Archive for April, 2012

Study: ID thieves robbing the grave

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Ruthless ID thieves are robbing identities even from the grave, a new study has found.

Nearly 2.5 million dead people are victims of identity theft every year, according to a data analysis by fraud prevention firm ID Analytics being made public Monday.

The study offers the first hard data about a little-understood aspect of ID theft that can cause unnecessary pain and suffering to family members already dealing with loss.

ID Analytics works with dozens of credit-granting companies, such as banks and cellphone providers, to find common patterns among fraudsters as they fill out credit applications. The firm has unique insight intro fraud trends, as it screens more than 1 billion such applications annually. For this study, it considered 100 million applications filed during the first three months of 2011 and compared Social Security numbers and other information in those applications against the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, which tracks the identities of people after they die.

Stephen Coggeshall, chief technology officer at ID Analytics, recently crunched those numbers to look for evidence that criminals were exploiting SSNs attached to the deceased. The results showed a wide-scale problem, much larger than previously believed.

Roughly 800,000 deceased Americans are deliberately targeted by criminals each year, the study claims.

In those cases, an imposter armed with a deceased person’s SSN, name and birthday tries to fully assume the dead person’s identity. ID Analytics has no information about whether or not the attempts were successful, Coggeshall said — only that the personal information was used on an application during a fraud attempt.

Meanwhile, SSNs attached to 1.6 million more dead adults find their way onto thieves’ fraudulent applications through random selection, he said. Many criminals simply guess at SSNs when filling out fraud applications and accidentally use one that’s already been issued to someone who’s now dead. ID Analytics calls them “identity manipulators” who make arbitrary variations on their own personal information to avoid fraud detection tools and randomly pick an SSN associated with a deceased person.

“This study brings to light a significant problem, as we see fraudsters intentionally using identities of the deceased at the rate of more than 2,000 per day,” Coggeshall said.

Imposters who exploit the dead are after the same things that all ID thieves crave: theft of cellphone service or the ability to open up new credit cards or take out loans, Coggeshall said.

There are obvious advantages for criminals when using a dead person’s personal information. If the fraud is initially successful, because the normal channel for discovery — a consumer who notices unauthorized charges or accounts on his or her credit history — doesn’t exist. Family members or others disposing of an estate can discover the fraud through the arrival of unexpected bills, but the usual hurdles for recovering from such fraud are even higher when a third party must call and ask for corrections.

Fighting ID theft of the dead should be easier than most other forms of identity fraud. The Social Security Administration frequently updates the Death Master File, which now contains about 40 million SSNs. Firms that issue credit should routinely check their applications against this simple list; several inexpensive products offer this service, and the file is available in several forms online (there’s even an app). But clearly, that kind of screening isn’t happening, Coggeshall said. Otherwise, criminals wouldn’t be trying to exploit the dead so frequently.

Ironically, if companies don’t check SSNs against the Death Master File, it becomes a great source for criminals to obtain identities and SSNs to be exploited.

“We have no sense of where criminals are getting the numbers, but a certain portion of them probably are coming from public sources, like the Death Master File,” Coggeshall said.

The study also hinted that seriously ill people are being targeted by criminals. There were 2 million cases of SSNs’ being used in credit applications, with the SSN holder dying within the next two months.

“Certainly a good deal of this is not suspicious, but some fraction of these applications may be the misuse of the identities of the dying,” Coggeshall said.

Family members already dealing with a tragedy have plenty to worry about, but identity theft of the dead is a reality they must consider, he said.

“While this is clearly a problem for businesses, surviving family members can also be the victims of this identity fraud as they are left to manage the estates of their deceased loved ones,” Coggeshall said. “It’s important for people to monitor their deceased family members’ identities for at least one year.”

It’s possible for a third party, such as a spouse, to get a credit report for a deceased person, but it’s not trivial. The bureaus will want a death certificate as proof the individual has died, and they’ll want some evidence that the requester has a right to see the information — such as a marriage license or an order showing he or she is an executor of the estate. That person can request that a “deceased — do not issue credit” notation be placed on the report, but certain hiccups can occur. If a credit account, such as a loan, is in both spouses’ names, a “deceased” flag can occasionally cause confusion.

There’s a good discussion of this issue on Experian’s website.

More details on how to freeze a loved one’s credit report are available at this story.

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Amarillo Crime Stoppers working to help stop identity theft

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Amarillo, TX – The risk of identity theft is on the rise.

Saturday an event was held to help put a stop to this crime.

The Amarillo Crime Stoppers hosted their annual “Shred it Day” at the Market Street United.

People were asked to drop off old paperwork since some carry personal information.

If stolen or placed in the dumpster, it could be used to steal your identity.

Document Shredding and Storage was there to shred everything right on the spot.

“We’re going shred it for them so they don’t have to do it for themselves and it helps out people that can’t do it. Crime Stoppers is here helping out and we gladly accept any donations that anyone has to offer,” says Austen Rowell, student Crime Stoppers.

Proceeds from donations help pay for tips to clear unsolved crimes and locate fugitives in the Amarillo area.

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Man accused of identity theft

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Pennington County authorities have issued a felony arrest warrant for Brian Luches McClinton Wishocoby charging him with identity theft.

Wishocoby, 37, stands about 5 feet, eight inches tall and weighs 175 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. He is believed to be in or near Rapid City or Red Shirt Table.

Authorities say anyone with information that would lead to Wishecoby’s arrest should call the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office at 394-6117 or the Rapid City Police Department at 394-4131.

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LOWER MAKEFIELD POLICE REPORT: Police respond to hacked internet account …

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Mama’s Little Helper

This reference site for parents in Pa. and N.J. features a calendar of local (and many FREE) events, coupons, giveaways, directories (classes, places to play, story times, consignment stores/sales), helpful articles a blog!

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Man arrested on identify theft charges

Monday, April 30th, 2012

A New Orleans resident has been arrested on fraud and identity theft charges for allegedly engaging in a scheme to defraud the PayPal online payments service.

Federal prosecutors said Friday’s arrest of Giray Biyikioglu, 28, a Turkish national who lives in New Orleans, follows a Secret Service probe.

Prosecutors said Biyikioglu illegally used somebody else’s identity and conducted transactions of up to $190,000 as part of his alleged scheme to defraud.

No additional details about the case were disclosed.

He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if he’s convicted of a wire fraud charge and a mandatory term of two years in prison if he’s convicted of an aggravated identity theft charge.

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Theft of personal documents in Fort Worth led to two-year crime spree

Monday, April 30th, 2012


Two years ago, Tracie Ponds walked to her car in the parking lot of the Fort Worth nursing home where she works as a nurse aide and discovered that someone had stolen her purse.

That simple crime led to one of the biggest identity theft capers in Tarrant County, one that targeted more than half a dozen area nursing homes and home healthcare businesses and at least a dozen seniors, frail and vulnerable.

Ponds, then 25, reported the missing items to Fort Worth police. Stolen items included her expired driver’s license along with a document showing that she had paid for her renewal, her checkbook, debit card, Social Security card and, perhaps most important, an identification card from the state that showed she is a certified nurse aide.

The thief hit the jackpot. Ella Dehaven Brown was a certified nurse aide, too, but she had been convicted of identity theft crimes and served two stints in prison. State officials never learned that and didn’t pull her certification. Still, she couldn’t get a job as a nurse aide using her name because she couldn’t pass a state-required criminal background check conducted by a business wishing to hire her.

So she used Ponds’ ID papers so she could pose as Ponds and get nurse aide jobs at nursing homes and home healthcare companies in Richland Hills, Hurst and other area cities, court records say. Once inside, the records say, she stole more identity papers from more elderly patients to keep her one-woman operation going.

Brown worked the scheme for two years.

She got caught only after some tenacious investigating by a Richland Hills police officer who unraveled the crime, still considered so complex by investigators that they don’t know exactly where Brown worked or the names of all her victims.

The Watchdog reported last month how another senior, Paulette Jones, said her $20,000 ring was stolen while she lived at Renaissance Park Multi Care Center in Benbrook. That facility was the scene of other thefts from residents, police records say. Four days after my report, Jones died. Her ring was never recovered.

Proper background checks and training for nurse aides in Texas have been an issue since the Star-Telegram reported in 2007 that the state did not regulate nurse aides or keep the kind of accurate databases that it does for nurses. Several legislators introduced bills to tighten supervision over nurse aides, but they did not become law.

In this case, it might not have mattered. When hiring officials met Brown and she presented them with Ponds’ papers, everything appeared in order. Sometimes she worked at a facility only a few days. Other times, she stayed longer.

At Lexington Place Nursing Rehabilitation in Richland Hills, where she worked several months, Brown stole identity documents from at least seven residents, police say.

When officer S. Parsons began looking at the crimes, she at first suspected Ponds. Working with Richland Hills police Detective J.L. Robinson, the officer learned about Ponds’ stolen purse. Ponds was shown videotape of Brown posing as her at a Hurst bank. Work friends of Ponds’ recognized Brown and identified her from a police photo lineup.

When police went looking for Brown, they didn’t have to look hard. She was already in the Tarrant County Jail after being arrested by White Settlement police on an unrelated charge. In February, Brown, 36, pleaded guilty in the Richland Hills/Lexington Place thefts to two charges of forgery and one charge of possessing ID papers belonging to someone else. She was sentenced to three years in state prison.

Lexington Place officials declined to comment.

Brown’s ability to get hired at so many places while posing as Ponds is troubling, Robinson said, because for two years Brown never had a valid Texas driver’s license in Ponds’ name, only a piece of paper showed that Ponds had paid her renewal. A smart hiring official would have zeroed in on that, the detective said.

Brown easily gained others’ trust. A Haltom City couple hired her, believing her to be Ponds, from an ad on Craigslist to work as a nurse aide at their home. After Brown stole personal documents from them, the couple described her to police as a “super pleasant lady.”

When I contacted the state last week about Brown’s caper, officials had no knowledge of it. None of the businesses where she worked as Ponds reported the crimes to the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services as required, spokeswoman Allison Lowery told me. “Obviously, we want facilities to tell us when they have a reasonable suspicion of a crime,” she said.

Lax oversight

This failure to report illustrates the lax state oversight of nurse aides, says Terry Jones, an assistant professor at the University of Texas School of Nursing. No regulatory board oversees nurse aides. With a shortage of them, she says, employers are eager to hire.

State law requires that nurse aides show proper ID before they take the state test. Nursing homes must also conduct criminal background checks not only before hiring but also every two years. The state offers databases to check the certification, but as Brown’s case shows, those databases are incomplete.

In Texas, nurse aides earn certification after training followed by an examination. They do not get a license, and that’s why, Jones said, “it’s incumbent on whoever hires them to check references.”

“I can see how this happened,” Jones said about Brown’s crime spree. Nurse aides “have direct access to patients in their most vulnerable state. So yeah, there’s a lot of potential for abuse there.”

One victim in the Richland Hills nursing home is Katy Buckley, who at 95 is blind and bedridden. Buckley kept her purse in her room because it helped her keep her sense of identity, stepson Paul Buckley told me. Brown stole her Social Security card and driver’s license and ran up charges under Katy Buckley’s name.

“You just have to depend on the facility to be the last line of defense, and it just doesn’t seem to happen,” Paul Buckley said.

Robinson says police know about only a few of Brown’s victims. “There may be more that we haven’t discovered.”

Ponds is still working to clean up the mess. Brown ruined her credit and reputation. “I had a squeaky-clean work history,” she said. “Now I don’t because she worked at all those places under my name.”

News researcher Cathy Belcher contributed to this report.

Need a Watchdog? Write to

Dave Lieber, 817-390-7043; Twitter: @davelieber

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Shred it! Protect yourself from identity theft

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

AMARILLO, TEXAS — You just finished up your taxes (whew!) and now it’s time to toss all that old paperwork. But, you better think twice before just throwing it in the trash.

Amarillo Crime Stoppers wants to help protect you from identity theft by shredding all those documents with sensitive information. Join Crime Stoppers and Document Shredding and Storage (DSS) Saturday, April 28th for their “Shred It Day” at Market Street United on Georgia from 10:00 a.m. To 2:00 p.m. You can take up up to four bags or small boxes of papers and documents to be destroyed.

Remember, the event is a fundraiser for the local Crime Stoppers, so be sure to bring a donation to help our our local program!

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Protect yourself from ID theft by shredding documents

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Houstonians took a step to protect themselves against identity theft by safely shredding their personal documents Saturday.

The city has teamed up with Data Shredding Services of Texas to provide sites where people can dispose of sensitive documents that shouldn’t be tossed in the trash.

Saturday’s event was held at the Houston Police Department Westside Station on South Dairy Ashford.

One pile of papers after another were handed over for shredding Saturday.

“Mostly credit card solicitation,” Nancy Radecki said, telling us what she was having shredded. “Old credit cards, that kind of thing.

The city and DSS are providing this free service in hopes of curbing crimes like identity theft.

“People need to realize dumpster diving is the number one cause of identity theft now,” said Scott Degrassi with DSS.

DSS estimates it will shred 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of documents this weekend alone, even allowing people to watch as their documents are securely destroyed.

“We have a shredder at home. It’s just easier bringing it here,” patron Katherine Bell said.

This was the first of many upcoming shredding events across Houston. They will be held monthly at different locations through August. Each event is a chance to protect yourself from crime.

If you were unable to make it Saturday, check out one of the following locations on the dates listed:

  • May 19, 10am-2pm: HPD North Station, 9455 West Montgomery Rd. – Houston 77088
  • June 23, 9am-1pm: Kingwood METRO Park and Ride, 3210 West Lake Houston Pkwy. – Kingwood 77339
  • July 28, 9am-1pm: HPD Eastside Station, 7525 Sherman – Houston 77012
  • August 11, 9am-1pm: HPD Clear Lake Station, 2855 Bay Area Blvd. – Houston 77058

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Ex-employees at Wrigley Field, Chicago restaurants accused of stealing credit …

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

CHICAGO — Six former employees at Wrigley Field and several Chicago restaurants are accused of stealing customers’ credit card information and using it to rack up thousands of dollars in charges.

One of the establishments, the RL Restaurant, is on Chicago’s famed Magnificent Mile and is run by Ralph Lauren.

She says identity theft is a significant threat in Illinois .

The six suspects are accused of using a small credit card reader to swipe customers’ cards and then make counterfeit ones. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office says the group made purchases of more than $200,000 from the victims’ banking and credit card accounts.

The other establishments were Taco Bell and McDonald’s restaurants.

Madigan announced the charges Friday.

She says identity theft is a significant threat in Illinois. Last year, more than 3,200 identity theft complaints were filed with her office.

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Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy and Horrible Bosses star Jason Bateman team up …

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

19:58 EST, 27 April 2012


19:58 EST, 27 April 2012

There aren’t two finer comedy actors working at the moment than Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman.

Last year, they stole the show in Bridesmaids and Horrible Bosses respectively, and now they’ve been paired together in Identity Theft.

What a prospect: Beloved comic actors Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy were busy filming Identity Theft in Atlanta, Georgia today

What a prospect: Beloved comic actors Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy were busy filming Identity Theft in Atlanta, Georgia today

It’s slated for a May release, which
will be a year after Bridesmaids hit theatres and the world fell in love
with McCarthy… so already, a propitious start.

It’s also directed by Seth Gordon, who directed Horrible Bosses.

The film tells the story of a man who has his identity
stolen by a woman.

Steve Conrad wrote the initial draft and Craig Mazin
is currently rewriting the screenplay.

Sure to raise a chuckle: The wonderful McCarthy is bound to to be a hit in the new comedy

Sure to raise a chuckle: The wonderful McCarthy is bound to to be a hit in the new comedy

Straight man: Bateman's great talent is playing the straight guy, who sees humour on a small scale... it looks as though he'll be doing that again

Straight man: Bateman’s great talent is playing the straight guy, who sees humour on a small scale… it looks as though he’ll be doing that again

While Melissa,41, is finding her first wave of mega stardom at her relatively late age, child star Bateman is having a renaissance.

Jason and his wife Amanda Anka welcomed a daughter named Maple Sylvie in LA on February 10.

The pair married in July 2001.

Jason previously revealed his wife helped him turn his life around after he became a heavy drinker and wild partygoer.

He said: ‘Meeting my wife Amanda was the best thing that could ever have happened to me. She wasn’t going to let me screw around my life anymore, so I stopped drinking and started behaving like a decent human being.’

Intrigue: Bateman was seen dashing about with an identity card

Intrigue: Bateman was seen dashing about with an identity card

He then cited the cult series that brought him back into the game: ‘Then I got very, very lucky when Arrested Development came along.

That series saved my career –  it gave me back my credibility I used to have when I was much younger and before people gave up on me as a party guy in Hollywood. It was just enough to make me ambitious again.’

Bateman played honorable Michael Bluth, who was the wholesome core of a materialistic, selfish family.

Juno star Michael Cera stared as his teenage son, George Michael.

Bateman and the cast of the show, which ran from 2003 to 2006, are to be reunited in a hotly anticipated movie-length version.

Ten new episodes will be released on Netflix before the film’s release as a prequel.

Co-star Will Arnett, who played G.O.B. Bluth, told E! last week that writers are currently writing those episodes, he said: ‘We are deep into it.’

The Fox series, which struggled in ratings through its three seasons, despite critical acclaim Michael Cera and Portia de Rossi, and was produced and narrated by Ron Howard.

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