IRS identity theft hits Oregon Catholic community

At least 100 current and former employees and volunteers of the Archdiocese of Portland and affiliated churches and schools have been victims of tax identity fraud, according to archdiocese officials.

What to do when you’re victimized by identity theft or tax return fraud

Tax-return fraud happens when some ne’er-do-well gets a hold of your name and social security number and uses them to file a tax return, ostensibly claiming a refund. You don’t discover the breach until you file a return yourself and the IRS rejects it, saying one has already been filed.

Victims had their Social Security numbers used to file fraudulent 2013 tax returns, and they receive error messages when they try to electronically file legitimate returns. Victims are urged to contact the Internal Revenue Service.

An IRS spokesman in Seattle did not return messages seeking comment Friday.

“The Archdiocese of Portland is working diligently with the IRS to determine the root cause of the matter and is cooperating fully with the IRS in its ongoing investigation,” the Most Rev. Alexander K. Sample, Portland’s archbishop, wrote in an April 8 letter. “I realize that many are frustrated in waiting for public agencies to investigate and resolve this fraud.”

The archdiocese had heard from 105 affected parishioners when it stopped counting April 4, said Bud Bunce, spokesman for the archdiocese. “We’ve had a lot of calls over the course of this week,” he said Friday.

The source of the breach hasn’t been determined, Bunce said, but “we have no evidence at this time that the Archdiocese system has been breached.”

One Portland victim suspects the breach stemmed from a company that conducted background checks on employees and volunteers.

Jose Pinomesa, a Northeast Portland resident, said he knows of about 100 family and friends who were victims. The common denominator is that all are Catholics who had background checks performed a few years ago, he said.

Pinomesa and his wife, Josie, both had background checks performed in order to volunteer at Northeast Portland’s The Madeleine Parish School, where their daughter Madeleine, 14, attends eighth grade. Their son, Francisco, a 15-year-old sophomore at Central Catholic High School, also previously attended the school.

Pinomesa found out fraudulent returns were filed using his and his wife’s Social Security number after spending more than 30 minutes on the phone with the IRS on Tuesday. They had heard about the breach Sunday.

“It’s no fun,” he said. “Right now, you can call the credit monitoring companies and put a hold on your account for 90 days, but what happens after 90 days? These crooks still have my identity. What else have they done?”

Pinomesa says he plans to file his returns on Monday using paper, the method he usually uses, along with an identity theft affidavit form.

The Archdiocese of Seattle reported similar tax identity fraud
last month that affected current and former employees and volunteers.
The Archdiocese of Seattle hired a forensic security firm but does not
know the source of the problem, the Archdiocese of Portland wrote in a
. The archdioceses are working with the IRS to determine if
there’s a connection.

— Yuxing Zheng

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