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Income-tax scam linked to archdiocese affecting Renton residents

About two dozen case reports have been filed with the Renton Police Department by Renton residents who may be the victims of income-tax fraud, possibly caused by the theft of personal information from Archdiocese of Seattle employees and volunteers.

The Police Department is forwarding the cases to the Internal Revenue Service, which is investigating the fraud cases, along with other agencies and private security experts. The IRS has also contacted Renton residents about the possibility that fraudulent income-tax returns were filed using their stolen information.

A local police report is part of the process to report a suspected or real incident of identity theft to authorities.

More than 1,000 people throughout the Archdiocese of Seattle, which covers Western Washington, have been victims of tax-identity fraud, which is national in scope, according to Greg Magnoni, an archdiocese spokesman.

The data breach was discovered in early March. The investigation is continuing, but investigators don't know the source of the problem, nor whether the personal information came from a database, he said.

"As a result, we cannot say whether the source originated from systems within the archdiocese — including parishes and schools — or systems of vendors or another outside source," Magnoni said.

In a letter last week, Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain assured the 600,000 or so parishioners in Western Washington that the archdiocese "will get to the bottom of this matter."

"We all hear about this kind of scam, and we hope that it will never touch us personally," Sartain wrote in the letter. "Now that it has, I want you to know of my care and concern."

The IRS is presenting six regional gatherings throughout the Archdiocese of Seattle to provide information about tax-identity fraud, led by Kenneth Hines, IRS Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle Field Office.

The meeting closest to Renton is 6:30-8 p.m. tonight (Tuesday, March 25) at St. Louise Parish, 141 156th Ave. S.E., Bellevue. The meeting is in the parish hall below the church.

Before each session, the archdiocese will explain how the data breach was discovered and what's been done to address the problem. Attendees can also ask questions and make a formal written statement. A form available on the Archdiocese of Seattle website is available and attendees are encouraged to fill it out in advance of attending one of the sessions.

Sartain offered the folllowing advice:

• Check the Archdiodese website for updates, www.seattlearchdiocese.org

• Call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490, Ext. 245, for assistance.

• Actual victims of tax-identity theft, should:

– Contact an IRS Special Agent at 206-464-4920

– file a report with local law enforcement

– Send an email to taxinformation@seattlearch.org, confirming that your tax identity has been compromised. Include full name, parish or school and

whether you are an employee or volunteer.

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