Statesboro identity fraud targets range of victims - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Statesboro ID fraud targets range of victims

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One of the 20 suspects charged One of the 20 suspects charged

Police brought 20 suspects to the Bulloch County Jail Wednesday on charges related to identity theft. Some face state charges of stealing personal information for online purchases. Others will answer to federal investigators on allegations of filing false tax returns.

Statesboro police and Bulloch County sheriff's investigators told WTOC they've heard from victims for over a year.

"Two or three aren't necessarily a pattern. But when you get dozens of reports over a period of time, there's something," explained Chief Deputy Jared Akins. 

Local investigators turned over those reports to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Last September, the agencies teamed to search dozens of homes and apartments around Statesboro. They seized computers, documents, and more. Armed with federal indictments, they arrested the accused men and women Wednesday morning.

The impact touches the spectrum of Statesboro's population.

"We have college students who've been victims. We have the elderly who've been victims. We have working families who've been hit," noted Statesboro Police APO Justin Samples.

Investigators said college students have seen their financial aid affected due to a false tax return. Seniors who've been victimized have run into problems with their Social Security benefits. 

"For people who are paying child support, they've gotten letters that their payments are going up based on the income posted on this false tax return," Akins noted. "In some cases, families that are waiting on that tax refund have gotten notified that their refund went to somebody else."

Samples and Akins said thieves gained access to some victims' records through outright theft of documents from dumpsters at businesses they may frequent. They can also monitor unsecured wireless networks to gain their data. They recommend people shred any financial documents before throwing them in the trash. Also, secure home wireless networks with a password.

"Unfortunately, this is the world we live in today. Our lives are out there and online," Akins said.

The case remains under investigation with more arrests possible. The suspects arrested Wednesday remain in the Bulloch County Jail.

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