Within the last month, the Kirkland Police Department has received more than 100 fraud reports from Kirkland residents – the highest amount in years.
The spike, Kirkland Police Department Lt. Mike Murray said, originates from the Seattle Archdiocese tax scam that has affected hundreds, if not thousands of people, across western Washington.
“We started getting reports probably in the beginning of March, into February,” Murray said. “It’s occurring all over the region.”
Murray stated someone hacked into the archdiocese’s website and obtained the information, such as social security card numbers, birth dates and names, from “quite a few people who donate.”
The local connection is through Holy Family Parish in Kirkland, he said.
But Seattle Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni said it’s still too early to know where the source of the fraud is.
“We don’t know if it was information collected from the dioceses or another third party,” he said. “It’s very difficult to determine what the source might be.”
Magnoni said this is the first time anything like this has happened to the archdiocese, which spans 28,000 square miles throughout western Washington.
“We’re cooperating with the FBI and conducting our own private investigation to determine the source of this problem,” he said, adding that there’s been several regional meetings to answer questions.
Magnoni said the archdiocese learned of it in early March and, at first, thought it was a local problem.
Employees had checked their own IRS accounts and learned their social security numbers had been compromised. But after contacting all leadership throughout the diocese, they discovered the tax scams had affected people across all of western Washington.
Magnoni said he’s unaware of how many people the tax scam has impacted but that the 108 fraud reports in Kirkland, as of March 27, only represent a tiny portion of the problem.
In a March 17 letter, Archbishop of Seattle J. Peter Sartain expressed his care and concern for the national tax identity fraud scam, which has affected “a number of current and former employees and volunteers of the Archdiocese of Seattle.”
“We hear about this kind of scam, and we hope that it would never touch us personally,” he wrote. “… at present, we simply do not know how the problem originated, whether from systems within the archdiocese – including parishes and schools – or systems of vendors, or another outside source.”
Magnoni said for those who think their identity may have been compromised on tax returns, check the archdiocese’s website at www.seattlearchdiocese.org/Archdiocese/Action.aspx.
The website lists several regional IRS meetings throughout the end of March and early April.
Those whose tax identity has actually been compromised are advised to take the following steps:
Contact an IRS Special Agent at 206-464-4920; file a report with local law enforcement; and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, confirming that the tax identity has been compromised.
Include a full name, parish or school and whether the person is an employee or volunteer.
At this time, the archdiocese is advising all employees and volunteers to contact the Internal Revenue Service Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 ext. 245.