Courthouse ID thefts still a mystery

A mysterious case of identity theft in Monroe County remains unsolved, but courthouse officials are considering measures to reduce the chances of another incident.

In all, 22 courthouse employees — including current and former elected officials — have been victimized. But efforts to uncover the person or persons responsible for the ID thefts have thus far been unsuccessful.

“Some (of the affected employees) have received notice that someone filed a federal tax return in their name, and others received notice that someone tried to file a federal student loan in their name,” County Clerk Donald Evans told The Register-Herald.

Evans, who discovered only a couple of weeks ago that he is among the victims of this crime, told the county commission Wednesday that he consulted with state officials and was “told what to check” in his office, since that’s where courthouse payroll records are maintained. He said the server through which the office’s work runs shows no tampering.

“Everything on our end checked out,” Evans said. “There is no indication anything has gotten by our firewall.”

Assessor Norbert Netzel — another victim — said his information technology consultant has recommended the assessor’s office update its firewall protection, perhaps by linking into whatever security systems protect other courthouse offices.

Evans said that any link to his system would have to be routed through the sheriff’s tax office.

But Commissioner Shane Ashley objected to linking any other courthouse office to the county clerk’s system, since nobody has been able to ascertain exactly how the employee information was compromised.

“I want us to stand alone from this point on,” Ashley said.

Evans said it has even been suggested that one of his employees might have unwittingly provided access to the payroll database by opening a virus-contaminated email. But Evans said he has run the best virus detection software available, and “no virus showed up.”

“It’s confusing how we became a target,” Evans said.

He noted that Sheriff Sean Crosier is continuing to work with the Internal Revenue Service’s law enforcement division on the criminal case.

Commissioners briefly discussed imposing a policy that would prohibit or block employees from logging into social media sites or using private email from courthouse computers, a measure recommended by Ashley.

He also suggested that the commission lead the way in assembling a committee to address security issues throughout the courthouse. That committee would include representatives from various courthouse offices, Ashley said.

No official action was taken on the recommendations.


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