This is how scammers snatch your tax refund.

If you’re counting on a tax refund coming, better make sure scammers haven’t beaten you to your cash.

As of March 3, the IRS has issued more than 49 million refunds, delivering an average refund of $3,016.

A man holds a sign advertising income tax services in San Francisco, California.

If a fraudster snatched up your refund, it may be because they snagged your private information and filed a phony return early.

Over the first nine months of 2016, the IRS estimated that it stopped more than $4 billion in ill-gotten refunds that were claimed by scammers on 787,000 tax returns.

“There is so much rich data in a tax filing,” said Matt Cullina, CEO of CyberScout. “It’s not just your date of birth and your Social Security number, but also where you live, your charities and your dependents’ sensitive information.”

Hacking, simplified

To some extent, taxpayers make it easy for hackers to snatch up their private information, according to CyberScout’s recent survey of more than 1,500 adults.

More than half of the participants were unsure whether their tax preparer used two-factor authentication to access relevant documents. In fact, 13 percent said the tax service they use to file doesn’t require this extra security measure at all.

Two-factor authentication calls for a password and username, plus a code given via text message or an additional question.

Data storage is also iffy for many. Fewer than one in five participants use an encrypted USB drive to store sensitive documents, including W-2s, 1040s and 1099s.

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