A warning as you get ready to file your taxes: scammers may have their sights set on your refund! Financial advisor Brad Allen talks with Milwaukee’s WTMJ-4 about the steps filers should take to protect their refund and their identity.

1. File Early – Filing early is the best defense against Tax ID Theft. If the IRS already has your legitimate tax return on file, scammers will have a much harder time. If you are still waiting on paperwork, take the steps you can now so you’re ready when that paperwork arrives, by gathering documents and receipts and getting organized.

2. Watch for Red Flags – These include: forms from the IRS that include wages you didn’t earn or a W-2 form or a 1099 from an employer you don’t work for. If you get one of these forms, do not include it in your tax return. You can also contact the Social Security Administration to review your wages.

3. Be Secure – If you’re e-filing your taxes, make sure you have a security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Do not use public wi-fi; instead use a private, password-protected connection. Treat your tax documents and any documents with your personal information like cash, and don’t leave them lying around in the open.

4. Adjust Your Withholding – The average refund in 2017 was about $2,800. By adjusting your withholding, you can reduce the size of your refund and get more money in your paycheck year-round. We recommend my clients adjust their withholding so their refund is as close to 0 as possible. That way, you can make good use of your money throughout the year by saving or investing it, instead of letting Uncle Sam hold onto your money interest-free.

The first step is to contact the IRS as soon as possible. Document everything, and keep in contact with the IRS until the issue is resolved. You can file an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You may also want to file a report with the local police, as well as contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus.

Click here for the new IRS Withholding Tables.

Click here to report a suspicious email (phishing) to the IRS.

Click here if you believe you are a victim of Tax ID Theft.