The U.S. Secret Service is investigating reports that more than 110 New Hampshire physicians and medical personnel have had their Social Security numbers stolen and used to file false federal tax returns.
"It's ballooned," Scott Colby, executive vice president of the New Hampshire Medical Society, said Tuesday. "We're close to 120 at this point."
Colby said the society received reports from about 110 physicians, a couple of nurse practitioners, a couple of physician assistants, one dentist and one pharmacist.
Similar problems have been reported in other states, including Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Indiana, he said.
Colby said the society received its first report on April 9 and sent out emails to members and non-members alerting them.
The New Hampshire Hospital Association also sent emails to the chief executive officers and chief financial officers of the state's 26 acute care hospitals warning them of the fraud reports.
"As we started learning more, we realized this was fairly broad," Colby said.
He said the society received reports from four or five medical providers, New Hampshire physicians and physician assistants, about fraudulent attempts to set up accounts under their names at a Pennsylvania bank.
The alleged fraud victims received notices from the bank, Colby said.
The Secret Service is attempting to see if a data breach somewhere is responsible, he said.
IRS spokeswoman Peggy Riley said she couldn't comment on the situation.
"While we are prohibited by federal law from discussing any individual's private tax matters, identity theft remains a top priority for the IRS," she said in an email. "Since 2011, the IRS has stopped 15 million suspicious returns, and protected over $50 billion in fraudulent refunds. The IRS is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible, and we're firmly committed to working with taxpayers to take care of these problems as quickly as possible."
A call to the Secret Service wasn't returned Tuesday.
Colby said the victims found out one of two ways about the fraud: when they went to file their returns they were told they had already filed or they were notified that some information on the fraudulent return was missing or incorrect.
"The sentiment that I'm getting is it feels like a violation," Colby said. "I think recognizing it's a larger problem maybe gives them hope someone's working on this."
Colby said he doesn't know how much money was involved with the fraudulent returns.
Brian Krebs, a former Washington Post reporter who now blogs for the website, KrebsonSecurity.com, said he wasn't sure whether doctors were specific targets.
"There is just a ridiculous amount of fraud like this going on," he said in a phone interview.
While well-paid doctors might seem a likely target, those committing the fraud just make up financial figures to submit to the IRS, he said.
"Whatever they make, whatever they've decided to claim, it doesn't have to have been grounded in reality," Krebs said.