INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana's congressional delegation on Friday urged the IRS to fully investigate a spike in tax-related identity thefts involving the state's doctors, calling it a "grave situation."
The state's 11 members of Congress sent a letter to the IRS regarding the 46 cases of identity theft Indiana's doctors and health professionals have reported this year.
Both the IRS and the Secret Service have said they are already looking into identity fraud involving the medical profession. Indiana's total number of such cases peaked this year at a record 130, up from 54 reported last year, and the state's delegation says it deserves the IRS' full attention and it wants updates on how the investigation is going.
Erin Reece, a spokeswoman for the Indiana attorney general, said doctors in as many as 18 other states were struck by similar cases of tax fraud this year.
"This is the first year that this has happened that we know of, and it's all across the country," said Adele Lash, spokeswoman for the Indiana State Medical Association, which notified members of Congress.
Nearly 100 doctors in Connecticut reported tax fraud this year, the Connecticut State Medical Society told The Associated Press. More than 150 doctors and health care providers in New Hampshire and Vermont and at least 35 Maine physicians reported fraud. Detroit radio station WWJ-AM this week reported that more than 300 dentists in Michigan say they were victims.
In Indiana, both the attorney general's office and the Department of Revenue are also investigating claims.
Reece said it's unclear how long it will take to complete the investigations and find the cause of the fraud.
Department of Revenue spokesman Bob Dittmer said "systematic targeting of a particular industry" is unheard of, although Reece cautioned there's a chance the number of affected doctors could be coincidence.
Victims said their tax returns were rejected because someone already filed returns using their Social Security numbers. Dittmer said criminals use false information to beef up a filing and get a large refund check.
Dr. Bruce Burton of Corydon near Louisville, Kentucky, is one of four physicians whose returns were rejected when accountants at Monroe Shine & Co Inc. tried to file them.
"Nowadays you're not surprised. You don't feel like there's anything that's secure anymore," the geriatric specialist said. "I don't trust anything, really."
Victims may have to file paper refunds for years, and the attorney general's office recommends they follow a 13-step process to clear their name, including reporting suspected fraud to its office, local police and the Federal Trade Commission.
"Every person who's had to secure their Social Security and identity stolen is concerned about situations down the road," Lash said. "It takes a lot of time to clear that up and feel that you're secure again."