ID thieves love South Florida

A rash of identity thefts in South Florida has residents alarmed -- but everyone should take care to avoid becoming a victim.

By Giselle Smith Oct 25, 2011 6:17PM

For the past two years, Florida has led the U.S. in the number of per-capita identity theft complaints, and the numbers are skyrocketing in South Florida, according to the Sun Sentinel.

In the first half of this year, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 20,000 complaints from Floridians whose identities had been stolen -- nearly as many as in all of 2010. More than half of those reporting their Social Security numbers or other personal information had been ripped off and used to commit fraud or theft were in South Florida, with heavy concentrations in parts of Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and Hallandale Beach.

Back in April, the newspaper heard from more than 70 victims of tax fraud that many blamed on lax procedures on the part of the Internal Revenue Service. The Sun Sentinel reported:

In case after case, the IRS sent refunds to imposters despite red flags -- addresses that did not match those of the real taxpayer or did not even exist, returns that were filed in the names of the dead and amounts claimed that were out of whack with previous years. The IRS even sent money out after taxpayers had contacted the agency to warn that their identities had been stolen.

By law, the IRS cannot discuss specific cases, but a spokesperson told the paper that the IRS takes identity theft very seriously and is committing significant resources to the problem. 

 

Why Florida?

One possible explanation for South Florida's spike, the Sun Sentinel said, is the existence of crime rings involved in bank, mortgage and Medicare fraud.

 

"One type of fraud begets another,'' Vance Luce, deputy special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service in South Florida, told the Sun Sentinel. "I do think this is the cradle nationwide for all things fraudulent.''

 

Another reason, according to the newspaper: "The bad economy also may play a role in the rise of identity theft, making money harder to come by not just for honest Americans but criminals plying more traditional trades like drug dealing, police said." Post continues after video.

A national problem

According to the Consumer Sentinel Network -- a secure online database of consumer complaints received by the FTC, Better Business Bureau, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Identity Theft Assistance Center, among others -- statistics (.pdf file) showed that of the 1.3 million complaints collected in 2010, 19% (250,854) were for identity theft. The most common form reported was government documents/benefits fraud (19%), which had increased by 4 percentage points since 2008.

 

"It's a type of identity theft in which the thief is using someone's identity to obtain some type of benefit from the government," Federal Trade Commission spokesman Frank Dorman told the Palm Beach Daily News. Crimes could include claiming a victim's tax refund, obtaining a job or getting a driver's license using a victim’s identity, or obtaining welfare or food stamps in a victim's name.

 

The CSN report showed the highest per-capita rate of reported identity theft in 2010 in Florida (114.8 complaints per 100,000 population), followed by Arizona (102.5), and California (102.4). The lowest per-capita rates were in South Dakota (24.6), North Dakota (29.6), and Maine (32).

 

Protect yourself

Under federal law, each person is entitled to one free credit report for each major credit bureau every year, so there's no excuse not to monitor your credit report. In addition, the FTC recommends steps to minimize your risk.

 

Keep these tips in mind: 

  • Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
  • Store it and other personal information in a secure location.
  • A shredder is helpful when disposing of credit card applications and other mail containing sensitive information.
  • Read "9 ways to avoid cybercrime."

More on MSN Money:

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

17Comments
Oct 26, 2011 5:55AM
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Well, duh. What do Florida, California and Arizona all have in common? Should be easy to figure out.
Oct 26, 2011 12:17AM
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When is the D.F.L.E. going to go after the Lawyers that protect the crime rings. I am from florida and i had to leave.
Behind
every human trafficker,
every gun runner,
every ID theft ring
every drug ring,
every medicare fraud ring
every child porn ring

THERE IS a SCUMMM BAGGG Lawyer protecting him, while millions just got Fuc&#%,
Try going after the scumbag that protects them and watch the offenses drop fast.


Oct 26, 2011 7:19AM
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I will speak from experience as a law enforcement officer that has faced the frustration of dealing with this. The Social Security Administration does not cooperate with law enforcement. All they will advise is if the number you provide to them for verification either: does match the name, does not match the name or is not assigned. That's it! Ask for the name of the holder of the number so you can contact them and they will not! Privacy issues! What a joke.
Oct 26, 2011 1:30AM
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Please steal my ID...............................I owe the hospital $180.000
Oct 25, 2011 9:09PM
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It's not difficult to figure out because South Florida is a mecca of retirement for wealthy East coast folks.
Oct 26, 2011 8:55AM
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Well, duh, methinks the states where there is the highest identity fraud also has the highest concentration of illegal aliens.  Here's a tip - don't keep your Social Security card in your house - put it in a safe deposit box.  My card was stolen right out of my house along with my laptop and diamond earrings.  I have not been able to correct my credit reports which show a judgment against me when no judgment even exists.  The judgment was against someone with the same name and after five years of trying, I still can't get my credit reports corrected. 
Oct 26, 2011 12:49AM
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It's not just the retirees Azcowboy911, the cost of living down here far outweighs the avg income so a lot of people find themselves having to do shady stuff on top of their regular jobs just to keep a roof over their heads.

It also doesn't help that some of these "scams" are being perpetrated by the very people in office. It's actually pretty blatant and nothing happens about it, it only gets worse.

The most blatant ones I've seen are the people who pay someone inside the children's and families' dept several thousand dollars, just so that they can get approved for section 8 housing. It's sad to see how we have a system in place that's intended to help low income families be abused by middle class families just because they have the money to bride themselves into receiving said benefits.

Then you have the whole medicare scam. We have tons of mom and pop " clinicas" that pay their patients every couple months for the right to submit fraudulent claims to medicare. These clinicas pay the patients a couple hundred bucks and then charge medicare thousands. And no one talks because they're all getting paid. Check out the Miami Herald, I believe they posted an article about it not too long ago.

Oct 26, 2011 10:41AM
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Deport the Cubans and most of the fraud problems will go away.
Oct 26, 2011 10:20AM
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This does not surprise me...I experienced this very thing back in 1999. My identity was stolen in Ft Lauderdale while my USN ship was there for a port visit. The only place I used any ID was at Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Port Everglades. Either they didn't properly dispose of my receipts, or someone was working with the theft ring down there. I was on the hook for over $10,000 during a two-year period. I am caucasian and during the investigation, I was able to get a hold of receipts & copies of the fake VA drivers license...it showed I was a middle-aged black male.  The detective working the case narrowed it down to a local group of criminals, but never got back to me on any further action.  It is pathetic.  Now I shred everything...THIS IS OLD NEWS.  I'm am surprised it took this long for a news story on the criminals to come out.

Oct 26, 2011 11:27AM
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All those crooked Cubans who try and tell us how honest they were before Castro carrying on business as usual like under Batista
Oct 26, 2011 10:27AM
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Happened to my wife and me in Key West last year. We had not been gone from a resturant for two hours, when our CC company called to approve a 3K purchase from a Miami big box electronics store.
Oct 26, 2011 11:47AM
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If someone in your family dies make sure you file their Federal taxes right away. Apparently someone working in Social Security or the IRS is providing information to folks in Florida and the crooks print up fake w-2s and file right away and get a big refund. When you file the IRS tells you someone used the Social Security number already. My mother was due a small refund and the IRS agent said they will need to collect the money from the crooks before we can get her refund. Good thing the amount is small as I don't have a lot of faith in the IRS getting the money back. You would think someone would at least check when the address on the return of the deceased is different from the address used for the past 50 years. Or maybe check the w-2's to what the companies have been reporting.  I hate big government, they are useless when you have a problem. If the IRS was scammed and they know and admit it. Why should legitimate taxpayers be inconvenienced and go through a nightmare to get what they deserve.
Oct 26, 2011 12:01PM
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South Florida is part of Florida..............................as seen on Cops. The home of the majority of the nations crooks, thieves, and unsavory characters. Whenever there is a news story that makes you ask .......Who raised that idiot, and where? The answer is always the same. FL!!
Oct 26, 2011 10:52AM
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I took a flight into ABQ, NM last Spring and went to eat at a restaurant by the airport. A couple of  days later I was notified by my credit card company that a large purchase was attemped with my card. Fortunately, they flagged it and asked if I had made the purchase (NO, I didn't) before they would approve it. Saved me lots of money. Thanks.
Oct 26, 2011 1:11PM
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Theft is theft...These crooks can easisly be found and punished. However, so-called police and politicans get paid off, not to do so.
Oct 26, 2011 10:09AM
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In my opinion the best thing people can do to avoid many of these problems is to put a freeze on your credit.

Oct 26, 2011 3:57PM
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Someone in South Florida used my name, and SS# to file a fraudulent 940 on April 15th of this year, the same day I filed.  The IRS does not verify W-2 information with the SS administration prior to paying refunds. They also do not cross reference taxpayer history although there are many computer software programs which do just that. This other person claimed a refund of over 7500.00 dollars using a false W-2 and an address in a middle of a block of commercial businesses.  The person did not use my middle initial, filed as single, and was paid directly into a "dummy" bank account. I am married, have have always filed jointly, do not live in Florida,  and have worked for the same employer for over 20 years. There is absolutely NO reason that the IRS does not cross reference information and post red flags prior to paying tax returns.   I am still waiting, and can get no where with the IRS Identity theft unit. I did confirm with the SS administration  that there wasn't another W-2 filed under my number. I notified the FTC and put my credit on hold with all three bureaus. No further activity has been recorded as suspicious.

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