Don't wait! Putting off filing your taxes could make you vulnerable to refund fraud

WEST ALLIS (WITI) — The tax deadline is drawing near. For anyone who is putting off filing, it can come with consequences. The longer you wait to file — the more vulnerable you become to tax refund fraud.

A quick e-mail inbox check led to a nightmare.

"I looked, read it and it said, 'Your returns have been sent,'" explained a woman who didn't want her identity to be revealed.

The problem? The woman never filed her taxes.

"Not only had I not filed a federal tax return for 2014 yet, but I hadn't even been on the tax preparation website," the woman said.

She was one of thousands across the country who got hacked.

Thieves were able to submit fraudulent filings through TurboTax and it's parent company Intuit. The company implemented more targeted security measures to combat this type of fraud.

Still, tax refund fraud is something that's becoming too common.

"They're doing 1,000 to 3,000 tax returns fraudulently," said Dale Hammernik, President of Hammernik & Associates.

Hammernik has spent 30-plus years in the tax business. He says crooks are getting crafty when it comes to getting their hands on your information.

"They're setting up websites for people for free help for tax problems etc., where they're asking for your name and social security number," Hammernik said.

Waiting to file can makes things worse. The longer you wait, the longer you leave the window open for thieves to file in your name and steal your refund.

"Make sure you file as soon as possible. So, you are the first one in," Hammernik advised.

In Wisconsin, you can check to see if a return has been filed in your name. Just log onto the Department of Revenue's website and submit your information for a filing inquiry. If it says you've filed when you haven't — that's a problem. Immediately report the issue to IRS.

Whether you get your taxes done or do them yourself, Hammernik says keep your security in mind.

"Look for someone who is certified…You need to make sure you're dealing with reputable tax professionals — that you're using secure websites.  Make sure your data isn't compromised if you're using free Wi-Fi," Hammernik recommended.

Those precautions can make a huge difference and keep your refund in the right hands.

The IRS offers several tools to help during tax season. If you have questions, you can always use the Interactive Tax Assistant. If you want to know about the status of your federal refund, you can use the "Where's My Refund?" tool.