Weather Shield employees find out they are identity theft victim - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Weather Shield employees find out they are identity theft victims once again


Ladysmith (WQOW)- Some employees at an area business who had their identities stolen last year are victims once again. 

WQOW is asking how this could happen again to Weather Shield employees.

Monday was tax day, but much of the focus in Ladysmith is not on who owes Uncle Sam, but who is stealing their identity and tax refunds. 

"It's so easy to do.  That's why they are doing the identity theft," says former Weather Shield employee Vicky Behnke.

Many Weather Shield employees, both current and former, have figured that out the hard way.  They filed their taxes only to find out someone else had already cashed in, claiming their tax returns.

The Rusk County Sheriff's Department says 55 Weather Shield (current and former) employees countywide have had their identities stolen and some of them are repeats from 2012.

"We are getting more and more coming in because I think people wait until the last minute before they file and they are finding out they are becoming victims and we are getting more in the last couple weeks than we did earlier in the year," explains Rusk County Sheriff David Kaminski.

So how could the same person be victimized two years in a row, especially after steps were taken to prevent it from happening again?  Weather Shield says it doesn't know.  The company says there's no evidence the identity theft happened at Weather Shield.  Law enforcement says the thief can be very elusive.

"It's hard to track these people because we don't even know where they are at," points out Ladysmith Police Chief Allen Lobermeier.  "And it is difficult for the IRS and the Secret Service to track them down too because of their mobility and the use of computers and just who they are, where they're at, and where they are operating out of."

Behnke and her husband are both former employees.  He worked at Weather Shield for 30 years while she spent 14 years there.  She says her husband's identity was stolen this year.

"My identity could be stolen as my husband's was.  He was used as a spouse in another return," explains Behnke.

Their credit cards have been flagged, which means making big purchases like traveling to see her son wrestle in nationals has become a nightmare.  Hours spent on the phone with creditors, trying to explain what happened to her family.

"They never see our face.  They never see the hardship that we are going through," says Behnke.  "They don't see that the three kids may not qualify for college through FASA.  They don't see any of that."

For the Behnke's, the wait continues. They'll wait to learn whether investigators solve the case and if not, whether they'll be victims once again.

Weather Shield says it continues to work with the IRS, but once again, the company told WQOW it has no idea how several employees and former employees had their identities stolen.  Trempealeau County has also reported at least four cases of identity theft connected to tax fraud as well.

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