Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

More than 30 people whose medical records were stolen from Shorter University have reported someone using their identity to file fake tax returns, according to Rome police.

Two sleeves full of medical records were taken from the files at Shorter University in September 2014. The records belonged to students involved in various athletic programs at the university.

“The door to the room containing the records was not locked,” said Brandon Ekey, an investigator with the Rome Police Department. “The door was misaligned, and it was difficult to lock.”

Ekey said he doesn’t know exactly how many records were taken. Shorter officials did not return several calls for comment on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We believe it could be up to 900 records,” Ekey said. “At this point in the ongoing investigation, I know we’ve had more than 30 people report that someone has filed fraudulent tax returns using the information from those stolen records.”

The affected students found out when they tried to file their taxes and were notified that they already had filed, or when they received a letter in the mail saying their return is being processed, Ekey said.

“The best advice I can give them right now is to go ahead and file their returns so they can find out if someone is attempting to use their information,” said Ekey. “Also, they need to keep a close eye on their credit report.”

Equifax, TransUnion and Experian all offer free reports, he said. He recommends the students put a flag on their credit through the agencies, just in case.

“I haven’t had any instances of someone trying to use the information to open new credit accounts or anything else except the fake tax returns,” he said. “When someone realizes this has happened to them, they need to call me as soon as possible and also file an affidavit with the IRS.”

Ekey said an affidavit form is available on the IRS website. Victimized students should bring a copy of their affidavit when they file a report with him, so he can include it in the file.

The Federal Trade Commission website at consumer.ftc.gov also offers a comprehensive list of tips on how to repair and recover after identity theft.

Ekey called for patience, saying the problem is potentially widespread.

“I’m getting a lot of calls,” he said. “Please leave me a message if you can’t get me right away. This investigation could take a while because we are working with several agencies to try to figure out who is doing this.”

Victims can call Ekey at 706-238-5128 or the Rome Police Department at 706-238-5111.

 

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