In March 2015, health insurer Premera Blue Cross reported a data breach that exposed the data of 11 million customers and employees. The Premera data breach announcement followed shortly on the heels of a February announcement by Anthem Inc., the second largest health insurer in the country, that its database containing personal information for almost 80 million of its customers and employees was hacked.
Coinciding with these two breaches are an alarming number of reports of identity thieves using stolen social security numbers to file tax returns and to claim refunds in those identity theft victims’ names. In a recent article on Credit.com titled, “Why we Need to Kill the Social Security Number,” the author projected that “the 2014 tax filing year will be a bad one” in light of the Anthem data breach and the Premera data breach.
According to officials of Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen’s office, there has been a staggering increase in the fraudulent filing of tax returns this year. Sara Kaufman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue Services stated, “Last year, the level of fraudulent tax returns that we were successful in uncovering and preventing refund checks from being issued was $5 million. This year, it has already exceeded $12 million and we are being delayed in issuing refunds because of the volume levels that we are screening.”
Shortly after the Anthem data breach, Connecticut Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan advised taxpayers who may have been affected to file their taxes immediately. “The personally identifiable information apparently hacked . . . is exactly what tax fraud thieves use to make false refund claims that appear to be legitimate. . . it can take years to resolve the problem.” According to Blanchard, “Information from people who used Turbo Tax software has been compromised as well.”
So where does that leave Premera data breach and Anthem customers? After aggravating attempts to file taxes and learning that returns have already been issued, it becomes a waiting game. Hours are wasted making phone calls to TurboTax, Banks, State Revenue Departments and the IRS. According to CNNMoney, “If you’re a tax fraud victim, the IRS freezes your refunds. Investigations are so backed up, the government says the average wait time to clear up the matter is 120 days. But more than a dozen tax fraud victims spoke to CNNMoney and said the IRS is telling them the wait is 180 days.” Sometimes more. The CNNMoney article cited examples of residents around the country, from Massachusetts, North Carolina, Missouri, Wisconsin to Florida, whose tax returns were filed and refunds claimed unbeknownst to them.
If you have experienced identity theft as a result of the failure by a health care company to protect your private information, or if you are a Premera subscriber, customer or employee and believe that your private information has been compromised or that you are a victim of the Premera data breach, please contact a GSP attorney to learn more about your rights. GSP attorneys are actively litigating similar matters against Community Health Systems, Anthem and Target. Please contact Paul Scarlato at email@example.com or Mark Goldman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (484) 342-0700 with any questions you may have.
For more information, see:
* An Overview
* Anthem Denies Full IT Security Audit Following Massive Data Breach
* Where is the Government Oversight?
* Fraudulent Tax Filings Linked to Anthem Data Breach
* Anthem Data Breach – Names and Social Security Numbers Hacked
* Articles referenced in blogpost