Archive for December, 2012

Protecting Your New Smartphone

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

3. If your phone offers encryption, use it to protect stored data in case of loss or theft.

4. Lock its screen with a PIN — only one in three smartphone users does this. Don’t use your birthdate or birth year, or any of these most commonly used (and hackable) PINS: 1234, 0000, 2580 (a top-to-bottom keypad sequence), 1111, 5555, 5683 (which spells “love”), 0852 (a bottom-to-top sequence), 2222, 1212 and 1998.

5. An app that will track and report the location of your phone is useful and may help police recover it if it’s stolen. Apple’s iPhone has the “Find My iPhone” app built in, but you need to activate it; apps such as “Where’s My Droid” are available for Android devices.

6. Ask your wireless carrier how to remotely erase stored data if your phone is lost or stolen. But first, store sensitive data on a Google or iCloud account, and regularly perform backups by plugging your phone into your computer.

7. Consider security software recommended by your carrier or phone manufacturer. Free products such as Lookout Mobile Security are available for Apple, Android, Windows and BlackBerry phones.

8. Before installing apps, read their reviews — and then buy only from well-known vendors such as Google or Apple. Always read the “permissions” before downloading apps and avoid those that — for reasons that don’t seem to make sense — want permission to make phone calls, connect to the Internet or reveal your identity and location.

9. If selling or trading in an old smartphone, reset it to factory default to avoid leaving any personal data on the device.

10. Treat your smartphone as you would any computer. That means not opening questionable links in emails or text messages, not replying to unsolicited requests for personal information such as your Social Security or bank account numbers — no matter what Caller ID shows — and not using your smartphone to access sensitive data on a public wi-fi network.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

Article source: http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-12-2012/protecting-your-new-smartphone.html

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Beware of identity theft

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

Sheriff Johnny Brown

Sheriff Johnny Brown


Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012 5:16 pm


Beware of identity theft

Johnny Brown
Ellis County Sheriff

Waxahachie Newspapers Inc.

Identity theft is a serious crime that affects as many as 10 million Americans each year.


Victims can end up spending a considerable amount of time and money cleaning up the mess that thieves leave behind.

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Article source: http://www.waxahachietx.com/opinion/localcolumnists/beware-of-identity-theft/article_9bf100d0-5144-11e2-9cee-0019bb2963f4.html

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Wanted for Identity Theft

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

Crime Stoppers and the Port Washington Police District are asking the public’s help to indentify and locate a man wanted in connection with identity theft.

Police say that on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, the man, pictured in the accompanying poster (click to enlarge image), fraudulently withdrew $14,000 from the victim’s bank account. They say the man made three transactions from different Chase Bank locations in Coney Island, NY. He is wanted in Port Washington in connection with this crime.

Anyone who can identify the man in the photo or has any information about this crime is asked to call the toll free hotline: 1-800-244-TIPS (8477).

Police say all calls will be kept confidential.

Article source: http://portwashington.patch.com/articles/wanted-for-identity-theft

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Conn. officials to warn against identity theft

Friday, December 28th, 2012


Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2012 10:16 am


Conn. officials to warn against identity theft


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HARTFORD (AP) — Attorney General George Jepsen and state tax Commissioner Kevin Sullivan are warning Connecticut taxpayers about identity thieves, as the tax-filing season approaches.


Both are scheduled to appear on Thursday at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford for an afternoon news conference.

They are scheduled to discuss how identity thieves can use stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns and the steps that taxpayers can take to protect themselves.

According to the federal Internal Revenue Service, tax-related identity theft often starts when someone’s personal information is stolen or lost and the thieves use the taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund. In other cases, a person’s personal information is used fraudulently by a thief to get a job.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012 10:16 am.

Article source: http://www.thehour.com/wilton_villager/news/conn-officials-to-warn-against-identity-theft/article_53985890-5038-11e2-bb4c-0019bb30f31a.html

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Tips for Md.’s new child identity theft law

Friday, December 28th, 2012

BALTIMORE (AP) — Attorney General Doug Gansler is providing some tips for parents who want to take advantage of a new Maryland law to protect children from identity theft.

The new law takes effect Tuesday.

Parents or guardians can contact the three major credit reporting agencies to place a freeze on their children’s credit.

A request can be made online to Equifax at www.equifax.com , to Experian at http://www.experian.com/consumer/help/states/md.html , and TransUnion at http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/credit-freezes.page

Maryland’s law is the first of its kind in the nation. In the past, credit agencies have been able to refuse to lock the credit of those who do not have a pre-existing credit report. That’s a problem for children, because if they have a credit report they’re likely already a victim of fraud.

Article source: http://www.sfgate.com/news/crime/article/Tips-for-Md-s-new-child-identity-theft-law-4150804.php

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Winterville Woman Faces Identity Theft Charges

Friday, December 28th, 2012



A Winterville woman is under arrest on several charges, including trafficking in stolen identities.

Lakeisha Waller, 36, was arrested by the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday. She faces one count of identity theft, four counts of trafficking in stolen identities, one count of uttering a forged instrument and failure to appeal on a counterfeit instrument.

Waller’s bond was set at $75,000.

Article source: http://www.witn.com/news/crime/headlines/Winterville-Woman-Faces-Identity-Theft-Charges-185031191.html

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State revenue chief takes aim at identity theft in tax system

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Connecticut’s top tax official is optimistic that a new initiative designed to target identity theft will better protect Connecticut residents and businesses from security breaches and will recoup millions of dollars in income tax fraud for the state’s coffers.

But Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin B. Sullivan was more skeptical about a controversial initiative enacted by the General Assembly last week. It assumes $1 million in fraud exists in a new state tax benefit for working poor families.

Thursday, Sullivan and Attorney General George C. Jepsen outlined the identity theft program that relies both on new safeguards implemented by state government, as well as increased vigilance on the part of all taxpayers.

Kevin Sullivan, left, commissioner of revenue services, and Attorney General George Jepsen outline the state’s new identity theft program.

“Cyber criminals become more sophisticated all the time,” Sullivan said, adding that each time taxpayers lose control over Social Security or tax identification numbers, or other personal information, “that raises the opportunity for crafty crooks to hack and steal.”

And though the department stopped more than $7 million in fraudulent tax refunds sought in 2012, criminals armed with misleading emails, fake Web sites, more sophisticated cyber attacks — or even access to household trash — increasingly try to claim state tax refunds using false identities.

This crime not only robs state government of needed funds, but creates complications that delay processing the filings of the victims of identity theft, Sullivan said.

“Hardly a week goes by that my office doesn’t hear about a data privacy breach where hackers or scam artists attempt to gain access to Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and bank accounts,” said Jepsen, whose office launched a task force to intensify investigations into identify theft.

Talented cyber criminals who can move quickly respond to published obituaries, hacking for confidential information and assuming the deceased’s identity to claim a refund before news of the death can reach government databases.

The South Carolina Department of Revenue reported in September that it  had been the  victim of a cyber attack that left nearly 3.8 million Social Security numbers, more than 380,000 credit and debit card numbers, and about 650,000 tax filings unprotected. Check routing numbers for thousands of households also may have been exposed in the incident, which Sullivan referred to as “a wake-up call for all of us.”

Sullivan’s agency approached the administration this fall with a proposal to crack down on identity theft and save as much as $10 million per year.

Faced with state budget deficit projections ranging from $365 million to $415 million, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the General Assembly decided in special session on Dec. 19 to launch the identity theft initiative as part of a much larger deficit-mitigation plan. The goal is to save $8.5 million before the fiscal year ends on June 30.

The Department of Revenue Services will seek approximately $500,000 in state financing next month to purchase new hardware needed to enhance income tax screenings particularly to target identity fraud.

But Sullivan and Jepsen said residents and businesses can take several steps also to stop identity thieves even from obtaining the personal information they than would use to bilk the state:

  • File state income tax returns “as early as possible,” particularly if there has been a death in the family.
  • Shred all paperwork with sensitive financial information before it is thrown in the trash.
  • Enter financial passwords only into secure Web sites. These begin with the prefix “https:”
  • Avoid placing sensitive mail in personal mailboxes. Residents should mail those documents at U.S. Postal Service offices, or from officially designated drop boxes.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone unless you are very familiar with the company receiving it.

Sullivan also encouraged residents to carefully screen tax preparation services, avoiding those that seem “outside the range of professionalism” or have not established much history in the community.

The department receives complaints of services that charge exorbitant fees for preparing relatively simple tax schedules, or that arrange to have a client’s refund mailed back to the preparation business — rather than directly to the taxpayer.

“The problem with a lot of these fly-by-night tax preparers is that many of these people simply disappear,” Sullivan said, adding this makes it difficult for state officials to investigate and determine whether these business activities are merely unscrupulous — or also illegal.

The revenue services commissioner and his staff also were asked by the governor and legislature on Dec. 19 to try to save another $1 million before the fiscal year ends on June 30.

But this assumes a level of fraud in the new state Earned Income Tax Credit which was just launched this past January. Republican minorities in both the state House and Senate have been particularly active in pushing for new safeguards against tax fraud.

The new state credit is available to households eligible for the federal EITC, and is equal to 30 percent of the value of the federal credit.

Technically families earning up to $49,000 per year can qualify for a federal Earned Income Tax Credit, depending on the number of children they have. But most EITC recipients earn less than $18,000.

The average state credit is $601. And though the credit often is touted as a means to help the working poor save more, advocates say nearly all of the credits are spent — usually on heating and energy bills, groceries or other basic needs — making it an effective economic stimulus program.

Advocates also note the program was very predictable in its first year.

The legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated that the state credit would cost state government $110 million in its first year.

According to final numbers from the Department of Revenue Services, just over 181,620 households claimed the credit, receiving just under $109.2 million in total.

Sullivan said Thursday that “I’m skeptical” that $1 million in fraud exists in the program, adding that “we have not seen any evidence” here, though complaints of errors in the federal credit system have been raised.

Sullivan noted that “we established a very high screen (system) before those (state) EITC refunds were sent out” last spring.

But the commissioner added that his agency would nonetheless work to achieve the target savings set in negotiations between the legislature and governor’s office.

James Horan, executive director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services, said advocates are wary of the new initiative, adding it would be incorrect to imply significant fraud exists in the new system.

“I think it was very political that this was put in the final (deficit-mitigation) agreement,” he said. “We knew that DRS has already put the measures in place” to screen the credit.

Follow Keith M. Phaneuf on Twitter.

 

Article source: http://www.ctmirror.org/story/18576/state-revenue-chief-takes-aim-identity-theft-tax-system

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416 cases of identity theft reported at LSU hospitals

Friday, December 28th, 2012

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BATON ROUGE — The LSU hospital system has notified 416 patients that their checking account numbers and other personal information on checks paid to hospitals have been stolen.

Officials also are warning people who have been patients in LSU health facilities to pay attention to their bank statements and other accounts, and to check their credit history. Suspicious transactions should be reported to their banks and to LSU at 1-800-735-1185.

“It’s still too early in the process” to know if the number of affected patients will grow as police and LSU officials continue investigating a security breach, according to Marvin McGraw, spokesman for the LSU Health Care Services Division.

“It affected patients at all seven LSU Health Care Services Division hospitals, which would include University Medical Center in Lafayette,” he said.

The LSU Health Care Services Division began notifying the affected patients in November after learning about the identity thefts from state police, McGraw said.

Former billing department employee Pamela Reams, who worked from the LSU Health Care Services Division’s headquarters in Baton Rouge, was booked in November with 377 counts of identity theft and is free on $60,000 bond.

State police said Washington Parish sheriff’s detectives first identified her and three other women on surveillance video that allegedly showed them buying items with counterfeit checks at several Washington Parish stores.

Seven people were booked with identity theft. Some were released without bond; bonds for others range from $5,000 to $26,000.

Patients’ bank account numbers and other information on the checks scanned into hospital system records were used to make counterfeit checks and ID cards, said Trooper Jared Sandifer, a Louisiana State Police spokesman.

Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal and his wife, Sheila Seal, an employee at the LSU hospital in Bogalusa, were among the victims: Counterfeit checks totalling $2,500 were written on their account. Capt. Tommie Sorrell told The Daily News of Bogalusa that $25,000 was taken from 19 people in Washington Parish alone.

Article source: http://www.thetowntalk.com/viewart/20121227/NEWS01/121227001/416-cases-identity-theft-reported-LSU-hospitals

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New ID Theft Law To Take Effect

Friday, December 28th, 2012

A Maryland law enabling parents to better protect their children from identity theft is among several taking effect next week.

The child identity theft law, which is the first of its kind in the nation, will allow parents to freeze their child’s credit any time. Credit agencies have been required to place a security freeze on the credit of anyone who requests it. But they have been able to refuse to lock the credit of those who do not have a pre-existing credit report. That has presented problems for children, because if they have a credit report they likely already are a victim of fraud.

Delegate Craig Zucker, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill this year, noted that it also will benefit elderly and developmentally disabled residents who could become victims of identity theft.

Identity theft can be a big problem for children, because they usually don’t learn they are victims until they are older, when they apply for a credit card or a loan.

The law will apply to a person younger than 16 at the time of a request. It also will apply to an incapacitated person who has a legal guardian.

A consumer reporting agency would be required to place a security freeze after receiving the request.

Parents will have to opt in to trigger the credit freeze. A consumer reporting agency will be required to place a security freeze after receiving the request. Parents or guardians will have to contact a credit agency and provide proof of identification for the person they want to protect, such as a Social Security number or birth certificate.

Article source: http://www.wbal.com/article/96562/3/New-ID-Theft-Law-To-Take-Effect

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Identity Theft Concerns Prompt New Missouri Drivers Licenses

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

The state of Missouri is giving drivers licenses and nondriver identification cards a facelift.

Beginning this month, revenue offices in Central Missouri have started rolling out the new-look cards.

Find a list of Department of Revenue Offices In Missouri

The rollout should be completed by sometime in April.

Officials at the Department of Revenue say the new design and issuance process—they will be printed from one central facility and mailed out– will enhance security and help reduce the risk of identity theft and other types of fraud.

Under-21 drivers licenses will be vertically oriented, and all cards will also make it easier to determine if the carrier is an organ donor.

 

Patch Editor Julie Brown Patton contributed information for this report.

Article source: http://ladue-frontenac.patch.com/articles/identity-theft-concerns-prompt-new-missouri-drivers-licenses-889253d9

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