PORTLAND, Maine — More than 30 Maine doctors have reported to the Maine Medical Association that fraudulent tax returns using their names and Social Security numbers were filed this year.
The cases could be linked to a broader breach of doctors’ personal information that the U.S. Secret Service is investigating.
Gordon Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association, said in a phone interview Thursday that approximately 35 physicians have notified him of fraudulent tax returns that were filed using their personal information.
“It’s almost growing day by day,” Smith said of alerts about similar fraud cases in Maine and other states, where it appears scammers filed false returns to receive thousands of dollars in refund checks.
George Ogilvie, spokesman for the Secret Service, which investigates cases of credit card fraud and identity theft, confirmed in a phone interview Thursday that the agency is looking into the matter. He could not provide more details as the investigation is ongoing.
Smith said Thursday afternoon that Scott Colby, head of the New Hampshire Medical Society, has taken a lead on the issue and tallied more than 100 reports of fraudulent tax returns on behalf of doctors in that state. Hundreds of doctors in other states and Puerto Rico have reported similar cases of fraud, according to the industry news site MedPage Today.
Smith said that he has communicated with the Secret Service about the cases reported to him. He said the issue first came to his attention two weeks ago. His association used a newsletter issued last week to solicit notices from doctors affected by the suspected breach.
Smith said the apparent fraud has no immediate financial impact on the doctors, but it raises questions about how someone gained access to their data, as there has been no apparent connection between the doctors who have reported tax-refund diversion schemes.
“We’ve spent some time trying to find the commonalities to this, whether these are people in one practice or one specialty. … I don’t think anyone has a clue,” Smith said, noting a number of national databases maintained by federal agencies, states, pharmacies and insurance providers have been the subject of speculation about sources of a potential data breach.
Smith said he also has spoken with Brian Krebs, a long-time security reporter for The Washington Post and writer at krebsonsecurity.com. Krebs reported other medical industry leaders believe doctors are being targeted specifically in this scam.
Maine Medical Association members have been advised to register for credit monitoring services to alert them to attempts to open credit cards in their names and other activity, Smith said. Doctors who have requested extensions in filing their returns should take added caution when filing returns later this year, he added.
The newsletter from the organization indicated most of the cases of fraud were reported in the Portland area, but also included reports from physicians in Bangor, Lewiston, Brunswick and Farmington.
Smith asked anyone with similar reports of fraud to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 622-3374 ext. 212.