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  • IRS Refunded $4B to Identity Thieves

    Posted on November 25th, 2013 admin No comments

    More fraudulent refunds were sent to Miami than any other U.S. city — but 655 were sent to a single address in Lithuania, according to an inspector general’s report.

    The Internal Revenue Service issued $4 billion in fraudulent tax refunds last year to people using stolen identities, with some of the money going to addresses in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Ireland, according to an inspector general’s report released Thursday. The IRS sent a total of 655 tax refunds to a single address in Lithuania, and 343 refunds went to a lone address in Shanghai.

    In the U.S., more fraudulent returns went to Miami than any other city. Other top destinations were Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta and Houston.

    The IRS has stepped up efforts to fight identity theft, but thieves are getting more aggressive, said the report by J. Russell George, Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration. Last year, the IRS stopped more than $12 billion in fraudulent refunds from going to identity thieves, compared with $8 billion the year before.

    “Identity theft continues to be a serious problem with devastating consequences for taxpayers and an enormous impact on tax administration,” George said in a statement. The fraud “erodes taxpayer confidence in the federal tax system.”

    Thieves often steal Social Security numbers from people who don’t have to file tax returns, including the young, the old and people who have died, the report said. In other cases, thieves use stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns before the legitimate taxpayer files.

    The IRS, which takes pride in issuing quick refunds, often sends them out before employers are required to file forms documenting wages, the report said.

    “The constantly evolving tactics used by scammers to commit identity theft continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS, and we take this issue very seriously,” the IRS said in a statement. “The IRS has a comprehensive and aggressive identity theft strategy that focuses on preventing refund fraud, investigating these crimes and assisting taxpayers victimized by it.”

    Despite budget cuts, the agency said, agents have resolved more than 565,000 cases of identity theft this year, three times the number of cases resolved at the same time last year.

    A separate report by George said the number of identity theft victims is on the rise as thieves get more aggressive.

    Through June, the IRS identified 1.6 million victims whose identities were stolen during this year’s tax filing season, the report said. That compares with 1.2 million victims in 2012.

    Many of these people didn’t realize they were victims until they submitted their returns only to learn from the IRS that someone else had already used their Social Security number to file and claim a refund.

    The IRS does a good job of eventually identifying the proper owner of Social Security numbers, but the process can be lengthy, the report said. For cases closed between August 2011 and July 2012, it took an average of 312 days to resolve the case and issue a proper refund, the report said.

    The IRS said it has resolved most of this year’s identity theft cases within 120 days.

    Last year, the IRS issued 1.1 million refunds to people using stolen Social Security numbers, the inspector general’s report said. Those refunds totaled $3.6 billion. By comparison, the IRS issued $5.2 billion in refunds to people who stole Social Security numbers in 2011, the report said.

    Additionally, the IRS issued 141,000 refunds last year to people using stolen taxpayer identification numbers, which are typically used by foreign citizens who earn money in the U.S. Those refunds totaled $385 million, the report said.

    Florida is a big target of identity theft in part because of the large number of older residents living there. Older and younger people can be targets for identity theft because many don’t meet the income requirements to file a federal tax return.

    Nearly 38,000 potentially fraudulent refunds, totaling $147 million, were sent to addresses in Miami, the report said.

    Among individual homes, one address in Orlando received 580 tax refunds totaling $870,000, the report said. Another Orlando address received 291 refunds totaling $466,000.

    Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has introduced a bill that would toughen criminal penalties for people who file fake tax returns under someone else’s name. The bill would also require the IRS to get legitimate taxpayers the refunds they’re due within 90 days.

    “While these reports show that some progress is being made in reducing tax fraud, it’s also clear that there is still much to be done and there are still a number of improvements that need to be made to protect both taxpayers and the U.S. Treasury,” Nelson said.

    (source)

  • Attacks on mail carriers have become more brazen, postal workers say.

    Posted on June 25th, 2013 admin 1 comment

    It’s not only the glaring sun and the threat of dog bites that South Florida’s mail carriers must contend with as they go door to door delivering the mail — sometimes they come under physical attack from the people who live along their delivery routes. From criminals intent on committing identity fraud to customers with poor anger management skills, letter carriers say they have noticed an increase in such attacks in recent years.

    “We have more brazen offenders approaching letter carriers and even threatening them or assaulting them,” said Ivan Ramirez, a U.S. Postal Inspector in Miramar. “A lot of people don’t realize that if you mess with a federal employee, then it’s a federal crime and you could do some serious prison time.”

    Among the cases prosecuted in federal court in recent years were a father and son from Oakland Park, Donald and Kevin Lincks, now 64 and 31, who were sentenced to a year in prison for beating a postal worker in June 2009 after he refused to give them their mail on the street because he didn’t know them.

    A Palm Beach County man, David Jason Agosto, 36, is serving 8 1/2 years in federal prison for assaulting a postal worker who he believed was flirting with his girlfriend while delivering mail at her workplace, the state Department of Children & Families in Lake Worth in 2008.

    And three men are serving lengthy federal prison terms for their roles in the December 2010 murder of postal worker Bruce Parton, 60, of Pembroke Pines, who was shot while being robbed of a master key in north Miami-Dade.

    The U.S. Postal Service said it does not keep statistics on such crimes, but trains workers on how to stay safe and pursues criminal charges against offenders.

    Assaulting postal employees can have serious consequences — it is a federal crime that is prosecuted under the same law as assaulting an FBI agent. Attacking a federal employee while they’re carrying out their duties carries punishments that range from one to 20 years in prison.

    Ramirez said the downturn in the economy and the prevalence of identity thieves, who sometimes target letter carriers because they want to rob master keys that open community mailboxes, have coincided with more attacks on carriers.

    Court records show that at least seven people have faced federal prosecution for assaulting and injuring letter carriers in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties since 2008. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story, officials said, because assailants are also prosecuted for related crimes, like fraud or robbery, and can also face state charges.

    In federal court in West Palm Beach last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Dave Lee Brannon praised prosecutors for their evenhanded approach to a complicated case involving a mentally ill woman who investigators said attacked a letter carrier delivering mail in Lantana in September.

    Mailman Bruce Tabano, 60, suffered a concussion, chipped tooth and facial cuts when Donna Rose Angelo, 49, attacked him at his work truck near North Ridge Drive and Flamingo Drive, according to the complaint.

    Tabano told investigators Angelo told him to give her the mail, punched him in the face, then came at him again in an aggressive manner.

    “The carrier then reached for his dog spray and heard the woman say ‘If you spray me, I’ll f—ing kill you, I’m crazy,'” postal inspectors wrote.

    Angelo, who has a history of violent disturbances, told police that she did not understand when they read her legal rights to her, tried to run off and said she didn’t mean to hit the mailman, investigators said.

    Her diagnosis was not made public, but her lawyer said Angelo would pursue an insanity defense if formal charges are filed. Experts said she is mentally incompetent and she has spent the past few months being treated in a federal medical prison in Texas.

    Prosecutor John McMillan told the judge Wednesday that efforts to restore her to competency have failed. Brannon ordered that she be assessed to see if she poses a danger to the community before deciding what to do next.

    “These are not easy cases, these are not easy issues,” Brannon said, adding that he felt prosecutors were looking out for the best interests of the victim, suspect and community.

    Mike Gill, the president of Branch 1071 of the National Association of Letter Carriers which represents workers in Miami-Dade, southern Palm Beach and most of Broward, said his members have reported an increase in assaults, though not a dramatic one. Gill said he thinks some of it is linked to the rise in identity theft.

    “It’s definitely been more of an issue in recent years and we warn our members that if something doesn’t feel right, they should get out of the area and involve their supervisor and the police,” he said.

    Just as mail carriers look out for their customers, alerting authorities when they notice something suspicious, Gill said he hopes people in the community look out for the safety of postal service employees. “Letter carriers are out there six days a week, and we try to be the eyes and ears for the community.”

    Ramirez, the postal inspector who investigates crimes, said the postal service has increased its investigative efforts in recent years and introduced programs to make sure employees are looking out for their personal safety.

    Debbie Fetterly, a U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman in South Florida, said employee safety is a priority.

    “USPS always tells employees that they are our most valuable resource and that we want to deliver them home safely each day,” Fetterly said. Safeguards include special training and awareness programs as well as having a threat assessment team that evaluates and takes action on serious threats made to employees, she said.

    (source)

  • IRS May Have Lost Billions To Identity Theft, Treasury Says.

    Posted on August 30th, 2012 admin No comments

    The Internal Revenue Service may have delivered more than $5 billion in refund checks to identity thieves who filed fraudulent tax returns for 2011, Treasury Department investigators said on August 2, 2012. They estimate another $21 billion could make its way to ID thieves’ pockets over the next five years.

    The IRS is detecting far fewer fraudulent tax refund claims than actually occur, according to a government audit that warned the widespread problem could undermine public trust in the U.S. tax system. Although the IRS detected about 940,000 fraudulent returns for last year claiming $6.5 billion in refunds, there were potentially another 1.5 million undetected cases of thieves seeking refunds after assuming the identity of a dead person, child or someone else who normally wouldn’t file a tax return.

    In one example, investigators found a single address in Lansing, Mich., that was used to file 2,137 separate tax returns. The IRS issued more than $3.3 million in refunds to that address. Three addresses in Florida, the epicenter of the identity theft crisis, filed more than 500 returns totaling more than $1 million in refunds for each address.

    In another troubling scenario, hundreds of refunds were deposited into the same bank account – a red flag for investigators searching for ID thieves who may be filing for refunds for multiple people. In one instance, the IRS deposited 590 refunds totaling more than $900,000 into one account.

    “We found multiple reasons for the IRS’s inability to detect billions of dollars in fraud,” J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, in a statement. “At a time when every dollar counts, these results are extremely troubling.”

    Topping the list of concerns is the IRS’s lack of timely access to third-party information it needs to verify returns and root out fraud.

    Many Americans are struggling to pay their bills and the IRS takes pride in processing returns and issuing refunds promptly. But taxpayers can start filing their returns in mid-January, while employers and financial institutions don’t have to submit withholding and income documents for taxpayers to the IRS until the end of March. That means the IRS often issues refunds long before it can confirm the veracity of what’s listed on taxpayer returns.

    Thieves are also exploiting vulnerabilities in the way the IRS delivers refunds, investigators found. Of the 1.5 million undetected cases of potential fraud, 1.2 million used direct deposits, including pre-loaded debit cards. Thieves often prefer those methods to a paper check, which require a physical address to receive the check and photo ID matching the taxpayer’s name to cash it.

    IRS officials said the growth of identity theft-related fraud is one of its biggest challenges. Already this year, the agency has stopped almost $12 billion in confirmed fraud, it says. And it says its criminal investigators are actively pursuing those who perpetrate fraud – including the previously undetected cases identified by the audit.

    “If the IRS determines a refund has been issued improperly, we will attempt to recoup the funds,” said IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge.

    The IRS agreed with the inspector general that Congress should expand the agency’s access to resources that could help it fight theft, including the National Directory of New Hires, a database created to help states enforce child support orders. The IRS specifically asked Congress for that authority in its 2013 budget request.

    But IRS officials disputed the notion that $21 billion in fraudulent returns could be issued over the next five years, arguing that the estimate didn’t take into account the IRS’s stepped-up compliance and prevention efforts.

    “We’re going to continue to monitor the IRS in this area until we see some improvement,” Michael McKenney, the acting deputy inspector general for audit, told The Associated Press.

    Investigators went back through a sample of the 1.5 billion undetected cases to see why the IRS never flagged them as fraudulent. In 49 of 60 returns, investigators said, the return didn’t score high enough on the IRS’s fraud filter to merit a closer review. In eight of the 11 cases where the IRS did perform an additional review, it never verified the income and withholding on the return.

    The audit was prompted by a request from Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, whose home state contains the top two cities where fraudulent tax returns originate: Tampa and Miami. Last week Nelson, a Democrat, joined with Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to introduce legislation designed to curb identity theft in the tax system.

    “It’s an ongoing problem,” Nelson said in a statement. “We’ve got to find a fix.”

    Nelson’s bill would improve protections for Social Security numbers that thieves need to file returns, and would expand an existing program that gives previous victims of ID theft a personal identification number to deter repeat offenses against the same taxpayer. Another bipartisan bill passed by the House on Wednesday would bolster prosecutions and strengthen criminal penalties on ID thieves.

    The IRS said it is already putting a number of new measures in place, including new ID theft screening filters that will hold on to refunds until the IRS can verify a taxpayer’s identity. That filter had thwarted about $1.3 billion in potentially fraudulent refunds through April, the audit said. Another system flags returns filed with Social Security numbers of those who have died.

    For those who fall victim to identity thieves, the recovery process can be less than smooth. A separate report by the inspector general in May found that the IRS wasn’t providing good customer service and proper assistance to victims of ID theft, increasing the burden for those whose identities are stolen. The Federal Trade Commission has listed identity theft as the No. 1 consumer complaint for the past 12 years.

    (original post)

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Data Breach Investigated

    Posted on November 16th, 2009 admin 1 comment

    Connecticut’s attorney general is looking for tougher protection for healthcare providers after records, which could be useful to identity thieves, were lost.

    Continued here:
    Blue Cross Blue Shield Data Breach Investigated

  • House members seek stronger health care data breach notifications

    Posted on October 5th, 2009 admin No comments

    A House committee is voicing concern over a controversial provision in a recently passed health care breach notification bill that gives health care companies considerable discretion on whether to disclose a data breach.

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    House members seek stronger health care data breach notifications

  • Doctors to ask for photo ID

    Posted on October 5th, 2009 admin No comments

    Medical identity theft is a particularly insidious form of identity theft. Medical identity thieves can use up a person’s benefits and also corrupt medical records, so if the legitimate person seeks care, it could be for the wrong condition.

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    Doctors to ask for photo ID

  • IT front and center at Ahima’s 81st convention

    Posted on October 5th, 2009 admin No comments

    The 81st convention and exhibition of the American Health Information Management Association officially gets down to business today with an address from Vera Rulon, president of the organization. The convention is at the Gaylord Texan Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, just outside Dallas.

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    IT front and center at Ahima’s 81st convention

  • Social Security Number Prediction Makes Identity Theft Easy

    Posted on July 7th, 2009 admin No comments

    Posting your birthday on Facebook could help identity thieves predict your social security number, a new study finds.

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    Social Security Number Prediction Makes Identity Theft Easy