Ten Alabama residents on May 22 were arrested and charged with stealing the identities of thousands of victims — many of them active-duty United States military — and racking up $20 million in fraudulent tax returns, according to Alabama news website AL.com.
The arrests were announced by George L. Beck Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, according to the website. Details included:
- The group of 10 filed more than 7,000 false tax returns with more than $20 million in fraudulent refund claims.
- One suspect worked at the Ft. Benning, Georgia military hospital and used her access to steal identities of patients treated there and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Two suspects stole identities through their work at a call center in Columbus, Ohio.
"What makes this so egregious is that while at least a thousand of our soldiers, our G.I.s, men and women, were overseas fighting in uniform for this country, their identities were stolen and used to file false tax returns," Beck said, in the AL.com story.
According to a recent report from the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft was the top military complaint reported to the commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network, which investigates consumer-related complaints. Identity theft received 30 percent of the total. That was nearly twice as much as the second-most reported issue, imposter scams, at 17 percent.
The report said the Army was the branch most targeted by consumer fraud, with members filing 49 percent of the complaints received by the Consumer Sentinel Network (the Army also is the largest branch of the United States military).
Some states, like North Carolina, have help specifically for military members dealing with, or looking to avoid, identity theft. State officials can help members of the armed forces set up an “active duty alert,” which lets credit bureaus know when someone is on active duty. Those bureaus then must take extra steps to verify identity if someone tries to establish a line of credit.
In addition, North Carolina military members can sign up free for security freezes, which blocks all access to that person’s credit without permission.