Health care organizations in Florida have been especially hard hit by criminal rings stealing health information to file false income tax returns and now 2,200 patients of the Florida Department of Health branch serving Orange County including the Orlando region have been victimized, along with about 1,300 other individuals.
WFTV, the ABC affiliate in Orlando, reports that two health department employees took photos of such information as name, birthdate and Social Security number, and then sent the information to the brother of one of the employees who filed the fraudulent tax returns. They targeted patients ages 17 and 18 who were not likely to have filed returns. WFTV, citing indictments, reports that about 3,500 individuals were affected.
Investigations by the FBI, IRS and U.S. Attorney’s Office continue. The department is not at this time offering paid credit protection services, but may consider individual requests based on a client's needs and situation, a spokesperson says. Kevin Sherin, M.D., director of the health department in Orange County, sent affected patients a notification letter--which does not mention the tax fraud scheme--along with additional information on reviewing their credit history for fraudulent or suspicious activity:
“The Florida Department of Health in Orange County (DOH-Orange) has been informed that a breach of patient confidentiality has occurred. The purpose of this letter is to notify you that your information was included in this breach. My first priority is to our patients and to assure that everything possible is being done to protect your information.
“Included in the breach were individuals’ names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers. There was no medical information included as part of this incident.
“The DOH-Orange received a list on October 30, 2013 from law enforcement that included your name. We are continuing to work with law enforcement and the Office of the Inspector General for the Florida Department of Health to determine the scope of the incident. We are striving to ensure all requirements for reporting to federal and state agencies, as well as to patients, are met. The FDOH OC has also been conducting an internal review to confirm that our current practices for handling confidential information provide the utmost protection for that information within the FDOH OC and that a repeat of this incident does not occur.
“The security of patient information is of critical importance to us. The DOH-Orange is fully committed to safeguarding confidential patient information. Please review the attached for further information. The enclosed attachment provides suggestions to protect your identity. If you have any questions please call (407) 858-1490. If you have had fraudulent activity, contact the Orange County Sheriff’s Office at (407) 254-7000.
“I sincerely apologize for this breach of confidential information and pledge that the DOH-Orange will do all within our power to maintain confidentiality of your information."
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