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Tax ID Theft Still a Huge Problem in Wisconsin

Government agencies and private companies are taking steps to combat tax identity theft. (DaLiu/iStockphoto)
Government agencies and private companies are taking steps to combat tax identity theft. (DaLiu/iStockphoto)
February 15, 2017

MADISON, Wis. – One of the most jarring ways to discover you've become a victim of identity theft is when you attempt to file your annual tax return and discover that someone else has already filed a return using your name and information. For the scammer, it means quick cash, but for the victim, it's a nightmare, and it still happens all too often in Wisconsin.

Frank Frassetto, division administrator for Trade and Consumer Protection for the state, says tax ID theft remains a huge problem in Wisconsin.

"While we did have a huge spike in 2015, the numbers did drop down to our 2014 levels," he said. "However, of all the general identity theft complaints that we receive, tax identity theft makes up 75 percent of those complaints."

Frassetto warns people to be extremely careful when sharing any sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers or bank account numbers, and never give this type of information to an unsolicited caller. Victims can contact the state's Consumer Protection Bureau at 800-422-7128 to get help and advice.

Because of the huge spike in tax ID theft a couple years ago, Frassetto says state and federal agencies, along with private companies, have taken steps and made improvements to combat the problem.

"The reason that tax ID theft in general, has gone down is because the IRS, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, the tax software companies have put in place more robust security systems to protect tax filers," he explained.

Another important point, according to Frassetto, is to remember that the IRS, the U.S. Treasury, and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue will never call you regarding your taxes. Any phone call from someone saying they represent one of these agencies is a scam. All of them communicate with taxpayers via the U.S. Postal Service.

"Consumers' best protection really against criminals filing taxes in your name is to get a jump on these thieves by filing early," he added. "Also, if you file your return online make sure you're using up-to-date security software on your computer, and definitely set up strong passwords for your tax software logins."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI