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ST. LOUIS COUNTY – The IRS is warning people about the scam targeting anyone who files a tax return. Criminals are using social security numbers to file your return and collect the refund.

Police departments across the bi-state are dealing with a major spike in these cases as April 15 nears. In Chesterfield, 24 different cases were reported to police in just the past week.

"These are the hardest cases the IRS has to work," said IRS spokesman Michael Devine.

And the agency is working more of them each year. In 2011, the IRS opened 276 identity theft investigations. In 2012, the number jumped to 898. In 2013, the number jumped to 1,492. It's partly because there are more data breaches, and partly because investigators are getting better at catching the crooks.

"We learn from what the criminals did last year. And so every year our filters are better at catching those fraudulent returns," said Devine.

But, they can't catch every one. So the agency says when in doubt, call the IRS, especially if you receive a call from someone asking for tax payment and especially if they threaten arrest. The IRS also says to never grant demands for wire transfers to pay your taxes, or requests for your social security number to help fix a problem with your return.

"What we tell people is, first try to avoid becoming a victim," said Devine.

The IRS offers many more tips to protecting yourself on irs.gov, along with forms to fill out if you feel you have become victim to fraud.

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