Posted on October 10th, 2012 No comments
Thousands of Florida Realtors and other professionals with state licenses are being warned of a “very official”-looking identity theft scam that lures potential victims with threats of disciplinary action.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates professions ranging from contractors to cosmetologists, began getting complaints about the scam last week.
Sandi Poreda, communications director for the department, said license holders are getting e-mails that look like they are from the department and claim there are disciplinary actions pending against the recipient. The license holder is directed to call a “department investigator” at a toll-free number where they are asked for personal data such as drivers license information and social security numbers.
“It looks very official,” Poreda said about the e-mail, which is being investigated by the department. “They copied the banner on our website and created an e-mail signature that looks very much like ours.”
While Realtors submitted the initial complaints about the scam, Poreda said the department doesn’t know how people are being targeted and therefore are notifying all of their license holders.
Officials fear the scam could be more effective than a typical e-mail solicitation because the department does contact licenses holders through e-mail about disciplinary issues. But Poreda said an official notice is typically also sent via regular mail.
“It’s important for people to know that this contact is not coming from us,” she said.
Anyone who gets a suspicious warning of disciplinary action from the department is being asked to call 850-487-1395 and report it to law enforcement.
The Federal Trade Commission reported earlier this year that Florida ranked first in the nation last year for the number of identity theft complaints per capita. Georgia followed, with California coming in third.
Florida’s top identity theft complaints came from fraud relating to government documents, such as tax returns, followed by credit card fraud and bank fraud.
Posted on October 10th, 2012 No comments
TALLAHASSEE, FL – The Department of Business and Professional Regulation recently issued a consumer advisory after learning an entity posing as the Department is allegedly targeting license holders in a potential identity theft scam. An unsolicited email which appears to be from the Department warns of pending disciplinary action against licenses. The email directs the recipient to call a Department investigator at a toll-free number and provide personal identification information.
The Department has confirmed that the email communication is in no way connected with the Department or its regulatory authority.
If a license holder receives an email from an entity claiming to be the Department and warning of disciplinary action, he or she should not respond to the email or call the listed number. Instead, the licensee should contact the Department directly at 850-487-1395. Licensees may also log into their online accounts to view any public disciplinary actions.
The Department warned licensees against providing personal identification information to unknown individuals or companies who have made unsolicited contact with them. The theft of personal identification information is a crime and should be reported immediately to local law enforcement.
The Department will investigate the matter fully and will work with law enforcement to determine whether any criminal action has occurred.
As identity theft has skyrocketed in the last five years, more South Floridians are being plunged into the aggravating and painfully slow process of proving they exist after thieves steal their identity.
From thieves installing ATM skimmer devices at Publix Supermarkets to those filing fraudulent tax returns in someone else’s name, identity theft has left many South Florida victims in financial limbo. College students can’t get financial aid. Some people can’t close on homes they were scheduled to buy. Others can’t get new credit cards. Thousands have had to wait more than a year for federal tax refunds they were counting on to pay bills.
Identity theft affects South Florida’s young and old — from babies’ newly issued Social Security numbers being filched to thieves stealing identities from the graves of the deceased.
Even law enforcement officers haven’t escaped. Davie Police Capt. Dale Engle, has been waiting seven months for his federal tax refund check, since a thief filed for one in his name — just five days before Engle tried to submit his own. “It’s a huge problem,” Engle said.
Such is the reality in South Florida, where the dramatic jump in reported incidents to the Federal Trade Commission — from 8,317 cases in 2007 to 17,668 in 2011 — has made us the identity theft capital of the nation. More identity thefts per capita occur here than in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or any other large urban area of the country.
Last year saw the number of identity thefts explode, with claims jumping 76 percent in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. South Florida reports increased from 184 per 100,000 population in 2010 to 324 per 100,000 population in 2011, according to the FTC.
For Richard Zadanoff, 77, having his identity hijacked meant his plans to move from a home to a condo were upended. The Tamarac man discovered the problem earlier this year during tax season, but he couldn’t close on the condo because the bank found records of someone else’s claim to be him at a different address.
Zadanoff stood in line for hours at the Internal Revenue Service office in Plantation to report that his identity had been stolen — only to be turned away because so many others were ahead of him. He finally got an IRS office in Virginia to take his information by phone.
Victims of tax-related identity theft are required to file affidavits with the IRS and report the case to local police. Some departments have balked because they figure the federal government will investigate, said Cindy A. Liebes, the FTC’s Southeast regional director. But sometimes victims can’t get credit agencies to list the identity theft in their files unless there is a police report, she said.
The FTC also recommends that victims report the crime to the Social Security Administration.
Carol Flynn, of Davie, said the IRS didn’t tell her to report her tax-related identity theft to local police, the FTC, the SSA and the credit reporting agencies. She’s still waiting to hear about her refund, but said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s staff directed her to a taxpayer advocate who is updating her about her case.
At times, state and local agencies also have inadvertently put personal information online.
Bruce Hogman, a senior computer systems consultant who lives in Fort Lauderdale, was upset when he learned that Broward County had published some of his personal information online.
“My Social Security number was on the web for five years before a neighbor told me,” he said.
Broward County promptly removed his number after he alerted them, Hogman said.
Still, he fears others may be exposed to identity theft because some of their personal information may remain online in public documents such as deeds.
Lyz DeMarco, of Hollywood, couldn’t believe it when the IRS rejected a tax return because a thief had claimed her identity first; she had already been a victim twice before.
Once, someone tried to buy surfboards in Texas with her stolen credit card number. “It was a crazy amount of surfboards,” she said. Another time someone tried to use her debit card at a sports bar. “They must have made a counterfeit one,” she said. “I had mine with me.”
DeMarco said she encountered hurdles when she tried to report the crime, with police telling her they didn’t take IRS cases. On a third try, police took a report. The IRS required her to submit an “identity theft affidavit” to prove who she was. She spent hours on the telephone with different IRS staffers before her theft claim was finally accepted.
Despite the ordeal, which lasted half a year, DeMarco considers herself lucky. She called the IRS on Wednesday, and after she was on hold for an hour, this time there was good news.
Her refund was being wired into her bank account — with $50 in interest.
“I was floored — I was absolutely floored,” DeMarco said.
Three people face charges in connection with identity thefts stealing the identities of several current and former employees of Apollo Elementary School in Titusville.
Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputies said Richard Harvill, Michelle Walker, and Alison Greenlay were using the victims’ stolen identities to purchase merchandise at local stores, according to a release. Agent Jacqueline Hearon said the trio got about $30,000 total from nine victims.
The release named Richard Harvill as a career criminal. He has previous convictions dating back to 1987 that include aggravated battery, escape, battery on a law enforcement officer, forgery, grand theft, fraudulent use of personal identification, and trafficking in stolen property.
Harvill was most recently released from state prison in 2010, according to the Department of Corrections website.
Hearon said they suspect a relative of one of the suspects worked at Apollo and helped the trio obtain information on the victims.
Greenlay was arrested in Brevard County. Harvill and Walker are being held in North Carolina on charges of operating a meth lab, according to the release. They will be returned to Brevard to face the identity theft charges.
Harvill’s charges include: 34 counts of criminal use of personal identification, 2 counts of fraudulent use of credit cards, 2 counts of grand theft and 1 count of forgery.
Walker’s charges include: 33 counts of criminal use of personal identification, 8 counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, 7 counts of scheme to defraud, 1 count of forgery and 1 count of grand theft.
Greenlay’s charges include: fraudulent use of a credit card, forgery, grand theft and violation of probation.
The Sheriff’s Office is asking that anyone who may have information concerning this investigation contact Agent Jacqueline Hearon at (321) 264-5210 or CRIMELINE at 1-800-423-TIPS (8477). All calls to CRIMELINE are confidential and callers can remain anonymous.
Contact Ford at [email protected] or 321-242-3601
TAMPA — The Internal Revenue Service is tripling the number of staff members nationwide who are dedicated to addressing the issue of identity theft tax refund fraud, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said.
Castor, the Tampa Democrat, said she was briefed last Friday by IRS officials regarding progress the agency is making to tackle the epidemic of fraud in which the Tampa area leads the nation.
Thieves use stolen personal information — such as names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers — to file tax returns with fake income information and obtain fraudulent tax refunds.
According to a recent inspector general report, thieves in the Tampa area alone stole more than $400 billion last year from federal taxpayers this way. Nationwide, identity thieves are stealing billions from the federal government through refund fraud.
Castor said the IRS assured her it is increasing its screening filters, designed to detect fraudulent returns before refunds are issued. Across the board, law enforcement officials have repeatedly said the fraud is so pervasive, it cannot be stopped by arrests and prosecutions — that the IRS needs to stop sending “refunds” to thieves.
The IRS told Castor that so far this year, it has prevented 2.3 million fraudulent refunds from being issued, totaling $15 billion. That’s compared to 1.4 million fraudulent refunds stopped in 2011, worth $11 billion.
Part of that effort apparently involves increasing scrutiny of tax filings originating from Tampa, Castor noted.
“I said, ‘Geographically, where you know there is an epidemic, like the Tampa Bay area and the state of Florida, I assume filters are place.’ They said yes.
“They say they’re on the cusp of instituting many, multiple new filters to prevent the fraud from happening in the first place,” Castor said.
“So they will flag, for example, multiple returns coming to the same address. That’s a question I keep getting. How can it be that the IRS is sending multiple debit cards and returns to the same address over and over?”
Castor also noted something police have been saying: often crooks will use the same fake numbers repeatedly on numerous returns. For example, two suspects indicted this week were accused of filing 17 tax returns, each seeking refunds of $1,453.
The new filters, Castor says she was assured, “will flag that.”
While Castor was encouraged by the new IRS approach, she added, “I know from the folks coming to my office with checks and calls and people I see in the grocery store, this is still a huge problem and we’ve got to continue to press the IRS until Tampa no longer is number one for tax fraud.”
Castor said that she was told that by October, the agency will reallocate personnel to beef up the number of people dedicated to issues related to ID theft tax refund fraud. The agency will have more than 2,300 people addressing the issue, Castor said. These people are being moved from other areas and are not new hires.
The agency anticipates that by tax season, it will issue about 500,000 personal identification numbers to identity theft victims. The PIN numbers are designed to stop victims from being further harmed by having their real returns rejected.
The agency said it is “modernizing” its efforts to block use of information gained from the Social Security death master file, an online database of deceased individuals with their Social Security numbers and dates of birth. The data has been used extensively by refund fraud thieves.
Castor said she was pleased to see recent efforts by the federal government to address the fraud, including a directive issued this week by the Justice Department to speed up prosecutions and the arrests of some high-profile suspects.
The congresswoman said she spoke to the IRS about a pilot program in Florida in which identity theft victims can sign waivers giving law enforcement access to tax returns filed fraudulently in their names.
Castor said the IRS told her it has issued 750 of those waivers.
The amount of time it has taken the agency to address the issue is “not satisfactory at all,” Castor said. “But there are some positive signs here. We’ve got their attention.”
Posted on September 6th, 2012 2 comments
A Florida lawyer living in Colorado has had her personal information compromised, potentially setting her up for identity theft or impersonation.
Laurie Morris unwittingly provided the miscreants her sensitive information when she submitted paperwork for a background check to what she thought was a California law firm.
It wasn’t. Now she is worried about what will happen next.
Morris recently moved from Tampa to Denver and since she is not licensed in Colorado, she has been working with a placement agency to secure various contract positions.
After completing an eight-month assignment she got through the agency, Morris was contacted again in July regarding a job with “Isaacson Goldberg Warner,” purportedly a California firm that had a medical malpractice case set for trial in Denver in October and needed some extra help.
“They supposedly reviewed my resume, approved me, and sent me some paperwork to fill out for a background check,” said Morris, adding she was “hired” along with another lawyer and a paralegal and told when and where to report to get started on the case.
When that day came, the “California lawyers” never showed and failed to respond to calls from the placement agency.
After contacting the State Bar of California and the property managers of the building supposedly housing the firm, it became clear “Isaacson Goldberg Warner” didn’t exist.
“All we can guess is this is some sort of scam to secure personal information, because they did not get anything else from us,” Morris said. “But they do have my Social Security number, my driver’s license number, my date of birth, my address, and they know I’m an attorney — all the identity theft information.”
As of yet, there have been no known repercussions. Morris said she has taken all the steps she can think of to minimize any damage — such as contacting her banks, credit reporting agencies, and The Florida Bar to alert them about what happened.
Morris said the placement agency also had sensitive information stolen because the fake firm asked the agency to run payroll for the contract lawyers through its account, as opposed to the “firm” paying the lawyers directly.
“So they now have her banking information, so she is also compromised both professionally and personally,” Morris said.
Morris and the placement agency alerted local law enforcement and the FBI, which has turned the case over to its cybercrimes unit.
“It looks like it was all Internet based,” said Morris, adding the Isaacson Goldberg Warner website’s IP server address has been traced back to Bermuda.
Morris said the scammers were pretty sophisticated, and the ruse included Isaacson Goldberg Warner website and found much of the verbiage on the site was pirated from a Washington, D.C., based international law firm’s website.
Morris now worries about what the fraudster may do with her personal information: sell it to others; open credit card accounts in her name; obtain loans; get a driver’s license or official ID card issued in her name but with someone else’s picture; or even hold themselves out as her and practice law. What terrifies her most is the prospect of the fraudsters perpetrating more scams using her identity, and having Bar complaints wrongfully filed against her.
Unfortunately, Morris said, she did not have a lot of information about the firm she was applying to work for before the scam got too far along, which is typically the way placement agencies work.
“At the beginning it is double blind; they don’t tell me who their client is and they redact my information when they submit my resume,” Morris said. “Until it is finalized, you don’t really know who you are working for.”
Going forward, Morris said if a potential employer wants to do a background check, she will demand to know why, since she is already a licensed professional. If the employer insists, she will ask to be provided with the name of the company that will run the background check “and I’ll communicate with them directly.”
Morris said her placement agency now plans to run its own background checks and not let potential employers perform them anymore.
“This is a fairly elaborate scam, which seems to be getting more common,” said Elizabeth Tarbert, the Bar’s ethics counsel. “Unfortunately, it is a lot easier with the Internet — and without real cost but time — to create credentials, such as a fake website, or in the case of another scam, the fake bank check.”
Tarbert said it is good advice to try to get as much information as possible about potential employers before giving them sensitive personal information.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as nine million Americans have their identities stolen each year.
To learn more about ID theft or what to do if you think or know your identity has been stolen, visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft
Posted on September 6th, 2012 No comments
How easy is it to steal the identity of a business? Just ask Roger Lee Shoss and Nicolette Loisel, two Houston-based attorneys who turned hijacking the identities of publicly traded companies into a cottage industry.
According to the Department of Justice, the two took advantage of loose public and private filing systems for more than a year, fooling regulators in Ireland, the UK and the U.S. and stealthily taking control of dozens of dormant firms. The scam calls attention to a little-known, but growing problem in the U.S. and elsewhere: business identity theft, and the way that lax business filing systems aid would-be thieves.
By all accounts, Shoss and Loisel were masters of the art of corporate identity theft. According to a federal indictment, the two were part of a three person legal team operating within an octopus-like international conspiracy spanning the U.S., U.K. and Spain. After using online business registries to identify dormant, publicly-traded companies in the U.S., Shoss and Loisel would resurrect the firms: filing certificates of amendment for the firms’ articles of incorporation that folded the existing, publicly traded firm into sham shell companies they had set up.
By manipulating business registration systems in Florida and Delaware as well as filing systems at organizations like NASDAQ and the SEC, the scammers took control of the companies and then obtained legitimate CUSIP numbers and stock trading symbols that were then used to push the worthless stock on unsuspecting investors. In all, the scheme raked in close to $100 million through bogus stock sales of 54 separate firms to gullible investors, mostly in the UK, before regulators and law enforcement got wise to it.
The scheme was larger in scope than similar business identity theft operations, but not unusual in its details. The success of the perpetrators underscores the gulf in awareness that exists between the well-known problem of consumer identity theft, and the lesser known problem of business (or corporate) identity theft, according to experts interviewed by ITworld. “This is something that goes on quite regularly,” said Ricky Harper, the Director of Florida’s Division of Corporations.
Harper said that business identity theft is often a lurking problem that slips under the radar of both state officials and law enforcement. Harper said that officials – himself included – often don’t know what to look for. “I was asked by our previous Secretary of State, Curt Browning, to look into the problem. I read some articles on it but didn’t see much evidence of it here in Florida,” Harper told ITworld.
Then Harper said a case came across his desk that woke him up to the corporate identity theft problem. “We had a business – an aviation company – that had been dissolved by the owners. It was then reinstated by some identity thieves. Soon after, they applied for a $140,000 federal fuel tax credit, which was delivered as a check. The scammers and the money disappeared and the previous owners only learned about it when the IRS came knocking on their door.”
Harper said that, when learned about the scam, he realized that the Division of Corporations wasn’t looking for the right clues. Rather than trying to identify fraudulent filings, the Division instructed its employees to start looking for innocuous-seeming changes that correlated with business identity theft scams. Those included sudden changes in the registered agent or mailing address of a company. “Once people started looking for that, we discovered a fairly high amount of (identity theft),” Harper said.
In the last decade, secretaries of state across the U.S. have moved business registries and filing systems online as a convenience to taxpayers and also to save money. Unfortunately, that move online hasn’t gone hand-in-hand with tighter security. Lax business registration systems are the norm in the U.S., and they’re also a common denominator in business identity theft scams, say officials in other states that have confronted the problem.
In Florida, officials at the Division of Corporations uncovered 40 known cases of fraudulent business filings with damages of up to $360,000 in one case, said Karen Ellis who was hired by the State of Florida in May to spearhead its efforts to stem the business identity fraud and abuse.
Ellis says that poor communication between law enforcement and secretaries of state, who often manage corporate filings, is one major obstacle to stopping identity theft. Since starting work for the State of Florida in May, Ellis says that she has improved communication between the Division and law enforcement. But bigger changes that can actually stop identity theft have been slower coming, she said. “Right now in Florida we still have fair faith filing. That means I can get on a computer and go and alter things on an LLC, NPO or corporation. I just need to send in the form and pay my $25 charge for the amendment,” she said. “We’ve left ourselves wide open.”
The loose security around business filings is no accident. In many states, secretaries of state are confined by law to a “ministerial” role with regard to business filings, without the authority to question the details of filings that meet the state’s guidelines. When fraud occurs, secretaries of state are often hamstrung in investigating suspicious filings, according to a January, 2012 report by the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS).
That means that, despite increased awareness of the problem of identity theft, would-be identity thieves can easily exploit online registries of corporations to glean the information needed to impersonate the firm, and then abuse Web- and fax-based filing systems to hijack the firms’ identities without concern about getting caught.
In Oregon, the problem has been identity thieves reinstating old mining companies to steal their corporate identity, said Tom Wrosch, that state’s Commercial Registries Manager. In response, the state set up limits on how long a company could be dormant before it is reinstated, he said.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler said that his state has seen a spike in cases of corporate identity theft stretching back to 2009 and 2010, under his predecessor. The problem was big enough to become an issue in a hotly contested political race for the Secretary of State’s seat, with Gessler promising to be more aggressive in combating corporate identity thieves if elected.
Since winning the race, he said he has made good on his campaign promise: getting legislative approval and funding to expand an existing program to notify business owners by e-mail if their business registration information changed. Business owners in Colorado can now protect their business filings with a password protection – the first such system in the nation.
“The password feature is straightforward, but it’s new and unusual in the context of central business registries,” Gessler said. The system went live in January and, to date, just over 26,000 businesses have registered for Secure Business Filing accounts, according to data provided by the Secretary of State’s office. The system is voluntary for business owners and Gessler admits that cajoling established businesses to set up an account has been a challenge. But Colorado has made it a default option when citizens set up a new business, with most taking advantage of the feature.
The data, so far, is encouraging. Reports of business identity theft average about six per month so far in 2012, down from an average of 11 per month in 2011 and 18 a month in 2010.
But Colorado is the exception rather than the rule. Even with greater attention to business identity theft, most states have little or any security built into their business registries. In states like California, for example, the form to amend a limited liability company (LLC) can be downloaded from the Secretary of State’s Web page and mailed- or faxed in with payment, but no proof of identity. That allows identity thieves to act without fear of getting caught.
Texas doesn’t provide either an e-mail notification program or a way to password protect a business entity record, though the state is constantly reviewing its procedures in an effort to maintain the security of business records and appropriate public access to them, said Richard Parsons, the Communications Director for Secretary of State Hope Andrade.
Even states that have implemented security features often fall short of the mark. Massachusetts’ Secretary of State’s office has password protected online filing. However, scammers can obtain a user name and password from the Secretary of State’s office with nothing more than a valid e-mail address and the name of the LLC or LLP they are targeting.
Don Huntting, the president of Huntting Investigative Services in Westlake Village, California said that California, like other states, is behind the curve, with state agencies mired in bureaucracy and slow to process changes in business filings – let alone spot fraud in real time. He said that, in his state, it often falls to banks, which have higher standards of proof when setting up business accounts – to actually spot and stop business identity theft fraud. “The state is dropping the ball,” Huntting said.
Wrosch of Oregon said the same is true in his state, acknowledging that the state’s business registry can be manipulated or out of date, and shouldn’t be the final word on the ownership of a company.
“We tell businesses: if you’re relying on our database to show ownership or authority (of a company), then you’re enabling business identity theft. Our registry is not the best indicator or the sole indicator of who is the owner or person in charge of a business.”
Business identity theft wouldn’t be a problem, he said, if “the people who had the money – whether that’s a bank or a credit card company – didn’t rely on the business registration … what they see on our system.”
That’s a shocking admission, but Wrosch’s sentiment is backed up by data. The firm Dun & Bradstreet estimates that approximately 20 percent of the registration data in government databases is inaccurate, complicating tax collection and enabling fraud.
Besides, Wrosch said, business identity theft isn’t a front burner issue in his state. “We’re not hearing about it from local law enforcement or anecdotally,” he said. That could be because there are no crimes to report, or because businesses are loath to admit when they’ve been defrauded. Whatever the case, with few reports, it’s hard to justify dedicating the resources and money to address the problem, Wrosch said. Add to that the fact that, in many states, implementing new and more secure business registries requires legislative action of some kind to approve the additional budget to fund the new system. In Colorado, despite public attention to the problem, it’s still a year to win funding to implement business registry security features, said Secretary of State Gessler.
A 2011 position paper by the firm Dunn & Bradstreet said that online business registries have improved the speed and ease of registration over older, paper-based processes and can “strengthen agencies’ mission capabilities in such areas as regulation and oversight, collection of revenue and fees, transparency, and economic development.” But state agencies must fix the problem of what D&B called “inadequate data-quality checks” that have “enabled criminals to use government websites to steal the identities of legitimate businesses to perpetrate crimes.”
The firm said states should take a number of steps to secure their filing systems and make them more akin to private sector systems. Those steps include proving the identity of those registering a new business or attempting to alter data for an existing firm, then providing them with a unique identifier and password to limit access to that data. But states will also need to invest significantly in support, management and oversight to ensure the continued integrity of their business registries and the data in them, D&B said.
The NASS also recommended a series of changes in their report, chief among them the establishment of cyber security policies and practices to secure online business records and prevent unauthorized changes. NASS also called for better reporting and tracking of business identity thefts and new laws that empower secretaries of state to investigate fraudulent filings, raise the burden of proof for those seeking to resurrect a dissolved business entity and impose stiff penalties for cases of proven business identity theft.
The efforts of NASS and others appear to be working. Colorado’s Secretary of State, Scott Gessler, who chairs the NASS Business Identity Theft Taskforce, said that awareness of the problem has grown tremendously in the states where NASS has held workshops. “We have a lot of people who are interested in doing the things we’re doing in Colorado,” he said.
That’s as it should be because criminals will be quick to shift from higher- to lower security states when changes start to be implemented. “I tell my counterparts in other states that there’s no question that if we stymie crooks in our state, they’re coming your way instead,” Gessler said.
A disbarred Sarasota personal injury lawyer turned himself in on 8/28/12 on eight counts of grand theft, allegedly victimizing a World War II veteran among others.
Scott Schieb arrived at Sarasota Police Department headquarters for the charges, having bilked $200,000 from victims, according to the police department.
Schieb was being investigated for seven months following his disbarment from the Florida Bar Association in October 2011, according to police.
The Florida Bar filed a complaint with the Twelfth Judicial Circuit in November saying that as many as 12 victims had their injury settlement payments stolen by Schieb.
Investigators determined that all 12 victims were misled, lied to or misrepresented by Schieb over a number of years, according to police.
Schieb settled cases without notifying clients and kept their money, police said.
Police were able to identify eight victims, including a World War II veteran. Police said that many of the victims still require more medical procedures and some have lost their homes, cars and jobs.
Schieb’s troubles had first started in 2003 when law partner Richard Groner had committed suicide, The Herald-Tribune reported in November:
“The partner, Richard Groner, handled the firm’s trust accounts — the place where, for example, an insurance company settlement check for either lawyer’s clients would end up until the time came to split the money up between client and attorney.
But no money was left in trust accounts when Groner took his life. Under Florida Bar regulations, both partners had full responsibility for the trust account.
The Florida Bar reprimanded Schieb in 2005, and put on probation for two years, requiring him to have a certified public accountant reviewing his trust account during that time.”
Anyone with information about this case or if they believe they were a victim of Schieb is asked to call Detective Jack Carter at 941-954-7088.
The Ponemon Institute surveyed 757 patient victims of medical ID theft to find out how the situations were resolved and the repercussions of the crimes. Often, physicians might be obliged to cover the cost of identity theft if it happened at their practice.
- Average time to resolve: 12.1 months
- Personal cost of resolving theft: $22,346 per victim
- Those who lost trust in their health care organization as a result: 51%
- Percentage who had medical records accessed: 20%
- Percentage with private insurance: 44%
- Percentage with Medicare: 21%
- Percentage not insured: 20%
Source: “Third Annual National Study On Medical Identity Theft,” Ponemon Institute, June
Where to go for help:
There are several agencies, both government and private, that investigate and provide resources on medical identity theft.
For more information:
- World Privacy Forum (worldprivacyforum.org/)
- Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov/idtheft)
- CMS Provider Victim Validation/Remediation Initiative (cms.gov/Medicare/Provider-Enrollment-and-Certification/MedicareProviderSupEnroll/Downloads/ProviderVictimPOCs.pdf)
To file a complaint:
- Federal Trade Commission: 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338)
- Medicare: 1-800-MEDICARE (633-4227)
- Office of the Inspector General: 1-800-HHS-TIPS (447-8477)
Patients can’t be expected to act as partners in detecting medical identity theft if they don’t know what it is.
A recent survey of insured adults found that few patients know how to define medical ID theft properly. Even those familiar with the term “medical ID theft” were unlikely to define it correctly.
- 15% are familiar with the term “medical ID theft”
- 15% are able to define medical ID theft (of those familiar with the term)
- 19% think it would take less than two weeks to correct medical ID if stolen
- 22% believe the most likely consequence of medical ID theft is their insurance will be canceled
- 24% have checked medical records for fraud
- 32% think it’s likely that their medical identification will be stolen
- 56% think it’s likely their credit card or credit card number will be stolen
Source: “Medical ID Theft Study,” Nationwide Insurance, March