(Columbian (Vancouver, WA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 22--Nearly two weeks after the Archdiocese of Seattle posted an urgent notice that the Social Security numbers of employees and volunteers had been used in a national tax-fraud scheme, details are still hard to come by.
It remains unclear how many members of Clark County's nine Catholic parishes have been affected. The church is continuing to look for the source of the data breach, said Greg Magnoni, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Seattle, which encompasses 140 parishes and 600,000 registered Catholics in Western Washington.
An undetermined number of church employees and volunteers have discovered that fraudulent refund claims have been made using their Social Security numbers. Local churches are receiving scattershot reports from parishioners.
"No more than several dozen have told us that they've been impacted," said Father Joseph Mitchell of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Vancouver.
The archdiocese has hired the New York-based forensic security firm Stroz Friedberg to investigate, and is also working with the FBI and the IRS.
"As soon as we became aware of it, we notified law enforcement, we informed our employees and volunteers and past employees and volunteers," Magnoni said. "We're hearing anecdotally from some (parishes), but have not heard from others."
Mitchell said parishioners don't seem to be registering anger against the church.
"They've been mystified that it would be that easy to get money from the IRS with bogus information," he said.
The archdiocese is urging all volunteers and employees to call the Internal Revenue Service Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. Church members who find their tax return has been compromised are asked to email their full name, along with that of their parish or school, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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