As the IRS's April 15 deadline looms, many are procrastinating on filing their 2014 tax returns.

As the IRS's April 15 deadline looms, many are procrastinating on filing their 2014 tax returns.

But this year, a dramatically higher number of people are finding that someone else has already filed for them.

Tax-refund season has become prime time for identity-theft tax fraud, and the rising number of cases isn't just an anecdotal reference.

Ohio Tax Commissioner Joe Testa said around $8 million to $10 million lost to tax fraud annually used to be typical; $270 million was involved last year. The rise prompted this year's "identity confirmation quiz," which is aimed at protecting those tax returns.

"(The number of cases) jumped dramatically, so in planning for this tax season, we felt we needed to continue to fine-tune and add additional steps for the process," Testa said. "With that kind of volume, we needed to take additional steps to secure the taxpayers' money."

The quiz is sent to a portion of Ohio taxpayers after they file their state return and is designed to prevent identity theft. While some may be annoyed by the quiz, Testa said it's a necessary inconvenience.

"I know that it does slow the process down somewhat when there are extra steps," he said. "People call and say, 'Why should I have to take quiz get own money back?' I understand that. But with all that's going on -- not just in Ohio -- they've got all these different methods for fraud. ... We really have to have our guard up."

With questions such as, "Which of these is your former address?" the quiz isn't designed to be difficult. Testa said a few people have failed, but 97 percent are passing.

But perhaps the best indication of the state's fraud problem is that of nearly 900,000 quizzes distributed, more than 130,000 haven't been sent back for 30 days. Because refunds are held until the quiz comes back, Testa knows what those unfinished quizzes likely mean.

"What does that tell you? I can't tell you definitively that that's fraudulent, but it seems likely," he said.

On the local level, police are taking more reports than ever.

"It's just a weekly occurrence now," Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer said, adding that there's no specific type of person who falls victim to identity theft. "It's spread everywhere. It doesn't appear that there is any profile they're selecting. It's just random victims all over the place."

Even in March, when many already have filed, local police still receive several identity theft reports a week, and have often had many more.

The issue, however, is that many cases can't be solved by local departments with limited reach and resources. Delaware Police Capt. Adam Moore said it's beneficial to file local reports, but they'll almost always be passed along out of necessity.

Moore said his department will always search for a local connection to a case of identity theft, but he noted geography and jurisdictional issues can constrain local agencies in fraud cases.

"Once we determine that it occurred overseas or out of (state), that really limits what local law enforcement can do," he said.

While Testa and his department are working on ways to add more security, ultimately, people are responsible for keeping their own information safe.

"It seems simplistic, but people can be careless about that," he said. "It's just being careful, like (avoiding) carrying a Social Security card with you. Just memorize your number, put it in your head and don't carry it around."

Testa said Ohioans should visit the Ohio Department of Taxation's website, tax.ohio.gov, for information on both the identity quiz and identity theft.