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Petryk column: Beware of tax ID theft

With tax season in full swing the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is reminding taxpayers to be on the lookout for fraud before it is too late. Unfortunately, there might be a number of people unlucky enough this year to have their taxes filed for them by an online thief.

If you are unfamiliar with this scam, online crooks will file a tax return under your name and direct the refund to their banking information, then take out the cash as quickly as possible. Sometimes the thief will even use children's identities to claim them as dependents.

The easiest step for someone to take to ensure they have not already become a victim is to see if a return has already been submitted. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue has an online tool to check if you have already filed your tax return. You can go to https://www.revenue.wi.gov, click online services, and look for a link called "Check if your 2018 tax return was filed."

There are some additional signs as well. Check your mail and look for notices from the IRS that say you have already sent your return. You might also receive a notice in the mail saying that there was a discrepancy in a return, which you did not file. Finally you might receive a notice from the IRS that your account has been sent to collections for a return you did not submit.

According to DATCP, if you think you might be a victim, you should report the fraud immediately by phone to the IRS at 1-800-829-0433 and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue at 608-266-2486. In addition, DATCP has a packet of additional information available at https://datcp.wi.gov/Documents/IDTheftTaxFraudPacket665.pdf You can also call their Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-422-7128.

To help mitigate the chances of this happening you to, there are some proactive measures people can take against this scam:

• File your taxes early in the season before a thief can

• Make sure your computer system is up-to-date and you have updated antivirus software

• Use strong passwords for your tax software login

• Limit the amount of personal details you share online

• Know that the IRS, the U.S. Treasury, or the Wisconsin Department of Revenue will NEVER call and threaten you with arrest or legal action about back taxes. Any calls of this nature are a scam

• Do not click on links that could redirect you to imposter websites

• Avoid downloading attachments in emails from unknown senders or in suspicious emails