Category Archives: stolen identity

Weekend At Bernie’s: Real Life Fraud Attempt

Did you see this story?  No, it’s not a joke or a scene from a bad 80’s movie.  Two men actually used an office chair to wheel their dead friend down to a check cashing store in NYC in an attempt to cash the man’s Social Security check.

I think one of the film’s tagline’s sums up this real life caper very well…

Two morans. One corpse.  And the plot thickens…


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Filed under fraud, social security numbers, stolen identity

Protecting Your Identity During Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Barely giving us time for the turkey to digest, some stores are advertising that they will open their doors at 4:00 a.m. this Friday to kick off the official start of the holiday shopping season. And some online retailers have already gotten a jump start and are offering deals starting today. Check out this site for a list of deals both online and bricks and mortar retailers are offering this year.

Earlier this week Consumer Reports released its annual survey on holiday shopping and the results are interesting:

The survey showed a growing preference for shopping online instead of standing in line. More than two-fifths of adults (42 percent) will shop online this year with more women joining the gift-clicking crowd (41 percent this year vs. 37 percent last year). The main allure, those surveyed said, is convenience (48 percent) but some shoppers say they go online for better selection (12 percent) and better prices (11 percent).

Most online consumers shop from home (95 percent), but among those surveyed who work full-time, 21 percent said they shop from work. Of those, 15 percent admitted to shopping during work hours.

Evenings are the most popular time of day to shop online, especially for males (63 percent) and consumers ages 18 to 34 (64 percent). Three-quarters of online shoppers do not have a day of the week when they typically shop but for those who do, shopping online peaks with 43 percent of respondents shopping the Web on Saturdays, followed by 20 percent on Sundays, 11 percent on Fridays and lesser numbers the rest of the week.

Does shopping online save time? Apparently not. Those with Internet access from home will spend about 11 hours shopping online and that’s about the same amount of time — 10 hours — as the general public.

Regardless of if you are visiting a store or shopping online, one thing still remains – you need to protect your identity! Here are some of those over heard but under heeded tips to follow all year long:

  1. Keep an eye on your credit card every time you use it – whether in a store or in a restaurant, and make sure you get it back as quickly as possible. Try not to let your credit card out of your sight whenever possible.
  2. Don’t use a debit card for online shopping. If there is a problem, a debit card could give phishers or hackers access to your entire checking and/or savings account. Plus, most debit cards don’t have the same protections that credit cards offer. And along those lines, never provide your credit card information on a website that is not a secure site. You can tell if a site is secure because the web address starts with “https:” (s means it’s secure!) For added safety check for a site certificate before submitting information on a secure page. Confirm the owner of the certificate by clicking on the padlock icon at the bottom of most browsers. You should see the owner listed as well as the site address. This address should match the Web site address at the top of the page; if they do not match, you may be at a fraudulent Web site and should not enter personal data.
  3. Check the privacy policy of any website you plan to purchase from. Make sure they have a privacy policy, that your data stays private to the merchant, and that they don’t sell or rent your information to third parties.
  4. Make sure all of your security software is up-to-date before you do your online shopping. That includes anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and firewalls.
  5. Use a separate email account for your online shopping.
  6. Never enter personal information into a pop-up screen. Unauthorized pop-up screens can be created by identity thieves and the screen may be completely unrelated to the websites you are visiting.
  7. Never respond to emails asking you to “confirm” recent transactions after you shop. These are phishing scams that coincidentally are sent around the time you shop.
  8. Trust your instincts. If you feel something isn’t right, investigate more or buy from another vendor.

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Filed under black friday safety, cyber monday safety, holiday shopping safety, identity, identity theft, Internet Safety, Internet Security, marketing, protecting your credit, stolen identity

Identity Verification Countdown

According to this article employers have 120 days to determine (and resolve) discrepancies over Social Security Numbers of employees and matching government records or else face a possible criminal investigation and a 25% increase in fines. The effort is to help crack down on employing illegal immigrants.

DHS issued a regulation that will take effect in 30 days and will give employers 90 days to resolve any discrepancy between the Social Security number provided by an employee and government records. Chertoff said the SSA will be sending out about 15,000 “no match” letters a week over a two-month period.

Now seems a really good time to point out that our identity verification is so easy to implement and start using that a business could be up and running with it before the end of the day. Leaving you the remaining 119 days to hire and train new employees if needed.

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Filed under id theft and illigal immigrants, identity proofing, Identity verification, social security numbers, stolen identity

Punishments for Identity Fraud Crime

The AJC reports today that an Atlanta man has pled guilty for stealing $1.5 million in credit from 225 people. He was sentenced to 3 ½ years in the federal penitentiary.

I commend the officers involved in catching this man, especially because his capture led to the uncovering of a multi-national scam. Many of the cards issued were from foreign banks so the true credit limit available to him couldn’t be tracked.

Some other interesting cases going on are in Kansas where a few Mexican nationals attempted to transfer Social Security funds acquired under fake identities to their other real, or fake, identities. One person has already been convicted and will hear sentencing in September. He faces up to 10 years in jail for fraud of documents and a minimum of 2 years for identity theft of 7 different people. In the other cases, the people pled not guilty and will go to trial but the dates have not been set yet.

About to go before the U.S. Congress is a bill designed to help deter identity theft by putting tighter restrictions on the use of social security numbers. In it, there are tougher punishments for those convicted of misuse of social security numbers. Specifically it will

Impose criminal penalties up to five years in prison and $250,000 and civil sanctions up to $25,000 per incident for misuse of Social Security numbers. Repeat offenders could get 10 years, and use of the numbers in drug trafficking or violent acts would carry sentences up to 20 years in prison.

The bill has already passed the Ways and Means Committee, 38-0. Now it’s on to the House.

Since the South is already in “back to school” mode, here’s a reminder on “How A Bill Becomes A Law” from Schoolhouse Rock

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Filed under fraud, identity, identity theft, identity theft crime, protecting your credit, social security numbers, stolen identity

What are the Hot Spots for Fraud?

Our friends over at ID Analytics just released a fraud study titled U.S. Identity Fraud Hotspots. The study looks at fraud rates over 2006, as confirmed by businesses not consumer victim reports, and is an update to a report they issued earlier this year which examined identity theft fraud rates by geography from 2005 to mid-2006.

While cities in New York and California continue to make the list, surprisingly it’s only those in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain region that make this study’s “Top 10 list of cities where identity fraud grew the most.” These are (in order):

  1. Springfield, IL
  2. Bozeman, MT
  3. Missoula, MT
  4. Whitefish, MT
  5. Lolo, MT
  6. Bismarck, ND
  7. Hamilton, MT
  8. Big Fork, MT
  9. Grand Forks, ND
  10. Fargo, ND

For all my friends and neighbors, yes Atlanta – particularly zip code 30344 – is on the list coming in at number 49. But the study concludes that in general identity fraud rates are declining in the South.

There is a lot more interesting details in the report that are definitely worth checking out when you get a chance.

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Filed under fraud, ID Analytics, identity proofing, identity theft, Identity verification, stolen identity

Why Preventing Identity Theft Involves Company Culture

Some folks over at InfoWorld are really championing the prevent identity theft cause these days.

Today Mario Apicella wrote a piece on his personal story with identity theft and the legislation the DOJ has drawn up to combat identity theft. And last Friday, Robert Grimes had commentary disputing some of the GAO’s report that concluded identity theft isn’t really a problem but that the process of notifying consumers whenever their personal financial information has been compromised is. (His sarcasm is really evident just in the headline: Identity Theft? What identity theft?)

Of course I can see how the GAO came to this conclusion because incidents of identity theft can go undetected for years. But I’m thankful to see that the DOJ is taking the strategic plan of the President’s task force to heart and being proactive in protecting both businesses and consumers.

I particularly liked Mario’s slant on the action that should be taken:

“Companies must do their part in combating identity theft – not just wait until mandated by law.”

Yep. We do. And it involves company culture. Protecting and preventing identity theft is not just a back office IT concern. It’s also a customer service concern because protecting a business should focus on protecting your consumers. This leads to a sales and marketing concern since happy customers often drive more sales. Of course, finance is already concerned because of the losses and costs associated with identity theft. And then finally HR is concerned since employees are the one’s delivering all the above.

Really I don’t see any part of a business that should not be concerned with the impact of identity theft and wanting to be proactive about preventing it.

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Filed under data breach, identity, identity theft, Identity verification, protecting your credit, stolen identity

Thank-you Chris Hansen

Atlanta’s Star94 held an interview with NBC Dateline’s Chris Hansen yesterday morning which was really interesting. Last night another episode in his series To Catch a Predator aired where the focus was on predators in New Jersey.

During the interview Hansen gave some statistics from the show. Since the series began 3 years ago, 286 predators have surfaced, 256 have been arrested and 117 have been convicted or pled guilty.

His efforts have resulted in a 117 predators that have been caught and punished. There was even one guy who showed up twice! The first time the predator appeared in Riverside County, CA and then 8 months later he was caught again in Longbeach.

Because of his experience from the show, Hansen authored a book titled To Catch a Predator: Protecting Your Kids from Online Enemies Already in Your Home. While talking about the book he was asked about MySpace and the recent news that the social network found and deleted 29,000 predator profiles (more than 4 times the initial 7000 MySpace claimed in May). His response in summary was: good people meet good people on MySpace everyday. And MySpace does monitor and kick people off its site all the time for inappropriate behavior. But with millions and millions of profiles to monitor and watch it is impossible to really know who you are dealing with and who is up to what.

I think Hansen’s approach to the subject of online predators has really helped raise awareness to the dangers of the Internet for kids and shed a lot of light on predator behavior. And if you didn’t already know, Hansen recently tackled another pressing issue for all of us – identity theft. If you missed his series To Catch an ID Thief a few months ago, you can watch the segments here on YouTube. It’s a cool series because he ends up flying all over the world tracking down an international fraud ring.

And speaking of fraud rings… did you see the news about the 17 people indicted last week in a local fraud ring in Kansas City? They stole the personal information of 300 people and filed fraudulent tax returns for $13 million in refunds. If you live in Kansas City, check out the offer from ID Watchdog. They are going to help Kansas City citizens find out if they were a victim for free. Now are you starting to see how identity theft can show up in places outside of your credit report?

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Filed under Chris Hansen, fraud, ID Watchdog, identity theft, Internet Safety, MySpace, protecting kids online, sexual predators, social networking, stolen identity, To Catch a Predator, To Catch an ID Thief