Archive for April, 2011
Data breaches seem to hit the news every day. If it happens to you be aware that more email “phishing” scams can occur. Your data has been compromised, so never let your guard down!
Here is what the BBB suggests:
* Do not reply to the e-mail or click any links in them.
* NEVER give out personal and/or financial information via e-mail. They may claim to be a representative of your bank, IRS, or police, but these organizations will contact you in a letter.
* Let others know about these scams
* When sending personal information, the transmission should be encrypted. Make sure the the website is secure. One way of doing this is to look for an ‘s’ in the http part of the url. The S stands for secure.
* Grammatical errors and misspelled in these e-mails can be a tip off that it is a scam.
* Never wire money based on any instructions in these e-mails.
* Obtain anti-virus software and run it at regular intervals
* Contact the Federal Trade Commission at their website http://www.FTC.gov or by phone at 1-877-HELP.
Therefore, stay vigilant and mindful that there is always someone ready to take your personal information!
It is tax time again and the IRS wants taxpayers to be protected against identity theft, and has provided 10 safety tips to help people avoid this crime. Here’s what the IRS wants you to know:
1. If you receive a letter or notice from the IRS which leads you to believe someone may have fraudulently used your Social Security Number, respond immediately to the name and address or phone number printed on the IRS notice.
2. If you receive a letter from the IRS that indicates more than one tax return was filed for you, this may be a sign that your SSN was used fraudulently.
3. Another sign that you may be the target of identity theft is an IRS letter indicating you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
4. The IRS has a department which deals specifically with identity theft issues. The IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit is available if you have been in contact with the IRS about an identity theft issue and have not achieved a resolution.
5. You can contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit by calling the Identity Theft Hotline at 800-908-4490 Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm local time (Alaska and Hawaii follow Pacific Standard Time).
6. The IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit is also available if you believe your identity may be at risk of being stolen due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet or due to questionable activity on your credit card or your credit report.
7. The IRS never initiates communication with taxpayers about their tax account through emails. If you receive an e-mail or find a Web site you think is pretending to be the IRS, forward the e-mail or Web site URL to the IRS at email@example.com.
8. The IRS has many more resources available to help inform taxpayers about identity theft on the IRS Web site at IRS.gov. On IRS.gov you can access information on how to report scams and bogus IRS Web sites. You can also visit the IRS Identity Theft Resource Page, which you can find by typing Identity Theft Resource Page in the search box on the IRS.gov home page.
9. The Federal Trade Commission is also available to assist taxpayers with identity theft issues. You can reach them at 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338).
10. Visit OnGuardOnline.gov for protection tips from the federal government and the technology industry.
Preventing Medical ID Theft: Are You At Risk ?
Preventing medical ID theft has become a hot topic as Americans increasingly hear about the safety of their private medical records as more medical breeches continue to be discovered. Medical ID theft happens when a person uses someone’s identity to obtain medical services or steal money by falsifying claims for medical services. Identity thieves use a person’s Social Security number, insurance information, or other forms of identification to commit the medical ID theft.
Medical ID theft can have a devastating effect on victims, causing collections issues, credit problems, and even bankruptcy. But that’s not all. The type of medical treatment obtained by the identity thief can also prevent the victim from getting medical insurance or medical services themselves because, as far as the insurance company is concerned, the victim now has a “pre-existing” condition.
According to the FTC, medical ID theft accounts for three percent of all ID theft cases, or approximately 250,000 cases per year. Unfortunately, these medical ID theft statistics are expected to grow, especially with the shift to electronic medical records.
Preventing Medical ID Theft: The Unemployed and Uninsured
Due to their difficult circumstances, some groups are at a higher risk for becoming identity thieves. The unemployed and uninsured may use another person’s identity because of a belief that it’s the only way they can receive quality medical care. Since they’re unemployed, they don’t have access to an employer’s healthcare benefits, and they can’t afford to buy medical insurance because they don’t have a job. It’s a vicious cycle, and it can make good people do bad things.
Preventing Medical ID Theft: Illegal Immigration
Illegal immigration also poses a serious threat as medical ID theft continues to rise. When an illegal immigrant steals private information such as an individual’s Social Security number, he or she can obtain identification and numerous services reserved for legal residents. If precautions aren’t taken to prevent medical ID theft, an illegal immigrant can get a passport, driver’s license, bank account, credit card, loan, mortgage, insurance, medical treatment, and many other services.
Preventing Medical ID Theft in Five Steps
Begin preventing medical ID theft by following these five easy steps:
1. Have your Social Security number removed from your insurance records. If your Social Security number is currently on your insurance card, don’t carry your card with you. Keep it in a safe place and only carry a photocopy with all but the last four digits of your Social Security number blacked out.
2. Obtain copies of your credit reports, insurance claims, and medical records. Lock them in a safe or safety deposit box, or place them on a CD or flash drive.
3. Next, regularly review your credit reports, insurance claims, and medical records for suspicious entries, such as a medical treatment that was never performed on you.
4. Immediately address disputes on your explanation of benefits, bills for medical services you never received, or any other charges that could be sent to collections and damage your credit. These need to be investigated and removed from your records.
5. Don’t leave a paper trail. Destroying sensitive information you no longer need is another critical step in preventing medical ID theft, so shred claims that are more than seven years old. Also, ask if your provider’s office performs background checks employees to prevent medical ID theft rings and stolen medical information.
Preventing medical ID theft takes vigilance. Medical ID thieves are doing everything to stay one step ahead of you and the authorities, so use medical ID theft prevention strategies to protect your private information.
Want to learn more about preventing medical ID theft? Contact The Identity Advocate at 310.831.4400 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit us online at www.theidentityadvocate.com.
Department of Justice Press Release
For Immediate Release
March 29, 2011 U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
(202) 514-2007/TDD (202) 514-1888
Los Angeles Woman Pleads Guilty to Participating in a Medicare Fraud Scheme Using Fraudulent Medical Clinics and Stolen Doctor Identities to Defraud Medicare of More Than $6.2 Million
WASHINGTON—A Los Angeles woman has pleaded guilty to using fraudulent medical clinics and the stolen identities of physicians to defraud Medicare of more than $6.2 million, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced.
Carolyn Ann Vasquez, 46, pleaded guilty yesterday before U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. in the Central District of California. Vasquez admitted that from 2007 to 2008, she conspired with others to use a series of fraudulent Los Angeles-area medical clinics to defraud Medicare. Vasquez admitted that her co-conspirators used the identities and Medicare provider numbers of physicians who both worked and did not work at the clinics to submit false claims to Medicare for reimbursement for services the physicians did not perform and for power wheelchairs, medical equipment and diagnostic tests that the physicians did not order or prescribe. According to court documents, physician assistants recruited to work at the clinics by Vasquez and working at her direction performed these services and prescribed and ordered the wheelchairs, medical equipment, and diagnostic tests.
According to court documents, Vasquez told the physicians she recruited that they would be the medical directors of the clinics, but that if they did not want to work full time, the clinics would hire physician assistants. Vasquez assisted the physicians in obtaining Medicare provider numbers and entering into management agreements that gave Vasquez’s co-conspirators authority to operate and manage the clinics in exchange for 75 percent of the reimbursement payments the physicians received from Medicare.
According to court documents, Vasquez’s involvement in the recruitment of the physicians gave her access to their personal and Medicare information, which Vasquez stole to further the fraud scheme at the medical clinics. Vasquez admitted that in approximately 2007, a physician contacted her about a job at one of the fraudulent medical clinics, but the physician decided not to accept the job. Nevertheless, Vasquez’s co-conspirators printed prescription pads with the physician’s name and Medicare provider number on them. Vasquez admitted that she instructed a physician assistant working at one of the fraudulent medical clinics to use the prescription pads to write fraudulent prescriptions and medical documentation for diagnostic tests, power wheelchairs and other medical equipment in the physician’s name even through Vasquez knew that the physician did not work at the clinic. Vasquez admitted that as a result of her conduct, Medicare was defrauded of approximately $6,268,899.
At sentencing, scheduled for July 11, 2011, Vasquez faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to information contained in court documents in this case, Vasquez pleaded guilty in 1993 to participating in a health care fraud scheme. According to court documents, Vasquez and others used telemarketing or “boiler room” schemes to defraud government-funded health care benefit programs of approximately $41 million.
The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. for the Central District of California; Tony Sidley, Assistant Chief of the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse; Glenn R. Ferry, Special Agent-in-Charge for the Los Angeles Region of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG); and Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jonathan T. Baum of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. Former Special Trial Attorney Joseph Hudzik participated in the prosecution. The case is being investigated by the FBI.
The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.
Since their inception in March 2007, strike force operations in nine districts have charged 1,000 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.3 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about HEAT, go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
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