News 12 at 11, August 24, 2007
EVANS, Ga.---Columbia County Marshals serving an eviction notice to the Liberty Income Tax Services found out more about their customers than they bargained for when they arrived. Thousands of tax documents and computers with personal information left in an abandoned building.
Everything from social security numbers, birthdays, home addresses, you name it, could've easily gotten into the wrong hands.
News 12 previously talked with Liberty Tax owner Chad Barrs for a February 2007 On Your Side piece. If you've done business with him, or his company, you will want to read this, because odds are your tax documents could be one of thousands boxed up and abandoned.
It was at the Evans, GA Washington Road Liberty Tax Services building that Columbia County Marshals made the startling discovery. They arrived this morning (August 24) to serve the company an eviction notice, but once inside they found numerous tax documents and computer towers storing a bunch of customers' personal information
"It's very unusual to do an eviction and find a third party's property is so readily available." says Columbia County Magistrate Judge Wade Padgett. The Marshal's called him upon their discovery in order to work out a plan.
They're now safe at the County Courthouse, rather than outside the company's former store, which is what protocol is when evictions are followed according to procedure.
"They knew they couldn't put those on the side of the road because they would be basically giving someone thousands of cases of identity theft." adds Judge Padgett.
Judge Padgett says his office has made numerous attempts to contact Liberty Tax Services before today ever came; by calling and even trying to serve them with papers and court notices.
News 12 spoke with a representative at the main office in Virginia. They told us Chad Barrs was terminated. But, when asked for a comment for their local customers, the company hung up on us.
The company did tell News 12 they planned to send a representative to the Courthouse to pick the documents up and then call each customer personally. Judge Padgett told us the company said they planned to store them at another franchise near Atlanta. That's an option that the Judge is still exploring, as well as others that would keep the documents here locally. Currently, Judge Padgett is in talks with the IRS to see what they advise is a good next step.
Within three hours of the find, the Magistrate Office had established a phone line and an email for potential customers/victims.
The phone number is 706-312-7596.
The email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Judge Padgett adds there is a possibility that Richmond County Liberty Tax customers' documents may also be mixed in with those found in Columbia County, as an office in Augusta was evicted earlier this year.