Consumer First Alert: How to protect your tax refund

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The earlier you file, the better. That's the advice from consumer advocates during tax season.

Source: www.efile.com / CC BY-SA 2.0 / MGN

It is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. Consumer advocates use the awareness campaign to help people protect their refund from thieves.

April 15 is Tax Day and the IRS expects to process 150 million individual returns.

In 2018, nearly 200,000 people fell victim to tax identity theft. That happens when someone uses your Social Security Number to file a phony return and collect the refund.

Victims may not find out about the theft until they file their return and the IRS rejects it as a duplicate.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says victims should file a complaint immediately.

Here's how to protect yourself:

--Protect your Social Security Number. Do not give it out.

--Be alert to promotions that try to get personal details that could be used to file a tax return.

--Research a tax preparer before you hand over personal information. Check their background.

--If you file electronically, use a secure internet connection.

BUSINESS TIPS

The IRS says cyber thieves target businesses during tax time. They'll impersonate someone in the company and send emails asking payroll or human resources to disclose employee W-2 information.

If you get an email, text or message that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on attached links.

IRS says notices about tax-related issues or identity theft are sent by mail, not electronically.

The IRS has launched its Identity Theft Central website to help people and businesses combat fraud. CLICK HERE to visit the website.