Former law enforcement officers and company founders - on protecting your identity



Texas Ranger
Texas Ranger: Co-Founder Terry Welch



Police
Police: Co-Founder Kim Sanders

Call Center Employees: The Potential Threat From Trusted Insiders

Even with strong passwords and credit cards in your possession, you may still become an identity theft victim. Your account with keepmyID identity protection companywill provide identity restoration services, if necessary.

As the press release below highlights, trusted insiders who are actually criminals may use their position to “unjustly enrich themselves by stealing personal identifying information.”   In this instance a ring of eight individuals used information stolen from a contractor hired to provide sales and customer service for a telephone companys call center.  According to court documents, two of the co-conspirators obtained victims personal information while working at the call center.  The other conspirators were later added as authorized users to victims credit and debit cards.  Together the ring stole over $130,000 from unsuspecting telephone company customers.

First Defendant Sentenced In Identity Theft Fraud Scheme Involving Personal Identifying Information From At&T Customer Files

August 7, 2014

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Donnell Young, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce that U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke sentenced Chouman Emily Syrilien, 25, of Lauderdale Lakes, to 34 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

Syrilien previously pled guilty to one count of possession of 15 or more unauthorized access devices and one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1029(a)(3) and 1028A for participating in a conspiracy to unjustly enrich themselves by stealing personal identifying information and using the information to make unauthorized wire transfers from the victimsbank accounts and obtain unauthorized credit or debit cards.

Co-defendants Jacqueline Nicole Lee Warrick, 26, of Miami, and Tracy Delva, 27, of Deerfield Beach, pled guilty on July 30, 2014, and Carlos Antonio Alexander, 24, of Orlando, pled guilty on July 16, 2014, to one count of using an authorized access device and one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1029(a)(2) and 1028A. Alexanders sentencing is scheduled for October 1, 2014. Sentencing for Warrick and Delva is scheduled for October 15, 2014.

Co-defendant Angel Arcos, 23, of Pompano Beach, pled guilty on May 15, 2014, to one count conspiracy to commit bank fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349. Arcossentencing is scheduled for September 3, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.

Change of plea hearings are scheduled on September 3, 2014, for Monique Smith, 31, of Pompano Beach, and Shantegra LaShae Godfrey, 23, of Deerfield Beach.

Trial is scheduled on September 22, 2014, for Arrington Basil Segu, 28, of Miami.

According to court documents, defendant Syrilien was employed by Interactive Response Technologies, Inc. (IRT) located in Margate. IRT provides staffing for call centers to handle direct sales and customer inquiries for AT&T. Syrilien unlawfully provided a co-conspirator with the personal identifying information from multiple AT&T customer files. Defendant Segu also unlawfully provided personal identifying information of numerous individuals to the co-conspirator.

Defendants Alexander, Delva, Godfrey, Smith and Warrick were added as “authorized users” on victimscredit or debit card accounts or bank accounts to access the accounts of persons whose personal identifying information had been stolen. Once a co-conspirators name was added as an “authorized user,” the bank and/or credit card company was directed to mail additional debit or credit cards bearing the names of these newly added “authorized users” to their addresses or addresses under their control, all without the true account holder’s knowledge or consent. The defendants used these credit and debit cards to make purchases or obtain money.

Defendants Delva and Warrick both utilized fraudulently obtained debit and credit cards that bore their names as additional “authorized users” on victimsaccounts to make both retail purchases as well as cash advances in excess of $28,000. Defendants Alexander, Smith and Godfrey made retail purchases as well as cash advances in excess of $24,000, $12,000 and $8,200, respectively.

Defendant Arcos allowed his personal information to be used to open a bank account to further the fraudulent activity. From September 16 to 18, 2013, five withdrawals totaling $13,000 were made from the fraudulent account and deposited into Arcoschecking account.

The defendants face a maximum of thirty years in prison for the conspiracy charge, a maximum of ten years in prison for the access device fraud charge, and a mandatory term of two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft charge.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI and FBI.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia R. Wood.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

August Means “Back to School” For Students and Criminals

Criminals steal identifying information such as social security numbers of children and young adults because they often have no credit history.  The keepmyID Family Plan will provide reimbursement and restitution services for all members of your household.

The FBI reported that in 2012, almost 200,000 Americans ages 16 to 24 were victims of identity theft.  In preparing for young adults to leave home and begin a new life on college campuses, the Better Business Bureau is warning of the possibility of identity theft:

  • Students in all financial categories are targets due to their pristine credit
  • ID theft took 132 days on average to detect and more money was stolen
  • BBB recommends seven simple steps to reduce vulnerability
  • Step 8:  Have a keepmyID protection plan in place before you leave home

Here is the full article:

BBB: 7 Tips To Avoid ID Theft On Campus

College students have enough to juggle when it comes to school, work and their social life. Fighting fraud often doesn’t make their list of priorities. College students are susceptible to identity theft, however, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends that they take seven simple steps to protect themselves on campus.

“Identity thieves don’t care if you’re a struggling student and don’t have a penny to your name,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO. “Sometimes all they want is to exploit your clean credit record. By establishing good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud, students can lay a path for healthy financial practices for the rest of their lives.”

According to Javelin Strategy and Research, identity theft committed against people aged 18 to 24 took the longest to detect—132 days on average—when compared to other age groups. The average cost of losses to this age group—$1,156was roughly five times more than amount lost by other age groups.

The BBB recommends that college-bound students take the following seven steps to fight identity theft on campus:

  • School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment. To combat sticky fingers in the mailroom, have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address, such as a parent’s home or a P.O. box.
  • Important documents should be stored under lock and key. This includes your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out. Also shred any credit card offers that come in the mail.
  • Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone, even if they are a friend. Just say no if your friend wants you to cosign for a loan or financing for items like a TV.
  • Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software that help keep your computer safe from any new advances by identity thieves online.
  • Always check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run.
  • When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always check the company out first with BBB online. Also look for the BBB Accredited Business seal along with other trust seals; click on the seals to confirm that they are legitimate.
  • Check your credit report at least once a year with all three reporting bureaus for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies.
  • For more advice on fighting fraud and managing personal finances, visit www.bbb.org or call 314-645-3300.

http://fox2now.com/2013/08/08/bbb-7-tips-to-avoid-id-theft-on-campus/

ID THEFT ON THE RAMPAGE…AGAIN. WORRY NO MORE!

I just could not help it.  “Russian hackers breached over 1 Billion (that’s with a “B” folks) accounts today!”  I just kept hearing ID theft, ID theft, ID theft and my brain said to me “RUN MAN RUN and change everything as fast as you can.  Hide your money.  Hide your cards.  Hide your wives…your kids” (oh wait, that’s another news story).  Am I the only one that had this visceral reaction to the all the news about the mega breach today?  But then….I stopped.  I took a breath.  And I realized…I don’t have to worry about this stuff anymore.  I have keepmyID.org.  I am covered for every kind of conceivable ID theft plus $1 million dollars.  Ahhhhh, what a nice feeling.  Now, what else is on the news.

Well, they say that amateurs draw attention to themselves but the quiet ones are the professionals.  That is true.  While Chinese hackers have been causing a ruckus invading U.S. web sites during the last few years, a gang of Russian hackers has apparently pulled off the largest heist yet of digital data. The group has stolen 1.2 billion username and password combinations, according to Hold Security of Milwaukee, and more than 500 million email addresses.

Russia, with a vast techno-industrial complex dating to the Cold War, is generally considered to have premier cyberwarfare capabilities. “When I was in government, we thought the Russians were the best in the world at this, after the United States,” security expert Richard Clarke, a top White House advisor during the George W. Bush administration, said during a panel discussion at this year’s Milken Institute Global Conference.

“That is still the prevailing view,” said Chris Inglis, who until earlier this year was deputy director at the National Security Agency.

There’s no evidence the huge Russian hack was a government operation. But Russia’s Orwellian security sector has spawned an army of cyberruffians Vladimir Putin’s government has done little to rein in. A year ago, for instance, U.S. prosecutors revealed details of a 7-year scheme perpetrated by Russian hackers who obtained access to 800,000 U.S. bank accounts and more than 160 million credit and debit card numbers — believed at the time to be the biggest cybercrime ever.

Hold Security says the Russian group carrying out the latest attack seems to be using the stolen data for spamming operations, which would be less serious than the theft of credit-card information that has afflicted Target (TGT) and other companies. Still, the kind of data the Russians stole can be matched with other information and used for identity theft—on a potentially huge scale, given the sheer amount of personal information gathered.

The most notable thing about the Russian hack may be its astonishing breadth. Many cyberattacks drill deep into one company’s databases to extract as much information as possible on the firm’s customers. The Russians, by contrast, gathered their data from 420,000 different web sites, ranging from big companies such as Adobe (and many others not yet identified), to small sites that probably have marginal security.

At the Milken conference in May, Clarke pointed out how the Russian government has the capability to conduct cyberwar against the United States, if tensions should ever rise to that level. Russia lacks the economic clout to go toe-to-toe with the U.S. over sanctions, like those being imposed now in response to Russia’s military adventurism in Ukraine. But cyberwarfare could level the playing field. “What they can do, and do it covertly, is a series of cyberattacks to get back at us for sanctions,” Clarke said. “Attacking our financial institutions in ways that we would never be able to prove it was them.”

There’s no public evidence anything like that has happened, but it is assuredly a consideration as President Obama and European leaders consider how tough sanctions against Russia ought to be. It’s also likely Russia could conduct more aggressive cyberwarfare in Ukraine itself. Up till now, Russia has held back, perhaps because it doesn’t want to reveal its capabilities, invite retaliation or appear to be escalating its support for Ukraine separatists.

Whoever the attackers are, cybercrime and more sinister variations backed by foreign governments have become a major problem for American companies, imposing an annual cost of at least $100 billion per year. The White House has singled out economic espionage conducted by units of China’s People’s Liberation Army as a particular threat to U.S. firms. Hackers from China, Syria, Iran and other countries have also attacked a variety of U.S. companies, including media giants such as the New York Times, CNN and the Wall Street Journal, in fairly obvious ways that might best be described as online vandalism.

There’s one cyberpower that tends to stay out of the headlines: the United States. While Chinese and Russian hackers might be good, they do tend to get caught. The best hackers are the ones who go completely unnoticed.  And that is why everyone needs their own protection.  The United States is not going to protect you.  The Police cannot even arrest these guys.  And they will not stop.  It is on you.  You must take proactive steps to protect your identity.  keepmyID.org is the only company in the country that puts BLOCKS on your accounts and covers ALL ID theft (not just financial.  Visit them today at www.keepmyID.org (or call 1-800-664-5936) and see the difference. 

Provided by keepmyID.org and Rick Newman of Yahoo Finance. 

Medical Identity Theft: Low-Hanging Fruit for Criminals

Your keepmyID Identity Protection service (for only $19.95-25.95/month) will cover restitution if you become a victim of Medical Identity Theft.

Julia Dahl at CBS News recently published a great article about the alarming increase in Medical Identity Theft.  She reported these key points:

  • The number of victims grew to 1.85 million in 2013- a 19% jump from 2012
  • There is no easy way to detect this fraud.  (Credit monitoring won’t help)
  • There is no central source to contact to alert healthcare providers
  • Victims spent an average of $18,000 in fees for restitution
  • The impact is beyond money: It may result in misdiagnosis

Here’s the full article:

Medical identity theft can threaten health as well as bank account

Anndorie Sachs had her life turned upside down when authorities showed up at her door in Salt Lake City and threatened to take her four children away – all because another woman had stolen her identity and given birth to a baby who tested positive for drugs.

When CBS News first reported her story back in 2006, it was estimated that 200,000 Americans each year were the victims of what is called medical identity theft, but in the years since, the problem has gotten dramatically worse. According to a recent report by the Ponemon Institute, an independent research organization specializing in privacy and security issues, the number of victims grew to 1.85 million in 2013 – a 19 percent jump from the year before.

“In the criminal world, medical identity theft is now the low-hanging fruit,” says Ann Patterson, the program director of the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance, which sponsored the Ponemon report.

Patterson told CBS News’ Crimesider that while financial institutions like banks and credit card companies have created protections for their account holders, the health care industry lags behind, making medical data particularly vulnerable.

And unlike bank or credit card fraud, which can be detected with a credit report, there is no easy way for people to know when their identity has been stolen and used to get medical services.

“Typically, people don’t discover they’ve been victimized until there is a bill that goes to collections. And it could be that the damage is already done to your medical file,” says Steve Toporoff, an attorney in the division of privacy and identity protection with Federal Trade Commission.

According to Marie-Helen Maras, an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the author of “Computer Forensics: Cybercriminals, Laws and Evidence,” thieves can use your personal information to get health insurance in your name, obtain prescriptions, even check into the hospital to give birth or have surgery.

“The impact of medical identity theft can be even more dire than financial identity theft,” says Toporoff.

Yes, you might be billed for a procedure you didn’t actually get, but that’s not the only potential consequence. You could also end up being given the wrong blood type if you’re in a car accident, or lose your insurance coverage because someone else maxed out your benefits. According to the Ponemon report, 15 percent of the medical identity theft victims surveyed reported that the theft had created misinformation in their medical records that led to a misdiagnosis, and 14 percent said they experienced a delay in care.

Because there is no central repository for medical data, there isn’t a single place to alert health care providers like doctors and hospitals that you’ve been victimized and that someone might be masquerading as you.

Victims have to go provider by provider and wait until it pops up again,” says Eva Velasquez, the president and CEO of the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center.

According to the Ponemon report, victims of medical identity theft spent an average of just over $18,000 in legal fees; payments to healthcare providers; and other related expenses to get their financial and medical records straightened out after being victimized.

To make matters worse, the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance’s Patterson says that police don’t tend to investigate individual instances of medical identity theft; instead they focus on finding patterns in an area that might lead to an organized crime group.

“Police aren’t necessarily going to put resources toward investigating the $5,000 surgery you didn’t have,” she says.  So, if a lone thief steals your identity and starts using it to get medical care, chances are he or she could get away with it – at least for now.

Patterson says the one area of medical identity theft where law enforcement has taken significant action is Medicare fraud, because it involves taxpayer dollars. She told Crimesider that she hopes the health care industry will band together and tackle the growing problem.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.kbzk.com/news/medical-identity-theft-can-threaten-health-as-well-as-bank-account/

Identity Thief Convicted

Identity (ID) Thief Sent to Prison

The truth is that we usually do not catch the identity thief.  They are overseas, online, or merely so submerged we can never find them.  Relying on the police or government agencies to protect you is a false hope.  You must take measures yourself; measures like getting ID theft protection and/or ID theft insurance.  Make sure they block ID theft, and don’t “monitor” it.  If they use the words “credit monitoring,” red flag, run.  Do not sign up.  Make sure they cover all of ID theft and not just financial – that includes Financial ID theft, Child ID theft, Elderly ID theft, Family Fraud, Tax Return Fraud, Benefits Fraud, and Criminal Liability.  Do not settle for less.  Not to take away from the police, as they occasionally do apprehend these thieves.  For example, today, U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander sentenced Tavares Davon Miller, a/k/a “Tavon Jackson,” “Tavon Miller,” and “Ooh,” age 30, of Baltimore, Maryland to 75 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiring to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, in connection with a scheme to use the personal identifying information of others to purchase motorcycles, electronic equipment, jewelry and other goods. Judge Hollander also entered an order that Miller pay restitution of $105,899.66.

According to his plea agreement, from September 25 through November 1, 2012, Miller acquired the identifying information of more than 10 victims, and used that information to fabricate driver’s licenses and credit cards in the names of those victims, but using the photograph of co-conspirator Monika Hill (where applicable). Miller and Hill traveled to motorcycle dealerships and retail stores in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and Pennsylvania, and used the fraudulent identification documents to purchase merchandise, including electronic equipment, jewelry and clothing, or apply for lines of credit at those stores. Miller and Hill then loaded the motorcycles and merchandise into their vehicle and returned to Maryland. Miller advertised the motorcycles and merchandise for sale over the internet, retaining the proceeds of the sales and paid Hill a fee for her services.

Judge Hollander determined today that the total amount of loss to the victims is $140,462.03.  Monika Michelle Hill, age 34, of Gwynn Oak, Maryland, pleaded guilty to the same offenses and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 24, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the U.S. Secret Service, Maryland State Police, the Anne Arundel, Howard and Montgomery County Police Departments, Charles County Sheriff’s Office and Fruitland Police Department for their work in the investigation.

Provided by The Department of Justice and keepmyID.org

Potential for Identity Theft During Natural Disasters

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, in Louisiana, two men posed as Salvation Army volunteers and collected personal information from more than 2,500 New Orleans police officers, Orleans Parish Sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and emergency personnel.  In the District of Colombia, a man defrauded FEMA of more than $100,000 by filing false claims using the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of 38 individuals.  He found most of the information used in these bogus claims in the Martindale-Hubbell legal directory and various other public Internet databases.  These are just two examples of why identity theft prevention is a critical part of disaster preparedness.

Scams During Natural Disasters Have Been Around Forever:

After every major destructive event, local TV news shows inevitably report the opportunistic criminal selling a 5kw generator for $10,000 and the elderly couple who paid for a new roof but never got one.  Of course, crimes traditionally associated with natural disasters such as price gouging and home repair fraud still occur far too frequently.  Since identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States, it stands to reason that criminals have discovered creative ways exploit the vulnerabilities particular to these highly publicized events.  As an example, in New Jersey after Super-storm Sandy 50 cases of identity theft were reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) as compared to 21 reports of contractor and 2 incidents of insurance fraud.

The nature of catastrophes and the response makes them particularly attractive to identity thieves.  Major hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, etc., become international news piquing interest worldwide.  On scene, decisions have to be made rapidly often in confusing and disorganized conditions.  Large sums of money may be made available for distribution.  Relief agencies are charged with providing assistance quickly, often to victims without proper identification or verification.  These agencies may require additional staff or volunteers, sometimes hired in haste, often without proper vetting.  Personal papers and computers may be looted or literally blow into the wrong hands.  Outside of the affected area, caring individuals worldwide want to help by donating goods and money, sometimes to unknown charities or on-line.

The Bogus Social Security Numbers Have to Come From Somewhere:

The most common crime reported after a major natural disaster is the filing of false, exaggerated and other fraudulent claims to FEMA, the Red Cross and other relief agencies.  After Super-storm Sandy, for example, 1,746 incidents of fraud against FEMA were reported to the NCDF.  For Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, approximately 1.7 million people were displaced, yet FEMA received 2.5 million applications for disaster assistance.  By September 2008, according to the DOJ, 1,463 individuals were indicted in 1,370 cases in 49 districts throughout the United States.  Many of these thefts of Government funds involved the use of other people’s names, addresses and Social Security numbers without their knowledge or permission.

As examples, on January 24, 2007, an Alabama woman was sentenced to 75 months imprisonment and restitution in the amount of $267,377 for defrauding FEMA and for aggravated identity theft following Hurricane Katrina. She filed 28 fraudulent claims for assistance, falsely claiming to have lived at various addresses in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.  In those applications, she admitted using Social Security numbers of other people without their permission and providing FEMA with fraudulent and fictitious documents that purported to prove her ownership of property she did not own.

As mentioned in the introduction to this article, in 2007 a District of Columbia man was convicted of defrauding FEMA of more than $100,000 by filing false claims using the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of 38 individuals.  In explaining his scheme during sentencing the man admitted that he obtained most of this information by using an on-line directory of lawyers and law firms (Martindale-Hubbell legal directory) and various other public databases.  On the portion of the application that asked for the address of a property damaged by Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Rita, he would fill in addresses that he found on the Internet or that he made up.  When the checks arrived he forged the signatures of the payees and deposited the checks into bank accounts that he had opened in the names of other people without their permission, but that he controlled.  In particular, he opened an account at an E*TRADE Financial Corporation Branch in Northwest Washington, D.C., into which he deposited five of the fraudulently obtained checks, intending to withdraw the money and convert it to his own use at a later date.

The DOJ’s Hurricane Katrina Task Force’s investigations revealed organized groups in Oregon, California, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi participated in making numerous fraudulent claims, most using inaccurate names, addresses and social security numbers.

You Don’t Even Have to Be There:

Cyber criminals also use disasters and other major media events to collect both funds and personal information from unsuspecting victims worldwide.  A common ploy is to set up a web site posing as a charity to prey upon good people wanting to help out.  The FBI shutdown one such site called “airkatrina” where a man posed as a pilot and claimed to be transporting injured victims and medical supplies to the area.  He collected $48,000 before he was caught and was able to obtain hundreds of names, addresses, and credit card numbers.  Social media is another avenue which cybercriminals use to collect information.  After the Boston Marathon bombing, for example, the FBI discovered an account on a popular social media site using the official Boston Marathon name and logo.  The post claimed $1 would be sent to the victims for every communication it received.  Although the social media service suspended the account, it was a clear attempt to collect personal information and to solicit fraudulent donations.  Since 2005 the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has issued over 16 separate warnings of these types of charity scams relating to hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunami, and other events.  Other solicitations can originate as door-to-door collections, mailings, and telephone calls.

Where Are the Vigilantes When You Need Them?

After major catastrophes, where the power is out and belongings are exposed, looting may occur.  Coins, jewelry and electronics, including computers containing sensitive information, are often stolen.  As examples, from October 17 through November 28, 2012 after Super-storm Sandy heavily damaged the Breezy Point area of Queens, NY, Police reported 52 home break-ins compared to only 4 during the same time frame the previous year.  Laptop computers containing personal information were stolen, among numerous other items.  The USA Today reported six men in The Philippines were arrested with laptops and computers stolen from a printing shop that was damaged in Typhoon Haiyan.  In an interesting twist, in The United Kingdom the laptop of a self-professed “hacker” was stolen from his apartment that was damaged during the August 2011 riots in London.  The computer contained security software, which allowed the hacker to remotely view the pages the thief accessed.  Shortly after shopping for a new Mercedes, the thief logged into his Facebook page and the hacker was able to identify him.

Air Mail Your Personal Information:

During a tornado or a hurricane, papers containing personal information can literally “blow away” possibly into the hands of an opportunistic criminal.  Windstorms can scatter papers for miles.  After a tornado struck DeKalb County, Alabama in 2011, for example, personal checks and pages from an address book where discovered 100 miles away in Blount County, Tennessee.  After a tornado hit Washington, Illinois in 2013, papers, photographs and checks were discovered as far as 120 miles away in Chicago, Hinsdale, and Seneca, IL.

Access Badges Given Out Like Candy:

Impersonation of emergency responders, relief volunteers and utility workers is another technique criminals use to collect personal information.  During widespread power outages, someone in a power company uniform with a marked truck can easily gain unfettered access throughout the damage area.  In the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a woman from Belle Chase, LA, posed as an Occupational Safety and Heath Administration (OSHA) safety instructor.  She set up phony classes, supposedly to train people to work in the cleanup efforts, in order to collect personal information and money, primarily from Asian immigrants in the south Louisiana fishing community.  The woman was convicted and sentenced to 57 months in federal prison.

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina two men posed as Salvation Army volunteers and collected personal information from more than 2,500 law enforcement and emergency personnel.  According to published reports, the men set up a table near a hotel in New Orleans that was being used as a headquarters by first responders and enlisted the help of other unsuspecting Salvation Army volunteers.  The impersonators told the officers they were eligible for a $5,000 debit card from the international media company Viacom, Inc. and they only had to register with their names, addresses and other personal information.  The two men were arrested by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s office and each charged with 2,500 counts of conspiracy to commit identity theft.

Tips to Protect Your Identity During a Disaster:

  1. Have a reliable Identity Theft Protection plan, like keepmyID, in place well before the catastrophe hits.
  2. Guard your personal information in advance by securing papers in locked file cabinets and protecting computers and mobile devices with strong passwords.
  3. Bring identity documents including drivers license, passport, work ID badges, social security card, and credit cards with you when evacuating.  If possible, also evacuate your computer as well as important papers such as file copies of tax returns, bank statements and checks.
  4. Report any lost checks and credit cards to the issuing bank. Report lost drivers licenses to the issuing office and ask to have it flagged as stolen.
  5. Use caution when accessing the Internet via public Wi-Fi.
  6. Ask to see an official laminated photo ID of anyone in the disaster area.  Don’t rely on a uniform shirt or jacket from FEMA or the power company.
  7. Beware of people going door-to-door to damaged homes, especially if they solicit financial information.
  8. Be cautious of individuals representing themselves as victims or officials asking for donations via email or social networking sites.
  9. Do not open emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster area in attached files or other spam emails as they may contain viruses.
  10. Research a charity before donating.  Look for copycat names and logos, don’t open embedded links, and don’t be pressured into making a donation.
  11. Check your personal credit report approximately 60 days after the event to ensure you are not a victim.
  12. Do all the laundry you can before the storm hits.   It won’t help protect your identity, but it sure can be hard to find a washing machine when the power is out over a wide area.

Hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, and other catastrophes are part of life. The cleanup and recovery effort can be immense and last for several weeks or even years. Don’t be victimized twice. Have an adequate identity theft protection plan in place, in advance. At keepmyID, we can help you prepare before the storm and provide restoration services should the unthinkable happen.

  •  Numerous news articles in various publications including a report in the Times-Picayune on September 22, 2005.
  •  FBI: Press Release. February 8, 2007
  •  National Center for Disaster Fraud: An Overview. June 21, 2013.
  •  United States Sentencing Commission: Report to Congress: Amendments to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in Response to the Emergency Disaster Assistance Fraud Penalty Enhancement Act of 2007.  September 2008.
  •  Footnote:  In 2005, following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma there were so many fraudulent claims filed in federal disaster relief programs that the U.S. Department of Justice established the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF).  Its mission has since been expanded to include all types of fraud, including identity theft, in natural and man-made disasters.  The NCDF is a partnership of over 20 federal agencies, as well as state and local emergency management and law enforcement officials.  In examining information from the NCDF, and its member agencies including the FBI, certain criminal patterns emerge.  More information about the NCDF may be found at their website.  http://www.justice.gov/criminal/oilspill/about/ncdf.html
  •  United States Sentencing Commission: Report to Congress: Amendments to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in Response to the Emergency Disaster Assistance Fraud Penalty Enhancement Act of 2007.  September 2008.
  •  United States Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Alabama: Press Release March 30, 2007
  •  FBI:  Press Release February 5, 2007.
  •  United States Sentencing Commission: Report to Congress: Amendments to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in Response to the Emergency Disaster Assistance Fraud Penalty Enhancement Act of 2007.  September 2008.
  •  United States Sentencing Commission: Report to Congress: Amendments to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in Response to the Emergency Disaster Assistance Fraud Penalty Enhancement Act of 2007.  September 2008.
  •  Internet Crime Complaint Center: Public Service Announcement, Beware of Possible Fraud Associated wit the Boston Marathon Explosions.  April 25, 2013.
  •  New York Post. November 24, 2012.
  •  USA Today. November 13, 2013.
  •  Numerous news articles in various publications including a report in C/NET on August 16, 2011.
  •  The Daily Times, April 30, 2011.
  •  ABC 7 Eyewitness News, November 18, 2013.
  •  Department of Justice: Press Release May 17, 2013.
  •  Numerous news articles in various publications including a report in the Times-Picayune on September 22, 2005.

An Identity Theft Prevention Program At The Next Level

Most services offer credit “monitoring.”  Any Identity Theft Expert will tell you that monitoring is practically useless.  Why?  All monitoring does is inform you, that you are now a victim.  That is far too late.  You want someone to prevent you from becoming a victim in the first place – more specifically an ID theft prevention program that blocks ID theft.  That is what www.keepmyID.org does best (for only $19.95-25.95/month).  If you see the words “monitoring” save your money.  Don’t sign up.

In addition, almost all the companies out there only protect you from financial ID theft.  That sector represents 51% of ID theft.  There is also:

  • Medical ID Theft
  • Child and Elderly ID Theft (up 35x since last year)
  • Tax Fraud (filing fake tax returns, etc.)
  • Benefits Fraud
  • Criminal ID Theft (getting arrested in your name)
  • Employment Fraud (a felon or an illegal getting a job in your name)
  • Social Security Fraud (yes, they will start to collect your benefits)
  • Family Fraud

What is your monitoring service going to do about those?  I can tell you — nothing.  Monitoring services do not block anything; an identity theft prevention service will.  So how does a person know the difference.  Make sure you get a service that (1) prevents (not monitors) identity theft and (2) covers ALL ID theft events; not just half of them and (3) does all the work for you if you are ever victimized.  Maybe you are not sure what they provide (understandably, as many companies blur the lines).  Watch out.  Many provide little to no protection.  Put them to the test:  Ask them these four questions:

(1)  Do you hire an attorney for me from Day One?  In order to ensure preventative services are provided (fraud alerts, credit freezes, extended fraud alerts, credit reports, etc.) they must hire an attorney for you, to act as your personal representative.  That is the law.  Don’t settle for “we’ll show you how to do it.”  No, that is their job.   If they say NO, move on.  They are really just a monitoring service pretending to be a prevention service.  Again, be wary of any company touting monitoring as their primary service.

(2)  Do you ensure that fraud alerts are put on my accounts every 90 days?  This is ID Theft 101.  Alerts are your main tool for blocking financial ID theft.  If they say NO, move on quickly.

(3)  Do you protect me from ALL ID theft events (Medical, Tax, [see above])?  Now, you may want to pay less and roll the dice on just covering yourself for financial ID theft.  That is certainly fine and the most common ID theft worry.  But know you are taking the risk.  It is a cost/benefit analysis.  Total protection costs more (ours is $19.95/mo. and $25.95/mo. for the whole family).  But the company should, at least, offer the protection if you want it.  If they do not, red flag, move on.  For example, we don’t make any profit on the additional $6 service (family coverage).  Really.  But we felt it was important enough to add anyway.  Sometimes doing the right thing is not profitable, but it’s the right thing to do.  Make sure your company has it as an option.

(4)  Do you offer unlimited recovery services and assign a case worker to do ALL the work for me, if I ever get my identity stolen?  The FBI reports that you will spend 331 hours trying to clean up the mess that ID theft leaves behind.  You do not have time for that.  That is their job.  If they do not assign a case worker who does ALL (not part) of the work for you, move on.

At the end of the day, we want to protect you and your families from ID theft.  That is our sole mission.  Whether you use us or a competitor is of lesser importance. We just want you to get protection.  You have a 1 in 3 chance each year of becoming a victim.  It will happen to you eventually.  You must have something to protect you this day and age.  Make sure that something is ID theft prevention, not monitoring, and that you will be covered in the event your ID is stolen.  There is no 100%.  So get full protection.  That is our advice. 

Note: Your credit card company and bank do not protect you from ID theft (just bank fraud).  They just protect that particular account from monetary loss; not your identity.  That idea is a very common misconception.  Also, stealing an existing, legitimate,  account (like your credit card number) is not really “identity” theft; that is credit card fraud.  And your credit card company will bear 100% of the loss.  Identity theft occurs when they take your information and open a new account in your name and you are responsible.

MORE ABOUT KEEPMYID

Founded by former law enforcement.  keepmyID has over 200 years of combined law enforcement experience.  We have investigated, tracked, prosecuted, and stopped identity theft rings.  Our founders devoted their life to law enforcement and now bring that experience to you.  They understand what the victims experience and how damaging the effects of this crime can be.  They know how to best prevent it from happening; and fix it if it happens to you.

Why We Are Different.  www.keepmyID.org ensures the legal protections are put in place beforehand.  Our goal is that you never become an ID theft victim in the first place.  We don’t wait until you are victimized to take the steps.  We ensure they are taken from the get go. This is very different from the “monitoring” services.  They simply alert you by phone AFTER you have been victimized.  That is far too late.  In the end we provide a better service, from more experienced people, for less cost.

100% Recovery Services.  And keep in mind – there is no such thing as 100% protection. That is why we also offer 100% recovery services.  While we dramatically reduce your chances of ever becoming a victim, there is still a chance you can become a victim.  If anyone tells you otherwise, they are not telling you the truth.

We provide 100% recovery services.  If you are ever a victim while with us, we will cover your losses up to $1 million dollars.  You will also get a case agent assigned to you.  They will make the calls, challenge the inaccuracies, and do whatever it takes to return you to pre-fraud status.  In short, they do ALL the work.

What else do we do?  We hire an attorney to represent you.  Every customer is represented by a lawyer the entire time they are with us.  According to your profile, our team (comprised of former law enforcement from: FBI, U.S. Marshals, Police, Army Intelligence, Texas Rangers, Secret Service, and state prosecutors), will recommend to your attorney what steps and actions need to be taken to protect your identity.  Those steps will be taken.  You also get put into the junk mail and telemarketing reduction programs.  Your junk mail will be reduced dramatically.  Telemarketers will not call you as often (some still violate the rules).  You will also receive 3 credit reports per year.  You will also be notified about the most popular scams and strategies.  We do this to keep you up-to-date and educated about common scams and ID theft in the public sector.  You will be protected and you will be taken care of.  That much we can promise you.

North Carolina Hit by ID Theft

ID theft is everywhere.  Financial ID theft, Tax Fraud, Criminal Liability, Child ID Theft, Elderly ID Theft, Family Fraud, Employment Fraud, Benefits Fraud, and Social Security Fraud are growing every year.  There were over 13 million reported victims last year alone.

North Carolina Woman Sentenced for Preparing False Tax Returns and Identity Fraud.  In Greensboro, N.C., Leslie Louise Brewster, of Durham, N.C., was sentenced to 70 months in prison and ordered to pay $92,910 in restitution to the IRS. On February 20, 2013, Brewster pleaded guilty to preparation of false tax returns, aiding and assisting the preparation of a false tax return, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. According to court documents, Brewster was the manager of a tax return preparation franchise. Brewster falsified federal income tax returns for hundreds of clients in order to obtain larger tax refunds for the clients than they were actually entitled to receive. The returns Brewster prepared for clients reported, among other items, false dependents, fictitious businesses and bogus education credits. Brewster also purchased personal identifying information, including names and Social Security numbers, from members of the community. Brewster used this personal identifying information to claim false dependents on tax returns she prepared for clients, and provided some of the identities she purchased to other return preparers for their use in a similar fashion. Two defendants in related cases were also sentenced to prison for tax crimes arising out of this scheme. Saichelle McNeill was sentenced to 27 months in prison on August 20, 2013. Tiffany Rogers was sentenced to 48 months in prison on August 14, 2013.

Provided by the IRS and keepmyID.org.

Ohio Hit by ID Theft – Dione Howard of Cincinnati

ID theft is everywhere.  Financial ID theft, Tax Fraud, Criminal Liability, Child ID Theft, Elderly ID Theft, Family Fraud, Employment Fraud, Benefits Fraud, and Social Security Fraud are growing every year.  There were over 13 million reported victims last year alone.

Ohio Man Sentenced in Identity Theft and Tax Refund Scam. In Cincinnati, Ohio, Dione Howard was sentenced to 12 months and a day in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $30,129 in restitution to the IRS. On March 13, 2013, Howard pleaded guilty to conspiring to file false claims for federal income tax refunds with the IRS and unlawfully using a means of identification. According to court documents, between January 2012 and April 2012, Howard purchased 18 names, social security numbers and dates of birth from a co-conspirator for $3,500. Howard used this information to prepare and electronically file at least nine false claims with the IRS for income tax refunds. Howard attempted to have the income tax refunds deposited on prepaid debit cards, but instead received the income tax refunds in the form of United States Treasury checks. Howard then provided the income tax refund checks to a co-conspirator to be cashed. Once cashed, Howard received a portion of each check, ranging anywhere from $600 to $1,600.

Provided by the IRS and keepmyID.org

Identity Theft in the news...

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