Posted on April 9th, 2013 No comments
MIAMI (CBS4) – With the April 15th tax deadline less than two weeks away, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers are still waiting for last years’ refunds.
So what’s the problem?
South Florida is ground zero for the worst tax refund identity theft rate in the country.
Ways To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
CBS4 Chief Consumer Reporter Al Sunshine found there is some new help for victims to finally get their money back from Uncle Sam.
Laurie King said she was worried about filing her 2012 tax return after someone filed a fraudulent tax return using her name last year.
“There’s not one person that I’ve talked to that hasn’t been touched by it or knows somebody who’s been touched by it,” said King.
It took almost a year for the South Miami-Dade waitress to get her money back from the IRS after the scammers stole her refund. She said she really needed that check to help pay some bills.
“Finally, 50 weeks, almost a full year. I think it’s preposterous. I really don’t think it should have taken that long,” said King.
It turns out King was not the only one on the waiting list. The IRS recently revealed it had a backlog of about 300,000 identity theft victims still waiting for their refunds.
What To Do If Your Identity Was Stolen
Pembroke Pines teacher Joan Rubenstein was scammed twice – in 2010 and 2011.
“I was in more shock because they said they were going to red flag it and it shouldn’t happen again and it did,” said Rubenstein.
Like Laurie King, the IRS delayed sending out Rubenstein’s legitimate refund for almost a year.
What would she like to tell the taxman?
“I would like to tell them that it’s horrible that it’s happening. It’s our money, they’re paying out twice. People don’t have the money to throw away like that and they need to figure out a way to make it better,” said Rubenstein.
Broward financial planner Ron Myers believes the blame for this latest nationwide scam and delays in returning victims’ refunds was triggered by Congress itself.
“You’re seeing people with anywhere from a 6 to a 14-15 month wait for a refund,” added Myers.
“In your opinion has Congress made it too easy for criminals to scam the IRS and scam taxpayers,” asked Sunshine.
“Clearly. Clearly without question,” replied Myers. “I think the Congress is eager to get people their refunds. The IRS has in many cases antiquated systems. The IRS has not caught up with the electronic age, they’re trying.”
“And as a result what are we seeing,” asked Sunshine.
“We are seeing a tremendous amount of fraud to the tune of billions of dollars,” said Myers.
U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz doesn’t think Congress caused the problem. She’s just introduced new legislation which would increase penalties for anyone filing a false taz return. The measure, however, doesn’t include requiring the IRS to speed up getting refunds back to victims like King and Rubenstein.
“Getting the refunds back is important, but what’s more important is stopping the crime,” said Wasserman Schultz. “I’ve filed legislation called the Stop Taxpayer Identity Theft Act which would increase the penalties on criminals who steal taxpayer identities and make it significant easier for them to get caught committing those crimes.”
With Wasserman Schultz’s help, Rubenstein was finally able to get her refund back and a get a special security code from the IRS to prevent future thefts.
After CBS 4 contacted Senator Bill Nelson about King’s problem, his office was finally able to get the IRS to speed up her case and finally process her refund.
“You did fantastic, I’m relieved, I can breath again. I don’t have to worry about this, it’s done, it’s taken care of,” said King.
If you’ve been the victim of identity theft and are still waiting for last years’ refund, you should contact your representatives in Washington D.C. to see if they can help speed up the process with the IRS.
You also need to file an identity theft affidavit with the IRS and FTC, and contact the national credit bureaus to put a fraud warning on your account.
Posted on December 17th, 2012 No comments
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as nine million Americans have their identity stolen each year. Yes, you read that correctly…nine million and that number is growing!
None of us are truly insulated from the possibility of having our identities stolen unless we refuse to purchase items or pay bills by check or credit card and never venture out of the house to the doctor’s office or other location where our private information may be required. However, for those of us living in community associations, the threat may be even greater, particularly if sensitive information was gathered during the approval process and such information is not destroyed or, at a minimum, safeguarded.
Some but not all associations do run background and even credit checks on potential purchasers and renters in their communities. Often, a social security number, date of birth and enough other information to effectively steal an identity is requested on the application. The association uses this information to presumably undertake its due diligence and determine if the renter or purchaser poses any sort of real or financial threat to the community.
Assuming the association’s governing documents provide the board with the authority to perform such scrutiny, the real concern then becomes what happens with that sensitive information provided by the purchaser or renter? Is it immediately shredded or is it tossed in the garbage where it can possibly be retrieved by an identity thief? If it is not destroyed, where is it stored and who has access to it? Is the information kept under lock and key with only limited access by a defined group of people or is it tossed in a drawer and no further thought given to its existence?
As the identity theft crisis continues to grow, boards and managers who come into contact with sensitive information must start asking the foregoing questions and creating useful protocol to ward off a potential problem. Individuals applying to live in or rent in a community association should inquire about how their personal information will be handled both during the approval process and aftewards.
Victims of identity theft spend countless hours and real dollars trying to clear their credit history and correct their financial resources. Horror stories abound about the steps needed to pick up the pieces in the most drastic identity theft scenarios. As a result, many insurance companies are now offering relatively inexpensive identity theft endorsements to standard homeowners’ and renters’ policies. Homeowners should ask their insurance agents about the benefits of this coverage and the costs. Boards who collect sensitive information should similarly speak to their insurance agents about what they can do to protect themselves and their residents from an identity theft incident.
It’s never too soon to start thinking about ways to protect yourself and your community from this insidious problem.
Posted on October 10th, 2012 No comments
State officials are drawing up plans for a redesigned plate intended to make it easier to catch scofflaws who go through toll booths as well as people who run red lights. The new plate would be rolled out to motorists in 2014 and 2015.
Julie Jones, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, said it is difficult right now for cameras to read the old license plates that feature raised lettering. Jones said so far this year that there have been 2.8 million unreadable tags.
The effort to switch to a new flat plate so far appears to have the backing of Gov. Rick Scott.
“It’s not fair if you pay for a toll and somebody else doesn’t,” Scott said Tuesday.
Florida has roughly 18 million registered vehicles and most of them feature the basic Florida tag that says either Sunshine State or In God We Trust at the bottom. Some of the tags also feature the county that the motorist resides in.
On the drawing board right now there are four different plates with a much simpler design containing black letters. Each of the four designs includes either an orange or orange slice on it, but at the top of the plate instead of in the middle of the tag. The county designation would no longer be included on the plate.
The state plans to put the four designs on the Internet and let members of the public vote on which one they prefer.
Jones said the $31 million it will cost to manufacture the new plates will not be passed on to motorists. She said that the state will recover the cost of the new plates from people who have not updated their tags as required under law.
Tags currently cost $28, but motorists pay the cost of the plate over a 10-year period.
Jones pointed out that Florida’s specialty tags — which include popular plates for the University of Florida and Florida State University — will not be replaced with the new flat tags until the existing plates are sold.
The final decision on the new license plates still has a few more hurdles. Scott, members of the Florida Cabinet — which oversees the motor vehicles agency — and the Florida Legislature will have to give final approval to the switch to the new plates.
Posted on August 31st, 2012 No comments
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.
Posted on August 30th, 2012 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.
Posted on August 30th, 2012 No comments
Police said they have found more evidence against a woman whom they believe has been involved in a string of identity theft crimes.
Investigators recovered several stolen drivers licenses and credit cards alleged to have been used in for identity theft by Shannon Truax, 41, of Bonita Springs, Fl. Police located three victims and applied for arrest warrants. Truax is charged with three counts of sixth degree larceny and her bond was set at $6,000.
Police originally received a complaint on May 29 that a woman was attempting to make a fraudulent transaction at the Bank of America located on the Boston Post Road. She attempted to use a stolen driver’s license to withdraw $7,000, police said.
Bank personnel received prior notification from the Connecticut Financial Crimes Task Force about Truax’s alleged similar activities in the state. Truax is currently incarcerated for the May 29 incident and other related cases in the state.
Posted on April 24th, 2012 No comments
Know when to hold ’em, store ’em and throw ’em! MicroShred says it’s time for new “green” initiatives for managing your records. No matter the size or type of your business, chances are you have boxes full of files stored somewhere and most likely, those files are full of confidential information that will need to be disposed of. All too often those old files end up in our already packed landfills, which is bad for the environment and poses a security problem for your business.
To get a handle on your files in an eco-friendly manner, a shredding plan should be established. Having a workable records management plan that includes document shredding allows businesses to have better information at the right time for better business decisions.
When information is properly managed, businesses benefit from:
- Improved efficiency and productivity. Valuable time and resources will no longer be wasted to locate and retrieve paper files or recreate documents that have been misplaced or lost. More time can be spent on revenue generating tasks.
- Regulatory compliance. Shredding helps businesses comply with records management laws, like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA). These laws require that certain paper waste including medical records, salary details or personal address details, must legally be disposed of. Such records must be kept up to date and shredded at the proper time.
- Safeguarding vital information. With online access to information you have the advantage of accessing any document, anywhere, at any time, with access limited to specific staff. Critical data will be safe from theft and disasters.
Establishing “green” records management policies will help improve efficiencies in your office as you help to keep our air clean, reduce paper use and preserve water resources.
Posted on January 17th, 2012 No comments
Boca Raton, FL – On Saturday, January 28, 2012, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., the Boca Raton Police Department and Microshred Corporation are again teaming up to help prevent identity theft by hosting a free document shredding event. The event will be held at the Boca Raton Town Center Mall, 6000 W. Glades Road, in the NW corner of the parking lot near Sears.
By shredding and properly disposing of all your sensitive documents, you will be taking a key step toward protecting your identity. According to reports from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, more than 15 million people reported having their identities either stolen or misused last year; and Florida had the highest per capita rate of reported identity thefts in the United States. The overall losses from identity theft last year were close to $37 billion.
Microshred Corporation will have document shredding trucks on-site and each participant will be given a Certificate of Destruction after all documents have been shredded. The event is open to all non-commercial participants. Officers from the Boca Raton Police Department Crime Prevention Unit, along with employees from Microshred Corporation, will be on-site to provide expert advice and tips to prevent identity theft.
For additional information contact Officer Craig Kolnick (Crime Prevention Unit) at 561-347-3934 or visit their website at www.BocaPolice.com.
View press release: http://www.ci.boca-raton.fl.us/police/TopStories/vipernews.shtm
Posted on October 19th, 2011 1 comment
There comes a time for any business interested in staying current to upgrade hardware around the office. Oftentimes this means moving data from one hard drive to another, leaving motherboards and towers rendered obsolete. One might think all that needs to be done is to simply erase all folders and files from the drive, then click on the trash icon to wipe out. Private information gone forever and the company is safe, right? Not necessarily.
Old Computers = Security Risk
Even if you clean out the hard drives of old computers to ensure sensitive data is no longer accessible, you may not completely get the job done. To a novice user, a computer with no visible folders and files may appear clean, but an experienced programmer or hacker can work diligently to uncover fragments of data, including financial information like bank routing numbers and consumer identification, which can be used to commit theft. Just as nothing truly disappears on the Web thanks to archival sites, there is always the chance something can be unearthed. Forensic computer scientists, for example, employ such tactics to gather evidence when it appears wrongdoers are trying to cover their tracks.
The Solution? Shredding!
How does a business ensure the security of its interests, employees, and clients? Shredding! MicroShred offers hard drive destruction services which take invalid drives and other hardware – and even disks and flash drives – and grind them until they are totally unreadable. Destruction is the best method for protection if you are concerned about sensitive data remaining where it can be found.
Posted on July 19th, 2011 No comments