VALPARAISO | The city sent letters to 860 people Monday warning them they might be the victims of identity theft.
The victims were patients who used the city ambulance service between Jan. 1 through June 21, 2012. The fire department was notified about a month ago that a former employee of Advanced Data Processing, which handles billing for the ambulance service, had illegally accessed patient records.
The person, who has since been arrested and is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to the charges, was using name, birth date and Social Security numbers to try to file false federal income tax refund claims. No medical records were accessed, according to investigators.
In a statement issued to the media Tuesday, the city said there is no evidence any of the city's patients were affected by the fraud scheme, but it can't be ruled out and those patients are being urged to take precautions.
"Individuals who believe they may be affected by this incident are advised to remain vigilant to incidents of fraud and identity theft by reviewing credit card account statements and monitoring their credit report for unauthorized activity," the city said in its statement.
A number of companies provide free credit reports, and any suspicious activity should be reported to the state Attorney General and the to the Federal Trade Commission. The credit bureaus and the FTC can provide information about fraud alerts and information on how to avoid identity theft is available from the attorney general and the FTC.
One's credit status can be checked by contacting My ID Care at www.myidcare.com/intersecurity or by calling toll free (877) 264-9622 weekdays between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. The company will walk callers through the steps of checking their credit status.
City Attorney Ethan Lowe said, "We'd prefer people do that before they file a police report to make sure they have been affected."
In addition to sending letters and releasing it to the media, the city also is alerting people through its Web site www.valpo.us.