Seattle Archdiocese data breach hits home, and highlights need to address identity theft
Identity theft is a growing problem nationwide, and Washington is no exception. In early March 2014 the Seattle Archdiocese learned that volunteers and employees at parishes and schools across Washington state became victims of a tax-identity fraud scheme.
Through a data breach, fraudsters obtained victims’ personal information, including their names and Social Security numbers and filed false income tax returns.
The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has received reports from parishioners and employees throughout Western Washington who have been victimized. Some of these individuals, including volunteers and employees of St. Mary School in Aberdeen, discovered they were victims after filing their taxes and being informed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that their tax return was rejected because a return had already been filed under their name and Social Security number.
The Archdiocese has not discovered the source of the breach and is working with federal investigators on an investigation. The Archdiocese also hired a national forensic firm to investigate this matter.
If you are a victim of tax-identity fraud, the AGO urges you to take the following steps.
Determine if you’re the victim of tax-identity fraud, then follow these corrective steps
To check if your identity has been stolen, contact the IRS by calling the Individual Tax Line at 1-800-829-1040, or go in-person to the IRS office at 915 Second Ave. Seattle, Wash.
Correcting tax-identity fraud is a multi-step process, involving the IRS, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), police and credit bureaus.
If you know your identity has been stolen
- Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
- Complete and file the IRS Form 14039 “Identity Theft Affidavit” (You must file a copy of your driver’s license, passport, or other government-issued identification with this).
- Submit an “Identity Theft Report” to the FTC by following the directions on the FTC’s website, here. You will be assigned a complaint number.
- Print and fill out a copy of the FTC’s “Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit.” This form can then be filed with local police and creditors.
- File a report with your local police department.
- Include a copy of the FTC Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit.
- The police department will assign you a case or reference number.
- Call the FTC at 1-877-438-4338 to report the assigned police case number (You will need the complaint number you obtained when you initially filed the FTC Identity Theft Report to complete this step).
- Consider placing a credit freeze on your credit report. Learn more about a credit freeze, here.
- Periodically request a free copy of your credit report and review it thoroughly. You can request a copy online at AnnualCreditReport.com, or by calling 1-877-322-8228 (you will be asked for your Social Security Number).
- If someone has used your Social Security number for employment purposes, report this to the Social Security Administration. You can contact the Social Security Administration at: 1-800-772-1213.
If your identity has not been stolen, but you believe it is vulnerable
- Call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 and ask them to place a fraud alert in your file.
- Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report. You can place a fraud alert by contacting one of the three major credit-reporting agencies:
You will be asked to provide your Social Security Number. The agency you contact will share your request with the other two.
Protect yourself from identity theft
- Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
- Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
- Protect your financial information.
- Check your credit report every 12 months.
- Secure personal information in your home.
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.
For more information about identity theft and credit freezes, visit the Attorney General’s website, here.
Visit the Seattle Archdiocese website for updates on the data breach, here.