Protect Yourself from Identity Theft; File Your Tax Return Early

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft; File Your Tax Return Early

Created on: Friday, February 19, 2016
Author: Maine Medical Association

Well over one hundred Maine physicians (and usually their spouses) were unpleasantly surprised when they filed their federal tax returns for 2013 and 2014 and were told that their return had already been filed received and a generous refund sent to a prepaid debit card at an address now untraceable. Although the accurate returns were eventually processed and the victims of this scam were not held financially liable in any way, nonetheless the hassles associated with identity theft plagued these physicians and continue to be worrisome. Now that it is known that one's social security number, address and other personal information is in the hands of criminals, there is constant fear regarding when the next shoe will drop. 

One of the best ways to ensure that your return is the first return received by the IRS in your name and with your social security number, is for you to file your return as early as possible and not wait until the last minute. The IRS and state revenue departments are also becoming more sophisticated in identifying fraudulent returns so hopefully the filing of returns this year for the 2015 tax year will not result in as many surprises. 

During the last two years, the Maine Medical Association and other state medical societies, particularly our colleagues in New Hampshire, have collected the names of victims and shared information with the IRS and Secret Service. If you should be the victim of this scam, please communicate with MMA EVP Gordon Smith at or by calling him at 207-622-3374 ext. 212. Attorney Smith recently participated in an national conference on identity theft and shared the Maine experience with attendees who were government officials from all over the country. The theft of identities for the purpose of fraudulently filing for local, state or federal benefits is now one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. While some of the criminal activity originates from other countries, there are now areas of our own nation where gangs of criminals buy identities on a regular basis for the purpose of using them at some future time. These identifications, which may include social security numbers, addresses, credit card numbers and other types of personal information, including medical information, may then be held for several years before they are used. Therefore, the typical offer from a retailer, insurer, hospital or other vendor of a year of free credit monitoring in the face of a data breach is not adequate. A known victim of a data breach should be monitoring their credit accounts and potentially use a credit monitoring service for several years. 

The sad truth is that probably all Americans have had their personal identification numbers stolen through one or more of the many very public and very large data breaches (Target, Anthem, the federal personnel system and thousands of others). It is only a matter of time before these numbers are sold to criminals who will begin to use the information to obtain benefits, cash or goods in the name of the victim. Constant vigilance is the best way to avoid widespread fraud in your name. 

It is also important to pay increased attention to the data of your patients that you are holding in your offices. Identity theft in the medical sector is now one of the major areas of focus for organized crime.

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