Up Front - The Publisher's Column
Scams: Tax-, Medicaid- and Cyber- fraud in the Sunshine State
I’m tired of scams.
Early this summer, I received a notice from the Internal Revenue Service stating that I had miscalculated my federal taxes to the tune of $52.00. The IRS added 6 cents in interest and asked me to send a check for $52.06 “to avoid additional penalty and interest charges.”
Knowing that I had used good tax software, have a solid finance background and figured the taxes carefully, I doubted the error. But I consulted several colleagues, who basically said “pay the gosh darn thing and forget it.” Expediency over principle. So I wrote the check and settled. No doubt the right decision.
Then in the newspaper I saw numerous articles about people in Tampa scamming the IRS for tens of thousands of dollars. As near as I can understand, they claim to be someone they are not, give a fake address and file for a refund based on low earnings. The IRS then processes the claim promptly and sends a cash card that’s good for immediate use. As a matter of fact, the IRS sends multiple cards to the same address — all before even confirming the veracity of the claim.
The IRS has the computer firepower to review my taxes, send me a notice for $52.00 and even tack on an extra 6 cents. But apparently it does not have enough investigators to prevent freeloaders from scamming the system for tens of thousands of dollars. Something is wrong here.
Florida’s CFO, Jeff Atwater, told me recently how he’s cracking down on
false clinic charges from “staged” auto accidents. Separately, I understand that grocery stores must now go to great lengths with cameras and other recording devices to prevent “shoppers” from spilling some pickle juice before claiming they slipped and fell, hoping to collect payment from the store.
Then last week I was reading about the newest scam. Some criminals — yes, let’s call them criminals — are hacking into the Social Security system, changing a recipient’s address or bank direct deposit number and then diverting the electronic benefits onto a prepaid debit card. That’s money that rightfully belongs to an elderly retiree. This is beyond sick.
Scams of one sort or another have operated for years. But computerization makes the task easier and allows it to multiply. Both private businesses and government coffers are under attack from these nefarious tricks.
Please take a look at this month’s article on Medicaid fraud. The crooks are everywhere, taking advantage of the government’s “pay first, investigate later” system.
This is not an argument for less government. In fact, it’s the opposite. We need to have enough computer systems, investigators, officers and judges to protect those of us who are living honest lives, following the rules and contributing to society. We need the willpower to make it so hard to scam the system that people won’t even try.
We have a fine lineup of other important articles in this issue.
We start with an in-depth view of Osceola County and Kissimmee, another in our business portrait series. Osceola has seen tremendous growth in population and business since we last looked.
Agriculture is a strong, traditional underpinning for Florida’s economy and accounts for a huge portion of the state’s land mass. In this month’s roundup, you’ll find articles on sugar, oranges, cattle and many other products grown in Florida.
Our “green” development article revisits Babcock Ranch, a huge property in Charlotte and Lee counties with grand plans to incorporate green developments in the community. Unfortunately, those plans haven’t quite materialized yet.
Fitness update: In the month, I recorded eight walks, four gym sessions and five multi-mile runs. I stepped up the preparations for a 5k Turkey Trot run set for Thanksgiving Day. I’m aiming to run 10-minute miles, but we’ll see.
— Andy Corty