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Fraud a real threat to all during this time of year

More than $55 million in fraudulent and erroneous refunds and credits, were blocked last tax season, thanks in part to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue’s (DOR) use of identity verification tools.

“Claim processing systems continue to improve, better detecting fraud, errors and discrepancies leading to bad refunds,” said Peter Barca, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue secretary. “Training and technology go hand-in-hand in our fight against fraud.”

The department reviews filed tax returns to protect taxpayers, since cybercriminals and identity thieves continue to find new ways to commit fraud “Our systems are very secure,” said Barca, “but when criminals steal someone’s personal information from other sources, they may use it to file a fraudulent tax return, so we’re mindful of that.”

The DOR is highlighting IRS National Tax Security Awareness Week, noting that it is also a very busy online shopping week. Additionally, a new tax season kicks off next month.

With that in mind, the DOR wants shoppers to be cautious and protect themselves from cybercriminals looking to steal personal information, that could help the crooks file fraudulent tax returns.

The following tips could help prevent fraud:

• Always use security software with firewall and antivirus protections. Make sure the security software is always turned on and can automatically update. Encrypt sensitive files, such as tax records stored on the computer. Use strong, unique passwords for each account.

• Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations, such as a personal bank, credit card company and even the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments, from unknown or suspicious emails.

• Protect personal data. Don’t routinely carry a Social Security card and make sure tax records are secure. Shop at reputable online retailers. Treat personal information like cash; don’t leave it lying around.