MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Tax day is almost here and that means tax return identity theft is also in full swing. Memorial Hospital has been the latest target and Friday, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is introducing legislation to target the growing popularity of tax return identity theft.
Patients at Memorial Hospitals in Broward County may have been the latest victims of tax identity theft.
Two employees were fired and are under criminal investigation by federal agencies for trying to steal patient information, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
According to the hospital, just fewer than 10,000 patients may have had their identities exposed by the employees. The information was stolen during 2011 and early 2012 when hospital staff discovered the crime, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Memorial Hospitals is mailing letters to those who may have been exposed. If you believe you have been affected but do not receive a letter by April 25, 2012, you can call 1-877-643-2062, Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
South Florida is the nation’s leader in identity theft with roughly 324 cases per 100,000 people, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Nationwide, the losses to tax identity fraud approached $6 billion.
“They told me it would take up to 3 years to get my refund,” said tax refund victim Joan Rubinstein. “Every time I called the IRS, I was frustrated because I wasn’t getting an answer. They would look into it. Then they’ll call me back in two months, or I should call them back in two months and I was just getting more and more angry.”
Based on the growing problem in South Florida and around the country, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz introduced legislation that would strengthen penalties for identity thieves.
Wasserman Schultz found that under current law, local police and victims can’t find out who filed the phony returns because federal law protects the criminals.
“The law bizarrely protects the people who filed the return,” Wasserman Schultz said. “So you as an individual can’t get the information from the IRS if somebody fraudulently files your return because the privacy laws protect the person who filed the return even if it’s not you.”
Wasserman Schultz’s proposal is called the “Stop It Act.”
Besides stiffening penalties for ID thieves, it will also expand the definition of an ID theft victim to include businesses and organizations that have had their ID stolen for phishing schemes looking to acquire customer data.