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Authorities see rise in identity theft in last days of tax season
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The Hall County Sheriffs Department has received an abnormally high number of identity theft cases related to taxes this year. - photo by Erin O. Smith

In the past eight days, potential victims of identity fraud filed in to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office in droves to make a report.

Hall County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chad Mann tallied 54 reports in Gainesville’s main lobby, with identity theft leading the list.

The main reports are coming from residents, Mann said, who have tried to file their taxes electronically before today’s tax deadline.

“They’re finding out shortly, within a couple of hours, that their federal income tax (return) has been rejected due to someone else using their Social Security number in order to claim a tax return,” he said.

For comparison’s sake, walk-ins to the sheriff’s office for January, February and March totalled 88 reports.

Tax season sees an increase of scams and other fraudulent tactics in attempts to steal identities.

“There have been a number of scams this past year involving the IRS and also looking at a number of security breaches from a number of large corporations, businesses, organizations which does typically lead to higher number of identity theft cases,” said Gainesville Police Cpl. Kevin Holbrook.

The identity theft reports exceed all other walk-in reports for the sheriff’s office, Mann said, by a 10-to-1 ratio. A common thread seen by Mann processing the reports has been Blue Cross Blue Shield/Anthem members.

Anthem put a notice on an affiliated website Feb. 13 addressing a cyberattack.

“I do notice that whether you had Blue Cross currently or you had it in the past, it affects both the past customers and the present customers alike,” Mann said. “Some haven’t had Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage for years.”

Gainesville Police and the Hall County Sheriff’s Office are asking citizens to be vigilant in terms of suspicious credit activity.

“Many times individuals do not catch the problem before it’s too late,” Holbrook said. “It’s always a good practice to check your credit reports ... to make sure nothing has been generated without your knowledge.”

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