Archive for June, 2012

Identity theft cases surge in Collier County

Friday, June 29th, 2012

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- It’s an anonymous crime, spiking to unprecedented levels. Identity theft cases are surging in Collier County and experts say scammers are using strategy.

“This area has a high average age, high wealth…some of the highest wealth in the United States. What’s better than that?” said Iberia Bank scam expert Keith Dameron.

So far this year, Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s Financial Crimes Bureau has investigated 929 cases of identity theft, up from 381 cases last year.

Now, investigators are launching a new class to help residents fight back.

“The sooner you catch it, the sooner you can stop it in its tracks and move on,” CCSO’s Lt. Chad Parker said Wednesday.

Parker says fraudulent income tax returns make up the bulk of this year’s cases, but their free class educates on dozens of scams circulating Collier County.

“They’re real copies of the letters, checks that people have received,” Parker said Wednesday.

Experts say education is the only way to ward off scammers after your savings, as their efforts are only expected to rise.

“We’re responding sufficiently to the different kinds of scams, to where it’s causing them to increase their hits in our zip codes, because they know they’re going to get something out of it,” Dameron said.

Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s Identity Theft Awareness class is scheduled for next Tuesday, July 3rd at 10 am. The event will be held in their Professional Development Center, located at 615 Third Avenue S, room 108 in Naples.

To sign up, call CCSO at 239-252-0687.

Article source: http://www.winknews.com/Local-Florida/2012-06-27/Identity-theft-cases-surge-in-Collier-County

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Financial loss from identity theft increasing, report says

Friday, June 29th, 2012

California Watch

Fewer people were victims of identity theft last year than in 2010, but each person lost substantially more money, according to a new report by the California Public Interest Research Group.

The higher dollar amount is mostly attributed to an increase in new account fraud, in which criminals use a victim’s personal information and good credit to create new accounts and make purchases, rather than hacking into existing accounts. New account fraud can go on for months because perpetrators usually use a different mailing address when applying for new accounts, so the victim never sees the bills, the report says.

In 2010, victims lost about $82 per person. Last year, they lost about $786 per person, according to the report, which was released yesterday.

“Typically, the financial loss to the consumer is going to be greater because it’s more difficult to detect new account fraud than existing account fraud,” said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

According to the report, almost 1,000 cases of identity theft were investigated in 2011, less than half the number of the year before. Those investigations resulted in 229 convictions. The majority of convictions – 130 – were in Sacramento Valley.

Last year, there were about 10,000 victims of identity theft statewide, the report states. The region with the largest portion of those victims was Silicon Valley, with nearly 6,000. In Southern California, victims lost the most money, with an average of about $4,000 per victim.

Jon Fox, consumer advocate for CALPIRG, said one of the obstacles to compiling the report was the lack of a centralized database for identity theft statistics. He said most identity theft reports are based on statistical approximation.

But this report, with help from the state’s High Technology Theft Apprehension and Prosecution Program, is based on data from local police departments. But each department reports identity theft slightly differently – either as wire fraud, computer fraud, fraud or credit card theft – and without details. In its report, CALPIRG recommends creating a centralized statewide database where law enforcement agencies can file identity theft investigations.

The report also recommends tougher state regulations regarding identity theft and more resources and funding to combat it.

“It’s an old problem that’s taking a new shape,” Fox said. “How criminals were preying on people was different, but we’d be having the same conversation 10 years ago.”

He said the main goal of the report is to educate people about preventing identity theft in the online world. “Like, for example, paying a bill online on free Wi-Fi at the airport just isn’t a good idea,” he said.

Stephens said the best way to protect against new account fraud is setting up credit report freezes. That means that you can’t receive any new credit cards, loans, mortgages or other credit-based accounts unless you unfreeze the credit. It can be a pain, Stephens said, but it’s the only secure way to prevent identity theft.

“It’s a huge, huge problem,” Stephens said. “Unlike existing account fraud, it can take the victim literally hundreds of hours to remedy.”

CALPIRG recommends consumers take several precautions, including:

  • Avoid paper billing by requesting secure electronic statements instead. If you still require hard copies, you can print them and store them safely rather than risk mail theft.
  • Use unique, hard-to-guess passwords that include a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid using the same password across multiple accounts, and change your passwords once or twice per year.
  • Disable Bluetooth connections on devices when not in use.
  • Fight “skimmers” by not handing your debit card to a server or anyone who could have a handheld skimming device (which reads information embedded in a card’s magnetic strip) out of sight. When using ATMs, touch it to see if all the parts are solid and not add-ons. Always cover the hand typing the password, look for suspicious holes or cameras, and avoid using ATMs in unsupervised locations.

CALPIRG advises victims of identity theft to file a police report and notify the Federal Trade Commission, which has on online complaint form. For more information on identity theft, visit http://www.calpirg.org/idtheft.

View this story on California Watch

Article source: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/06/27/4595220/financial-loss-from-identity-theft.html

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Medical identity theft: Not just a financial problem

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

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Article source: http://www.examiner.com/article/medical-identity-theft-not-just-a-financial-problem

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Feds arrest 22 people in identity theft-ring involving illegal immigrants – The Star-Ledger

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

paul-fishman.jpgNew Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, pictured in this file photo, announced this morning that federal charges have been brought in New Jersey against the 22 defendants for allegedly running an operation that provided “a suite of unlawful services” to illegal immigrants, including “fraudulently obtained driver’s licenses and investor and student visas.”

Federal authorities in New Jersey today charged 22 people — most of whom are Korean — with running a sophisticated fraudulent-document scheme that helped South Koreans living illegally in the United States obtain real driver’s licenses and other identification using phony and altered documents, officials said.

At a news conference this afternoon in Newark, Paul Fishman, New Jersey’s U.S. Attorney, along with top FBI and other federal and state officials, said that eight of those arrested live in New Jersey — including several from the Palisades Park and Fort Lee areas of Bergen County. Other defendants reside in New York, California, Nevada, Virginia and Georgia, officials said.

The complex scheme, Fishman said, was led by 54-year-old Young-Kyu Park — who now lives in Los Angeles but who formerly resided in Fort Lee. It featured illegal-document “brokers” located around the country who, for a fee of $3,000 to $4,500, would lead illegal-alien Koreans through a series of steps that included obtaining and falsifying important immigration documents, utility bills and other papers which they then could use at state motor-vehicle agencies to get real driver’s licenses in their own names.

Federal agents spread out around all six states arrested 17 of the 22 defendants this morning, Fishman said. Other arrests are continuing today, officials added.

A key element of the scheme, officials said, was Park’s ability to fraudulently obtain, complete and sell I-797 forms — which are at times used by Department of Homeland Security officials to convey immigration benefits — to his his customers. Fishman said in a statement that state agencies that issue driver’s licenses rely on the I-797 forms to verify the authenticity of an applicant’s foreign passport and to verify the applicant’s lawful presence in the United States. One version of the form can be used to show eligibility for in-state college tuition, he added.

Martin Trejo, a 45-year-old contract employee with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was charged today in the fraudulent-document ring. He stands accused of stealing blank I-797 forms from his workplace — the USCIS’ Western Forms Center in Montclair, Calif, which is the country’s largest warehouse storage facility for the forms, Fishman said.

Michael Ward, the FBI’s top official in New Jersey, said today in a statement, “By gaining access to protected, blank government immigration forms, the subjects in this case were able to utilize sophisticated computer software to create false identity documents and subsequently move to receive legitimate driver’s licenses.”

Ward added, “In doing so, they were able to circumvent established safeguards and proper vetting put into place post 9/11. The exploitation of this vulnerability is significant because identity-type frauds are a gateway crime. Seldom are they the end game. Individuals with falsely obtained identities are more likely to commit financial frauds, walk away from legal obligations, and are more difficult for law enforcement to identify and investigate.”

At the news conference today, Ward also noted that a previous, major federal bust in 2010 of a largely Korean-run identify theft ring helped lead to today’s takedown, which Ward called a “spinoff” from the earlier investigation.

Ward said that a defendant arrested and charged in the earlier bust — which he called the “Golden Brokers” case —flipped for the FBI and became an uncover informant for the feds in the current takedown. The cooperating witness, he said, infiltrated the Park-led ring and recorded key conversations among Park and co-conspirators.

Related coverage:

N.J. Senate to vote on bill aimed at stopping ID theft via copiers

Article source: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/06/feds_arrest_22_people_in_ident.html

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Identity-theft losses on the rise, consumer group reports

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Despite a drop in cases, Californians last year suffered sharply larger financial losses from identity theft, according to a study Wednesday by a statewide consumer group, which urged authorities to do more to prevent individual Social Security numbers from winding up in the wrong hands.

“California state law prohibits organizations, both private and public, from using a Social Security number as a personal identifier and from publicly posting or displaying that number,” said the California Public Interest Research Group’s report. “Yet organizations continue to collect and store Social Security numbers, unnecessarily placing consumers at risk of identity theft.”

The nonprofit group appealed to state officials to “investigate the present usage of Social Security numbers by government agencies and private business to determine if alternative means of identification can be used instead.”

While the report found a significant drop in the number of reported victims from 2010 to 2011, the group’s consumer advocate, Jon Fox, said that was due to a few huge cases in 2010 skewing the data. However, the report also noted that the average loss among victims soared in 2011 over the previous year.

Citing Federal Trade Commission statistics, it found that the amount stolen per California identity theft victim was 4.8 percent higher in 2011 than in 2010, while data from the state’s High Technology Theft Apprehension and Prosecution program revealed

a more dramatic increase. It showed the average loss was $786 in 2011, compared with $82 in 2010.

The trend has caught the attention of Ronnie Lopez, a San Jose police sergeant and operations manager of the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team, which investigates ID theft and other tech crimes in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Santa Cruz and San Francisco counties.

While he didn’t have long-term data on the average amount pilfered in ID thefts, “it seems like it’s progressively gotten worse the last three or four years,” he said, adding that the fraud poses “a very real and prolific threat to our community.”

By stealing a person’s Social Security number, birth date, bank account information or other personal facts, identity thieves can withdraw money from the victim’s bank accounts, hijack their government tax refunds and cause other financial havoc.

One of the biggest reasons the amount of losses has increased is a rise in “new account fraud,” the report said. That’s where crooks use the victim’s stolen identity to obtain new credit cards, often using a phony address to avoid detection. Such fraud costs the average victim $3,197 per incident, the report said.

Other types of fraud were perpetrated via the Internet, often by sending bogus emails that tricked recipients into sharing their sensitive information. Another troublesome scheme is “skimming,” where crooks use a small electronic device to steal credit and debit-card information at places where the cards are used for transactions.

One recent case the report cited involved Gervork Aroutiounyan and Gnel Snapyan, who were sentenced in March for stealing $320,728 by skimming bank ATM cards in Santa Clara and six other California counties from July 2010 to February 2011. The two, who plead guilty and were sentenced in March, installed micro-cameras to capture the card holders’ PIN number. Then they used the purloined information to make fake ATM cards and withdraw money from the victims’ accounts, the report said.

Contact Steve Johnson at 408-920-5043.

Article source: http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_20951065/identity-theft-losses-rise-consumer-group-reports

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Guest opinion: Federal government mandate is ‘identity theft’ – The News

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

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While many have focused on the so-called “contraception issue” of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate, still many others have realized that this federal law attacks the very identity of the Catholic Church and other faith-based groups in this country.

At its root, the HHS Mandate is guilty of “identity theft.” The Mandate is an attempt to strip religious institutions and individuals of their identity and thus force them to act against their conscience and core beliefs.

Religious liberty in our nation has always involved more than merely the “freedom to attend a religious service.”

For Catholics, faith integrally informs and gives life to all of our actions, including various charitable outreaches, such as Catholic social services, healthcare, and education.

Faith motivates and, in fact, is the underlying inspiration for all of our works. This is an important truth of the Catholic Church which contradicts those who claim that they only, ‘do their religion on Sunday, in church.’

In this country, the Catholic Church and others have long enjoyed the freedom to live out their religious faith without unnecessary government intrusion. However, the HHS Mandate demands that religious organizations and individuals provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception, which are contrary to both our core beliefs and our identities as religious individuals.

Specifically, for an institution to know whether it is religious enough to meet the government’s exemption standard, it must submit to an investigation whereby federal employees determine whether the institution hires and serves “primarily” those of the same belief.

Part of “living out” our Catholic Faith is to serve all people in need. However, in order to be exempt from the Mandate, Catholic organizations will be forced to stop serving non-Catholics and fire non-Catholic employees (even though Catholic schools and social services are open to all). Catholic organizations would no longer simply ask, “are you hungry?,” but instead, “are you Catholic?” before extending services.

Article source: http://www.news-press.com/article/20120627/OPINION/306270015/1010/sports/Guest-opinion-Federal-government-mandate-identity-theft-?odyssey=nav%7Chead

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More people aware of medical identity theft but do little to protect …

Thursday, June 28th, 2012


Click to view news release full screen


Experian’s ProtectMyID® Third Annual Medical Identify Theft Study reveals year-over-year increases related to familial fraud

COSTA MESA, Calif., June 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Medical identity theft is a crime of opportunity that can strike close to home. In fact, according to the Ponemon Institute®’s “Third Annual National Study on Medical Identity Theft(1),” commissioned by Experian’s ProtectMyID®, half of all survey respondents indicate that they know the person responsible for stealing their identity. Further, more respondents (increased by 5 percent from 2011), reported they actually permitted family members to use their personal identification to obtain medical services including treatment, healthcare products or pharmaceuticals.

The 2012 national study conducted by the Ponemon Institute surveyed 757 medical identity theft victims and found this crime to be more prevalent than ever before. In previous studies, many of the respondents could not define the crime. Data from this new survey indicates that the number of participants who understand the definition of medical identity theft has increased 13 percent since 2011, from 77 to 90 percent. Despite this, 52 percent of victims surveyed did not report the crime to law enforcement or authorities.

“There are specific things that people can and should do to protect themselves from medical identity theft,” said Ken Chaplin, senior vice president of marketing for Experian’s ProtectMyID. “As this survey underscores, people have to be vigilant with their personal information and avoid letting their guard down, even with family and friends.”

The extrapolated survey results also reveal that an estimated average of 2 million Americans are victims of medical identity theft yearly, and the estimated total cost of that theft, based on mean value, is roughly $41 billion — a significant increase from the $30.9 billion estimated in 2011. For individuals, the cost also has increased, rising to $22,346 from last year’s $20,663.

Additional key findings from the survey include:

  • Consumers lose trust. According to 51 percent of respondents, the primary nonfinancial consequence reported by respondents is a loss of trust and confidence in their healthcare provider.
  • Victims pay out-of-pocket to resolve medical identity theft. Survey results show that the primary method used to resolve the theft was the victim reimbursing the fraudulent charges to the healthcare provider. Forty-five percent of respondents paid the healthcare provider or insurer for services obtained by the thief.
  • It takes a long time to recover. On average, it took respondents approximately one year (12.1 months) to resolve the theft. Twenty-five percent say it took more than two years.
  • Most people don’t check medical records. Fifty-seven percent of respondents never check their medical records to verify accuracy of the information. Many respondents don’t know how to check their health information (49 percent), and they trust their healthcare providers to be accurate (46 percent). Furthermore, nearly 1 in 5 respondents (18 percent) say they don’t care about the accuracy of their medical records.
  • Inaccurate medical records can be harmful to health. Altered medical records can result in the wrong treatment, particularly if the victim has an illness and doesn’t get properly treated or vice versa if the victim doesn’t have a specific illness and gets unnecessary treatment. This year’s survey notes that 20 percent of respondents say their medical records were accessed or modified.
  • Action is important. To prevent future incidents, victims surveyed say they will never share medical insurance ID/credentials with anyone (35 percent), will monitor credit reports (26 percent) and will review their medical records (26 percent). Conversely, almost half (48 percent) said they won’t take any new precautions.

“Medical identity theft hits consumers both medically and financially,” said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. “For three years in a row, our findings have consistently shown that medical identity theft crime continues to increase in terms of prevalence and costs to the victim.”

About the study
Fieldwork for this research was concluded in February 2012, and 807 consumers in the United States participated in this study, completing a Web-based survey. Of these, 757 said they or their immediate family members have been victims of medial identity theft. 44 percent of respondents have private insurance, 21 percent have Medicare or Medicaid, and 20 percent are not insured.

About Ponemon Institute®
Ponemon Institute is dedicated to advancing responsible information and privacy management practices in business and government. To achieve this objective, the Institute conducts independent research, educates leaders from the private and public sectors, and verifies the privacy and data protection practices of organizations in a variety of industries.

About Experian’s ProtectMyID
ProtectMyID is a leading, full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and resolution. ProtectMyID offers comprehensive identity theft protection products supported by experienced identity theft resolution professionals who deliver personal attention that customers can rely on. ProtectMyID.com is a Website owned by ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company. For more information about how ProtectMyID helps consumers protect themselves against identity theft, please visit http://www.ProtectMyID.com.

About Experian
Experian is the leading global information services company, providing data and analytical tools to clients around the world. The Group helps businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers and automate decision making. Experian also helps individuals to check their credit report and credit score, and protect against identity theft.

Experian plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. Total revenue for the year ended 31 March 2012 was US$4.5 billion. Experian employs approximately 17,000 people in 44 countries and has its corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; California, US; and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

For more information, visit http://www.experianplc.com.

Experian and the Experian marks used herein are service marks or registered trademarks of Experian Information Solutions, Inc. Other product and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.

Contact:

Corie Jackson
Edelman PR
1 323 202 1075
corie.jackson@edelman.com

Becky Frost
Experian Consumer Direct
1 949 202 7296
bfrost@experianconsumerdirect.com

(1)Survey conducted in March 2012 by Ponemon Institute

 

SOURCE Experian

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Article source: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/more-people-aware-of-medical-identity-theft-but-do-little-to-protect-themselves-from-it-160349435.html

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Identity theft, drug violations among sentences in Genesee Circuit … – The Flint Journal

Thursday, June 28th, 2012
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Article source: http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2012/06/identity_theft_drug_charges_se.html

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Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida: The HHS Mandate is …

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

VENICE, FLORIDA (Catholic Online) – While many have focused on the so-called “contraception issue” of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate, still many others have realized that this federal law attacks the very identity of the Catholic Church and other faith-based groups in this country. At its root, the HHS Mandate is guilty of “identity theft.” The Mandate is an attempt to strip religious institutions and individuals of their identity and thus force them to act against their conscience and core beliefs.

Religious liberty in our nation has always involved more than merely the “freedom to attend a religious service.” For Catholics, faith integrally informs and gives life to all of our actions, including various charitable outreaches, such as Catholic social services, healthcare, and education. Faith motivates and, in fact, is the underlying inspiration for all of our works. This is an important truth of the Catholic Church which contradicts those who claim that they only, ‘do their religion on Sunday, in church.’

In this country, the Catholic Church and others have long enjoyed the freedom to live out their religious faith without unnecessary government intrusion. However, the HHS Mandate demands that religious organizations and individuals provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception, which are contrary to both our core beliefs and our identities as religious individuals.

Specifically, for an institution to know whether it is religious enough to meet the government’s exemption standard, it must submit to an investigation whereby federal employees determine whether the institution hires and serves “primarily” those of the same belief.

Part of “living out” our Catholic Faith is to serve all people in need. However, in order to be exempt from the Mandate, Catholic organizations will be forced to stop serving non-Catholics and fire non-Catholic employees (even though Catholic schools and social services are open to all). Catholic organizations would no longer simply ask, “are you hungry?,” but instead, “are you Catholic?” before extending services.

Helping all people in need is rooted in our Faith; it is who we are–our very identity. This identity and way of living out our Faith, however, will soon be outlawed. Since the poor and those in need have always been the primary recipients of Catholic charity, they too have much to lose as a result of this governmental decision.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced that the federal government is now “at war” with those who disagree with the HHS. We did not choose or desire such a war: but our government has unilaterally imposed war on all citizens who disagree with this Mandate, including Catholics who strive to help others.

This violation of our religious liberty and freedom of conscience has been deemed “necessary,” so as to ensure that every citizen has access to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. Even if these “services” were necessary, coercing individuals to betray their conscience and religious identity would not be the prudent or humane course of action.

The issue is clearly not about whether people have a “right”, or “access to”, abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. In a most profound way, the Mandate is “identity theft.” The government is attempting to coerce Catholics, and other religious organizations, into violating their conscience and core beliefs. This is an attack on who we are as Catholics – as well as the faith-imbued manner in which we have always served both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

—–
Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane is the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida

Article source: http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=46789

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Photos: “42″ and “ID Theft” filming in Midtown today

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

The movie 42 is filming in Midtown, including a scene at the Biltmore. This exciting photo shows one of the trucks unloading equipment this morning. Rumor has it that President Barack Obama wants to visit the set of the movie, about Dodgers great Jackie Robinson. No confirmation from the Secret Service or White House, of course.

The movie “42” is filming in Midtown, including a scene at the Biltmore. This exciting photo shows one of the trucks unloading equipment this morning. Rumor has it that President Barack Obama wants to visit the set of the movie, about Dodgers great Jackie Robinson. No confirmation from the Secret Service or White House, of course.

Right now a sidewalk closing is about the only inconvenience resulting from 42 setting up at the Biltmore. That'll change if POTUS swings by. The movie stars Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey.

Right now a sidewalk closing is about the only inconvenience resulting from “42” setting up at the Biltmore. That’ll change if POTUS swings by. The movie stars Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. Ford, who has portrayed the Commander in Chief on the big screen, was spotted in Midtown last night.

Meanwhile, at the Georgian Terrace, crews are readying for a scene in ID Theft. The movie stars Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman. Bateman has been to the Georgian Terrace before - to film a scene for The Change-Up a couple of years ago.

Meanwhile, at the Georgian Terrace, crews are readying for a scene in “ID Theft.” The movie stars Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman. Bateman has been to the Georgian Terrace before – to film a scene for “The Change-Up,” co-starring Ryan Reynolds, a couple of years ago.

Looks like ID Theft will film in the bar at the Georgian Terrace. They've hung blackout drapes on the windows. The movie is about a guy who has his identity stolen by a woman. Hilarious!

Looks like “ID Theft” will film in the bar at the Georgian Terrace. They’ve hung blackout drapes on the windows. The movie is about a guy who has his identity stolen by a woman. Hilarious!

Movie production usually impacts traffic. This is Ponce at Peachtree in Midtown. Traffic's moving ok at the moment but of course a presidential motorcade in the area could change that in a hurry!

Movie production usually impacts traffic. This is Ponce at Peachtree in Midtown. Traffic’s moving ok at the moment but of course a presidential motorcade in the area could change that in a hurry!

Article source: http://blogs.ajc.com/the-buzz/2012/06/26/photos-42-and-id-theft-filming-in-midtown-today/

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