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Error by Stow income tax department causes identity theft concerns

by Jeff Saunders | reporter Published: August 14, 2016 12:00 AM
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Stow -- A handful of residents may want to check their credit reports following an error made by the city's income tax department.

Budget and Management Director John Earle said during Council's Aug. 11 committee-of-the-whole meeting that two to five individuals were recently sent mailings that accidently exposed all or part of their Social Security numbers through the envelope's window, along with their names and addresses.

Income Tax Administrator Christine Snyder told Council that what happened was a fluke.

"It's not very easy for this to happen," she said. "We work very diligently to prevent this from happening. This was a clerical error."

Snyder told Council that registered letters were sent out the week before warning the individuals of the situation and urging them to contact the tax department for advice on how to deal with the potential threat of identity theft, including establishing fraud alerts with the three credit reporting agencies.

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The letter followed an initial letter urging the individuals to contact the tax department because of an "error," but without providing the specifics of the second letter.

Snyder said that attempts were also made to reach the individuals by phone as well, but Earle said this had been unsuccessful and the only one of the five individuals that had communicated with the city so far was the one who alerted the city to the situation.

"The remaining four have been contacted, but have made no response back to us," he said.

Several Council members said they understood such issues can happen and they do not believe it is a common occurrence in the tax department.

"You have to deal with 14,000 households," said Council President Mike Rasor. "It's a very difficult task to keep all your data in one place."

"Obviously this can happen," said Councilor Brian Lowdermilk, who raised the issue. "It's how we respond to this. Hopefully we have things in place so this doesn't happen in the future."

To contact the city's income tax department, call 330-689-2849.

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