Identity theft rises during tax season. Here's how to protect against that

Tax season has arrived, which means so will that refund. 

However, not everyone is looking to file their own taxes. Some people, specifically the bad guys, will be busy looking for other people's filings. Tax specialists are warning these crimes tend to rise during this time of year.

"I'd like to think if you had a stack of $100 bills you wouldn't leave it out in the open and you really should treat your Social Security number in the same manner," said Tim Wyman, Center for Financial Planning.

Wyman said identity theft is a gold mine during tax season and once they get your numbers, it's all downhill from there.

"It really happens when someone steals your Social Security number, they file a false return with the intent of getting a refund in your name," Wyman said. "Unfortunately you may not even know it's happened until you file your real return and you get a letter in the mail from the IRS saying 'hey, sorry we can't accept this you've already filed.'"

For many, this isn't a problem anymore. Filing electronically can work, but it has to be on a secure website. Otherwise, you might as well just email the information to the bad guys.

"It's getting better. If you look at the numbers a few years ago, it was upwards over 750,000 of these cases a year. Last number I saw was the IRS got it down to 250,000," said Wyman. 

"If you file your taxes on a piece of paper, instead of putting it in your mailbox, walk it to the post office and have it mailed directly from there," Wyman added.

That means thieves are going straight to tax filer's mailboxes.

"Absolutely, you hear a lot of cases where the mail goes missing unfortunately and we have a wonderful system - probably one of the best in the world - but that doesn't mean that bad folks can't get to your mail," he said.