More Doctors Hit by Fraud
Thieves File False Tax Returns
Lebanon — Another two dozen physicians and other medical personnel in the Twin States have had their Social Security numbers stolen and then used to file fraudulent federal tax returns, bringing the total number of victims to more than 180, according to medical society officials in Vermont and New Hampshire.
What remains unclear, however, is who is behind the scam and where the hackers are getting ahold of the victims’ Social Security numbers.
Physicians and physician assistants are required to disclose their Social Security numbers pursuant to federal law in order to get a license to practice, said New Hampshire Board of Medicine Administrator Penny Taylor.
But they aren’t provided to any other organization, Taylor said, unless the Board of Medicine reports a provider to the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal repository that tracks disciplinary cases or malpractice payments involving health care providers.
Karen LaFond, operations administrator at the Vermont Board of Medical Practice, which licenses medical personnel, said the same formula is followed in Vermont.
Medical personnel in several states have said they’ve been victimized by bogus IRS claims , and Twin State officials have not turned up evidence of a data breach from their computers.
“When we became aware, we did a complete scan of our computers and our servers and everything was clean,” Taylor said.
Officials with the Secret Service and IRS are currently investigating more than 160 cases where New Hampshire physicians, physician assistants, registered nurses, dentists, podiatrists and pharmacists have fallen victim to the scheme, as well as at least 22 similar cases in Vermont, officials said.
Internal Revenue Service spokeswoman Peggy Riley said the IRS doesn’t yet have data on the size and scale of the breach that has caught up hundreds of providers.
“Identity theft remains a top priority of the IRS,” Riley wrote in an email. “The IRS is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible.”
A Secret Service official from the Manchester field office declined to comment, saying it is an ongoing investigation.
Much like state and federal officials, a couple from Grantham is looking for answers on how they and others were victimized.
Andrew and Toni Taylor, who live in the Eastman community, received correspondence in the mail earlier this week from the IRS indicating they would receive a far bigger tax refund than they had anticipated.
“We knew that was incorrect,” Andrew Taylor, a member of the New Hampshire Medical Society and a state-licensed endocrinology specialist, said, noting other parts of the letter also raised red flags.
Andrew Taylor said he has a hunch that his and his wife’s personal information was breached as part of the broader medical personnel scam, but that there is no real way of knowing. The couple’s son fell victim to a similar case of identity theft several years ago.
Andrew Taylor worked for several years at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, and for D-H in Concord. Since 2009, he has solely done volunteer work at the hospitals.
Toni Taylor is a nurse practitioner licensed through the New Hampshire Board of Nursing.
“I am confused about what other data (the hackers) have,” Toni Taylor said. “I am also concerned if this is going to happen again.”
The Taylor s weren’t the only people to come forward about scams.
A Lebanon woman who is a regular patient at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center recently had her Social Security number stolen and used to file a false federal tax return. She is feeling “vulnerable, angry and worried,” and has been wondering if her case is related to the others in some way, though there is no evidence that they are linked.
The Lebanon-based victim, who asked to remain anonymous because the case is an ongoing investigation, had surgery at DHMC in January and goes back twice-a-week for appointments. Although she has been a patient at the hospital for 50 years, she wondered whether the recent activity on her account made her a target.
“It is the same thing (that is happening to providers),” the victim said. “If there is a tie, I don’t know.”
DHMC spokesman Rick Adams said hospital officials have no reason to believe that “this theft involved any of our patients.”
In general, Adams said, “We continue to monitor this situation and work with the authorities. (W)hile we know that this is a widespread issue, we have no information that indicates that the theft was the result of a security breach here at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.”
Similarly, officials also say they have not found any correlation between identity theft involving people who may have been patients at Twin State hospitals.
“Based on the experience here at the New Hampshire Medical Society, we have no reason to believe that protected health information has been compromised,” said Scott Colby, executive vice president at the New Hampshire Medical Society. “We have every reason to believe that this is limited to health care providers.”
Suzanna Liepmann, a certified public accountant for Lebanon-based Schiffman, Dattilio and Liepmann, said the firm is currently dealing with “a couple” of cases involving medical personnel and other clients who have had their Social Security numbers stolen and used to file false tax returns.
“We have attempted to file tax returns on behalf of our clients and they have been rejected,” she said. “We call the IRS to follow up on the rejection and they told us that the Social Security number matches the Social Security number of a tax return that has already been filed.”
Liepmann said the clients have been asked to re-file in paper format, and are told they will receive their money in full, though it will take longer to process.
Riley , the Boston-based IRS spokeswoman, said th at identity theft victims eventually should receive their valid tax refunds, if they are due one.
“Unfortunately the process takes a long time,” she said. “(It will take) a number of months to get money back to them.”
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3248.