Shands patients notified of potential identity theft incident

Published On: Apr 03 2013 11:54:36 AM EDT
Updated On: Apr 04 2013 01:46:40 PM EDT

An employee working at a University of Florida medical clinic who had ties to an identity theft ring may have compromised patient personal and health information, UF officials said Wednesday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

An employee working at a University of Florida medical clinic who had ties to an identity theft ring may have compromised patient personal and health information, UF officials said Wednesday.

That employee, identified by police as 25-year-old Arthur Thomas (pictured below on left), was arrested in Jacksonville in October. Police said he was selling the identities of Shands patients.

UF said it is notifying 14,339 patients of the UF&Shands Family Medicine at Main practice that they should take appropriate measures to protect themselves from identity theft. UF is offering fraud resolution services for those who suspect or confirm identity theft associated with this incident; the fraud service offer is good for one year.

UF said it has been unable to locate current addresses for 450 patients. Anyone who was a patient between March 2009 and October 2012 and does not receive a letter should telephone the UF call center listed below to find out if he or she may be affected.

"We share our patients' frustration regarding this situation and regret that it happened," said Susan Blair, chief privacy officer for the university. "We are committed to serving our patients and helping them get through any problems that arise stemming from this incident."

Meanwhile, an individual completing an externship at the Shands Jacksonville Brentwood Primary Care Center had ties to the identity theft ring, officials said. They said the individual, identified by police as 24-year-old Daremia Crews (pictured above on right), was removed from the program prior to Shands' knowledge of this incident.

Shands Jacksonville said it's notifying 1,025 patients that they should take appropriate measures to protect themselves from identity theft. While the Gainesville patients must suspect ID fraud to get any assistance, Shands in Jacksonville is offering to pay for one year of identity monitoring services to all Jacksonville patients who receive notification.

"We very much regret that this happened," said Russ Armistead, CEO of Shands Jacksonville. "We're doing all we can to work with and support those affected."

The Office of the State Attorney, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Secret Service allege a UF employee acquired patient insurance information, including names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers, and may have sold some of the information to a third party.

The employee has been terminated and may face criminal charges, officials said.

The agencies allege the Jacksonville individual inappropriately accessed and disclosed health information for the purposes of filing fraudulent tax returns. The health information involved included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, service locations and medical record numbers.

The individual was arrested by law enforcement.

The university said it learned of the alleged incident from state and federal law enforcement officials on Oct. 25, when an identity theft ring that targeted several hospitals and health clinics in the state of Florida was uncovered. Law enforcement prohibited UF from notifying patients until the criminal investigation was completed.

The letters sent to patients include information about the incident, steps they can take to protect themselves, information about identity monitoring services and steps recommended by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission about checking credit reports.

"Who ever did it, I heard they went to jail. I'm glad, so they won't be able to work over there anymore," said Pauline Calhoun, a patient at Shands Brentwood Primary Care. "And I hope it don't happen anymore."

Calhoun started attending the facility last month and said that she's concerned it could happen again.

"I don't like it because they shouldn't be taking people's identity. It should be going no further than the doctors," said Calhoun.

To minimize potential future risks, Shands Jacksonville has arranged for those affected to receive identity protection at no cost. To further help prevent misuse of information, those affected may wish to contact the three major credit agencies and notify them that personal information was inappropriately accessed and misused.

Authorities arrested Thomas Jr. in Gainesville. According to arrest records after a traffic stop last October, Jacksonville investigators found a bag full of stolen patient records. Channel 4 Crime Analyst, Ken Jefferson said that identity theft is one of the most common crimes.

"If you have a valid identity that you can sell to someone, they are going to buy it, that criminal will use it and then sell it again," said Jefferson.

For questions related to the Family Medicine at Main practice, visit privacy.ufl.edu or call 877-552-1299. This call center is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays until May 4.

Anyone with questions related to the Shands Jacksonville clinic should contact the toll-free Shands Jacksonville Support Center at 877-676-0383. The support center is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday until July 10.

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