ALBANY, GA (WALB) - It's income tax time, and criminals are targeting South Georgians to steal their personal and financial information.
The United States Secret Service investigates identity theft crimes and warns you that there are criminals in South Georgia working to steal your money, or money from the United States government.
Johnny Gary and Tanya Franklin plead guilty in Federal Court recently to being part of a crime ring, stealing hundreds of South Georgians' identities, and using them to file tax returns in their names. Prosecutors said their crimes stole more than a million dollars from the United States.
In 2012 the Secret Service investigating identity theft uncovered the conspiracy. Agents said the number of crimes today are not as great, but the crooks are still at work.
"Things have gotten better. Unfortunately, if there is a will there is a way and criminals are continuing to try to get your information," said US Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge Clint Bush.
Prosecutors said Gary and Franklin used her auto sale business and other companies as part of the conspiracy to steal South Georgians' social security numbers in what they thought were legitimate business. Then filing income tax forms in their names, and cashing refund checks. But can you guard against criminals working in legitimate businesses?
"Unfortunately no," said Bush. "You have to trust in the system as long as we still use our socials to identify ourselves, then that information is always going to be out there."
Agents say one of the new identity theft scams they are seeing more now is text messages on people's cell phones. Agents said on any platform, if you don't know who the message is from, don't reply.