filing taxes fast and easy and thieves know the IRS does not verify their employer W2s sent with the return until after the refund is issued.

The IRS said it usually takes a month to receive your refund. If it has been longer than that check your refund status on the IRS website

If you suspect identity theft contact them right away.

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