PORTLAND -- The Catholic Archdiocese in Portland is getting a steady stream of calls each day as more and more people discover they are the victim of identity theft.
At first, officials thought 100 people in Portland were victims, now it appears that number is much higher.
Allegedly, crooks used the stolen information to file fake tax returns and pocket the refunds.
A spokesman said Church leaders are doing everything they can to help victims and they have no idea how many people are affected.
Well, we actually just quit counting, said church spokesman Bud Bunce.
Martha Hendricks gave the Archdiocese social security numbers for herself and her husband, so they could help at their children's Catholic school.
Now, she's joined the list of victims, discovering someone else already filed for her taxes, at an especially sensitive time of her life.
My husband passed away two years ago, Hendricks said. His social security number and information is also out there.
Retired attorney Leslie Keller is another victim. She's furious that background checks meant to keep children safe after the church's sex scandals may have been the source of the fraudulent returns.
Here's people that are following their civic responsibility, want to volunteer, give their private information over and then its hacked and it s out there for anyone to use, she said.
But Bunce says its unclear if the background checks are the source of the theft.
That s a question lots of folks have asked about but we also have independent Catholic schools like Valley Catholic, Jesuit, our Catholic youth organizations, that do their own background checks. They don t go through the Archdiocese so we don t know if that's a tie in or not, he said.
Still, parents like Martha Hendrix want more forceful action from church leaders immediately.
You know, because as of now, for now, I m only hearing it through other parents. And so it s kinda, we're all giving each other information on who to call, what forms to file. They need to be coming to us, saying this happened. There's been a security breech, this is what we're gonna do to help guide you through this process, and right now they re not, she said.