Archive for October, 2013

Former FAMU Student Gets Two Years in Prison for Identity Theft

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

The Tallahassee Democrat reports that former Florida AM University (FAMU) student Christopher J. Wright, 23, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was recently sentenced to two years in federal prison on charges of aggravated identity theft and access device fraud for accessing the university‘s internal computer system (h/t DataBreaches.net).

Wright and co-conspirators Carliss Pereira, 22, and Carl Coutard, 22, used information found near the FAMU computer help desk, along with public information and personal information provided by students and university employees, to access student accounts.

They then changed bank account and routing numbers to redirect financial aid refunds to prepaid credit cards in their possession.

Pereira and Coutard both pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and access device fraud earlier this year.

Pereira was sentenced to four months of house arrest and two months in a halfway house, 80 hours of community service, three years of supervised release, and payment of $3,983 in restitution to FAMU. Coutard was sentenced to six months of home detention and six months in a halfway house, 80 hours of community service, and three years of supervised release.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Article source: http://www.esecurityplanet.com/hackers/former-famu-student-gets-two-years-in-prison-for-identity-theft.html

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Alabama man pleads guilty to involvement in identity theft schem – WSFA.com …

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

MONTGOMERY, AL –

From: The Department of Justice;

Harvey James pleaded guilty to one
count of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft for his role in
a Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (“SIRF”) scheme,
announced Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally of the Justice
Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama
George L. Beck Jr.

According to court
documents and court proceedings, Harvey James obtained stolen identities from
individuals who had access to inmate information from the Alabama Department of
Corrections.  For several years, James, his sister, Jacqueline Slaton, and
others used those inmate names to file false federal and state tax returns. 
James and Slaton directed some of the false refunds to be sent to either
prepaid debit cards or issued via check.  In 2012, James and Slaton
enlisted the assistance of U.S. Postal Service mail carrier Vernon Harrison in
the scheme.  Harrison, who provided James and his co-conspirators with
mailing addresses to which they could mail debit cards, retrieved the debit
cards from the mail and delivered them to James and his co-conspirators. 
In exchange, Harrison received substantial payments.  Between 2010 and
2012, James and his co-conspirators filed hundreds of federal and state income
tax returns that claimed over $1,000,000 in fraudulent tax refunds.

Sentencing has not yet been
scheduled.  James faces a minimum sentence of two years in prison and a
maximum sentence of twenty-two years in prison, along with three years of
supervised release, restitution and a maximum fine of $250,000.  Slaton has
already pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 70 months in
prison.  In July 2013, Harrison was found guilty by a jury for his role in
the scheme.  Harrison will be sentenced on Oct. 31, 2013.

 

The case was investigated by
Special Agents of the IRS – Criminal Investigation.  Trial Attorneys Jason
H. Poole and Michael Boteler of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and
Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Brown are prosecuting the case.

 

Additional information about the
Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/tax.

Article source: http://www.wsfa.com/story/23806149/alabama-man-pleads-guilty-to-involvement-in-identity-theft-scheme

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Former Broward court clerk pleads guilty to ID theft – Sun

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

A Broward County court clerk on Monday joined the ever-growing ranks of workforce employees convicted of using job-related computer systems to commit identity theft.

South Florida has emerged as the epicenter of identity theft scams, leading the nation’s largest metro areas in reports of identity theft for three straight years, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Porscha Kyles, 25, of Davie, pleaded guilty Monday to using her work computer to steal drivers’ names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and other personal information while working at the public counter in the traffic and misdemeanor division in the county courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

She then sold the information to another person who used it to file fraudulent income tax returns. The co-conspirator is not identified in court documents.

At a federal court hearing Monday afternoon, Kyles pleaded guilty to two felonies: a conspiracy charge and one count of aggravated identity theft.

“Crime doesn’t pay,” Kyles’ former boss, Broward Clerk of Courts Howard C. Forman, said Monday afternoon. “She deserves to serve time for what she did.”

In exchange for Kyles’ cooperation and insight into the scam, federal prosecutors will recommend a three-year prison term when Kyles is sentenced Jan. 6.

The number of South Florida identity complaints doubled from 2011 to 2012, the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book reported earlier this year.

Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties had 35,914 reports of identity theft in 2012 — or 645.4 complaints per 100,000 population, the FTC report said. In 2011, the number of reports was 17,546.

Recent court cases indicate employees in the workforce are turning to the computer systems they access at work to steal personal information.

Earlier this month, a Fort Lauderdale federal jury convicted a City of Miami police officer of using his department laptop to illegally look up random drivers’ personal information on a state database and fraudulently filing income tax returns with the information.

In July, a respiratory therapist for South Miami Hospital admitted in federal court that she stole the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of more than 800 patients.

A former patient scheduler at Boca Raton Regional Hospital was sentenced in July to one and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing patients’ identity information and passing the information on to another woman who used it to file as many as 56 fraudulent tax returns.

In February, a senior clerk at the Palm Beach Health Department was arrested and charged with using her job to steal identity information from more than 2,800 patients. She faces up to five years in prison when she is sentenced Jan. 9.

And back in 2011, a Broward School District employee was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison for pilfering teachers’ personal information and selling it to identity thieves.

Forman, Broward’s Clerk of Courts, wasn’t specific but said his office has “taken extra precautions” since Kyles’ arrest to ensure other employees aren’t tempted to do the same.

“Ninety-nine percent of our employees have been honest and they continue to be honest,” Forman said. “But, you always have to be on your guard.”

Kyles was fired in May after co-workers and state officials noticed suspicious computer database activity.

According to the federal indictment, Kyles was authorized to use the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ Driver and Vehicle Information Database while assisting local residents with traffic tickets and driver-related criminal cases.

But Kyles’ frequent use of the database triggered a red flag which led to the discovery that she was stealing motorists’ identities.

Court records did not specify how many identities were stolen, but U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum said Monday that there were at least 10 victims and the loss was between $120,000 and $200,000.

In exchange for Kyles’ guilty plea, federal prosecutors agreed to drop five additional felony charges.

Kyles will remain free on $100,000 bond until she is sentenced.

Staff researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.

tealanez@tribune.com, 954-356-4542 or Twitter @talanez

Article source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/crime/fl-court-clerk-id-theft-20131028,0,5490150.story

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4 Ways to Avoid Identity Theft

Monday, October 28th, 2013

4 Ways to Avoid Identity Theft

Lock up your Social Security card and other sensitive info

With Halloween coming up in a few days, October is a good time to think about spooky things that can frighten you financially. Topping the list: identity theft, which is a $10 billion problem impacting millions of Americans.

Unfortunately, a savvy cyber crook can take identity theft to a whole new level, stealing your sensitive personal information, financial data and even your tax refund check using little more than a laptop, a computer mouse and some well-honed hacking skills.

Besides the fact that identity theft is happening online more than ever, there’s another reason to consider your online financial security: October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

With these facts in mind, here are four ways to avoid ID theft, and stay financially safe.

Step #1: Remove your Social Security card from your wallet

If your purse or wallet contains your Social Security card, you’re asking for trouble, according to Adam Levin, a privacy expert and the chairman of Identity Theft 911.

Should your wallet get stolen, or you even briefly leave your purse unattended (at work, at social events, etc.), all a crook needs to do is get a peek at your Social Security number and write it down. They don’t even have to steal the card, so you might not know anything is amiss.

But just like that, you’ve given a criminal easy access to your SSN, which is the most important element s/he needs to make you the victim of identity theft.

Be careful too about other cards you keep in your wallet, like Medicare cards or others that may include your Social Security number.

“Find a way to bifurcate the [Social Security] number, or black it out,” Levin suggests.

Step #2: Store bank records and tax data in a secure location

Levin says that many people put all kind of sensitive tax data on their home or work computers, and then they fail to safeguard the information in any way.

“They don’t encrypt their computer or store it in a safe location. They finish their work and just leave it there. But if this stuff is sitting there, someone could easily come along and steal your data,” Levin says.

“Never ever store tax files on the cloud or an Internet drive or your own desktop,” he adds. “Save it and encrypt it in an encrypted thumb drive.”

You should also always have strong user names and passwords for your online accounts.

Besides the fact that identity theft is happening online more than ever, there’s another reason to consider your online financial security: October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Step #3: Be selective about who handles your tax forms

Doing your own taxes can be complicated. So it’s understandable to want to use an expert or a paid tax preparer to fill out all those IRS forms. But tread carefully if you’re using a mom and pop tax firm or some local business that you really don’t know.

Sometimes, “there are fraud rings that actually operate as if they’re legitimate tax preparation companies,” Levin notes. He explains that these firms will often emerge “like a pop up store” just in time for tax season.

“The problem is, people go in to get their taxes done and they give up their information, but a few days later these businesses leave,” Levin says. “That’s pretty scary,” because it’s not until weeks later—typically when taxpayers haven’t received a refund check—that customers realize the sham company isn’t even there anymore.

To avoid this fate, stick to better-known tax preparation businesses. Also, before doing business with any company you don’t know, be sure to check out the organization with the Better Business Bureau.

Likewise, take precautions when you’re letting an online firm prepare your taxes.

You might enter the URL or website address of a business you think you know, but fraudsters who want to collect a lot of people’s Social Security numbers have been known to re-direct consumers to clone sites.

“Then people think they’re working with a legitimate tax preparer and they’re not,” Levin says. “So you really need to take your time and pick the right tax company. If a person chooses convenience over security, that’s when you run into trouble.”

Step #4: Guard your mail and your trash

One favorite tactic of identity thieves is to steal your mail or paperwork you throw out that contains your personal information. Some identity thieves love go to “dumpster diving” in your trash; others will simply swipe your mail in order to get credit card account numbers, tax records, or your social security number.

So don’t just throw away financial records. Instead, shred those documents. And be on the lookout for your mail on days when you expect important items, like a paycheck or an IRS refund check.

A locked mailbox can also help. But an even better alternative, Levin recommends, is to always opt for direct deposit for tax refunds, your paycheck or other monthly payments you may get from Social Security, unemployment or any public assistance agency.

“This way,” Levin says, “at least thieves won’t be able to get your refund

Article source: http://www.ebony.com/career-finance/4-ways-to-avoid-identity-theft-444

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Intelligence Committee Chair claims health care site open to identity theft – WWMT

Monday, October 28th, 2013

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Updated: Monday, October 28 2013, 09:20 AM EDT
WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – The republican head of the House Intelligence Committee says problems with the health care overhaul website might leave users at risk for identity theft.

This comes as the site was down yet again Sunday.

Michigan Representative Mike Rogers heads up the House Intelligence Committee and he says with all the glitches the site has, those entering in their personal information are setting themselves up for identity theft and other cyber-crimes.

The Obama administration is promising to fix the new healthcare website by the end of November, but many say that’s too late.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addressed concerns over cyber threats in a blog post published over the weekend.

She says healthcare.gov quote – “doesn’t retain or store information” and she called the online marketplace a “model of efficiency and security.”

But Rogers says the site needs a complete overhaul to insure safety.

“They do not have an overarching solid cyber-security plan to prevent the loss of private information. I’m even more concerned today than I was even last week. I know that they’ve called in another private entity to try to help with the security of it. The problem is they may have to redesign the entire system. The way the system is designed, it is not secure,” said Mike Rogers on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley. 

And there’s a lot to watch in Washington this week. Monday kicks off another week of testimony before a House committee on the overhaul website.

Those responsible for it will be answering some tough questions.

In the meantime, some lawmakers are now calling for a delay in the so-called “individual mandate” which requires all Americans to have health insurance by March 31st of next year or pay a fine.

Intelligence Committee Chair claims health care site open to identity theft


Article source: http://wwmt.com/shared/news/features/top-stories/stories/wwmt_intelligence-committee-chair-claims-health-care-site-open-identity-theft-15067.shtml

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Man Sentenced For ID Theft, Defrauding Banks

Sunday, October 27th, 2013


An Ohio man has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison for identity theft crimes.
    
Federal authorities say 23-year-old Jermain Stevenson of Toledo was sentenced on his guilty plea to defrauding banks out of $62,000.
    
He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and was sentenced Wednesday.
    
Authorities say he used the Internet to steal names and Social Security and credit card numbers and used them to defraud banks that issue credit cards.
    
According to the government, at his sentencing evidence was presented that Stevenson continued to access computers from prison and directed others to illegally transfer money from Western Union and others.
    
The federal judge in Toledo recommended that Stevenson be denied computer access in prison.

Article source: http://www.10tv.com/content/stories/2013/10/27/ap-toledo-id-theft-sentencing.html

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House, senate pass identity theft protection measure

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

News







State Sen. Phil Pavlov-R co-sponsored a bill recently that might save his constituents a lot of grief caused by stolen identities. The bill puts a damper on thieves stealing unknowing citizens of their personal identifies.

Senate Bill 174 unanimously passed the Michigan senate and house and is getting implemented.

Identity theft occurs when someone’s social security number is stolen and used for personal gain. These criminals can open up lines of credit, get their driver’s licenses and even buy houses using another person’s identity, said Pavlov. The new law will allow an individual to block access to their credit report upon request, protecting Michigan residents from disreputable people who would ruin their credit, sometimes, without any remorse.

Child identity theft is also on the rise, he said. The largest study on child identity theft was conducted in 2010. The results, in a press release from Pavlov’s office were unsettling: of 40,000 children, 10.2 percent, or 4,311 children, were victims of identity theft.

“I am proud to co-sponsor laws that will protect Michigan residents from identity theft, which is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States,” said Pavlov. “What is really sad is they prey on kids. Someone is using their information while they’re out playing baseball. Then, when they’re 16 or 18, and want to open up an account to begin building up their credit, they find out.”

One of the services of the state attorney general’s office is to provide “consumer alerts that inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices.” According to the State of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, each of the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – will now allow citizens to deny access to their credit reports by freezing their credit account.

“If you place a security freeze, potential creditors and other third parties will not be able to get access to your credit report unless you temporarily lift the freeze,” stated Schuette. “This will make it more difficult for an identity thief to open a new account in your name.”

A security freeze is free to identity theft victims or $10 each to place a freeze with the three credit reporting agencies and another $10 for each company to lift the freeze in order to conduct business, like opening up a new bank account or applying for a loan. Schuette also stated that placing a security freeze does not affect your credit score – nor does it keep you from getting your free annual credit report, or from buying your credit report or score. For more information on freezing a credit report, go to the Attorney General’s website at michigan.gov/ag, then type in “credit freeze” in the search window.

Contact Jeri Packer at (586) 716-8100, ext 302; jeri.packer@voicenews.com or on Twitter @JeriPacker.

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State Sen. Phil Pavlov-R co-sponsored a bill recently that might save his constituents a lot of grief caused by stolen identities. The bill puts a damper on thieves stealing unknowing citizens of their personal identifies.

Senate Bill 174 unanimously passed the Michigan senate and house and is getting implemented.

Identity theft occurs when someone’s social security number is stolen and used for personal gain. These criminals can open up lines of credit, get their driver’s licenses and even buy houses using another person’s identity, said Pavlov. The new law will allow an individual to block access to their credit report upon request, protecting Michigan residents from disreputable people who would ruin their credit, sometimes, without any remorse.

Child identity theft is also on the rise, he said. The largest study on child identity theft was conducted in 2010. The results, in a press release from Pavlov’s office were unsettling: of 40,000 children, 10.2 percent, or 4,311 children, were victims of identity theft.

“I am proud to co-sponsor laws that will protect Michigan residents from identity theft, which is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States,” said Pavlov. “What is really sad is they prey on kids. Someone is using their information while they’re out playing baseball. Then, when they’re 16 or 18, and want to open up an account to begin building up their credit, they find out.”

One of the services of the state attorney general’s office is to provide “consumer alerts that inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices.” According to the State of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, each of the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – will now allow citizens to deny access to their credit reports by freezing their credit account.

“If you place a security freeze, potential creditors and other third parties will not be able to get access to your credit report unless you temporarily lift the freeze,” stated Schuette. “This will make it more difficult for an identity thief to open a new account in your name.”

A security freeze is free to identity theft victims or $10 each to place a freeze with the three credit reporting agencies and another $10 for each company to lift the freeze in order to conduct business, like opening up a new bank account or applying for a loan. Schuette also stated that placing a security freeze does not affect your credit score – nor does it keep you from getting your free annual credit report, or from buying your credit report or score. For more information on freezing a credit report, go to the Attorney General’s website at michigan.gov/ag, then type in “credit freeze” in the search window.

Contact Jeri Packer at (586) 716-8100, ext 302; jeri.packer@voicenews.com or on Twitter @JeriPacker.

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Article source: http://www.voicenews.com/articles/2013/10/26/news/doc526acc71d9c9a983566143.txt

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SRS employees affected by cyber identity theft

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Savannah River Site employees have been affected by a cyber identity theft incident that includes approximately 104,000 Department of Energy past and present federal employees.

“SRS employees are impacted, but I don’t have a total number,” DOE-SR representative James Giusti wrote in an email. “Some contractor employees and some DOE retirees are also impacted.”

Article source: http://www.aikenstandard.com/article/20131026/AIK0101/131029601/1004/srs-employees-affected-by-cyber-identity-theft

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NW Ohio man gets 8 years in ID theft investigation

Sunday, October 27th, 2013


An Ohio man has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison for identity theft crimes.

Federal authorities say 23-year-old Jermain Stevenson of Toledo was sentenced on his guilty plea to defrauding banks out of $62,000.

He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and was sentenced Wednesday.

Authorities say he used the Internet to steal names and Social Security and credit card numbers and used them to defraud banks that issue credit cards.

According to the government, at his sentencing evidence was presented that Stevenson continued to access computers from prison and directed others to illegally transfer money from Western Union and others.

The federal judge in Toledo recommended that Stevenson be denied computer access in prison.

Article source: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/26/3712910/nw-ohio-man-gets-8-years-in-id.html

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Experian Breach Fallout: ID Theft Nightmares Continue

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Let’s review the ID theft landscape: A big business that earns millions from the buying and selling of personal information about you — social security numbers, addresses, bank account details — loses that information in a data breach, or maybe accidentally sells it to overseas fraudsters.

What happens next? Well, the business — which, legally speaking, has no business relationship with you and thus can’t be sued for the loss unless some immediate harm can be proven — goes on buying and selling personal data. Consumers, however, get to keep looking over their shoulders, and bank statements, and credit card statements, wondering if some secreted stash of their personal information offered for sale via a foreign server is being bought and sold by data brokers’ underground counterparts — namely, ID thieves.

That’s the situation that one InformationWeek reader I’ll call “Ann” — she asked to remain anonymous — now finds herself in, after the news broke that an Experian subsidiary called Court Ventures was selling information directly to Superget.info, a Vietnamese fraudster service that offered customers the ability to look up millions of Americans’ social security and driver’s license numbers and financial information.

[ It’s not just Experian. See NSA Harvests Personal Contact Lists, Too. ]

“I am possibly a victim of these people, but don’t know for sure. In my case, seemingly MasterCard accounts were targeted — a few fraudulent charges on one card, a few more on another a week or two later, and then the fraudulent creation of an online account on a third credit card for which I hadn’t chosen to create my own online account,” said Ann, who’s the president of a small software company that sells point-of-sale software for restaurants. “When the fraudulent online account was created, it contained updates to my home address and phone number, among other changes. This was enough for the credit card company to forward an address change for me to the credit bureaus.”

But Ann, who started her career as a Fortran and Cobol programmer and previously worked in the finance sector, said she wasn’t tipped off about the ID theft until she received a letter that asked her to confirm a bogus address change. “At that point I alerted the credit bureaus, and am in the process of getting this mess fixed,” she said. “Fortunately, the credit card companies caught this before fraudulent charges hit my statements, but it’s a time-consuming nightmare.”

One of the rubs in these situations is that when a consumer like Ann spots that her identity has been stolen, the culprit may not be clear. Indeed, her personally identifiable information (PII) may have been stolen several years ago, and only recently put to use.

Not coincidentally, when the Department of Justice announced the arrest of Vietnamese national Hieu Minh Ngo, 24, earlier this week on a 15-count indictment that included numerous identity theft and fraud charges, it alleged that over a three-year period he’d “offered for sale, sold and/or transferred to others packages of PII for more than 500,000 individuals.”

What the Justice Department statement didn’t mention, however, was that much of this resold data was purchased from a U.S. data broker known as Court Ventures, which Experian bought last year. We know about that flow of data thanks to investigative reporter Brian Krebs, who traced two-character and three-character “sourceID” data attached to information being sold by the “fraudster-friendly site” Superget.info — allegedly operated by Ngo and a “John Doe” co-conspirator — back to USInfoSearch.com, a legitimate data broker which previously pooled its data with Court Ventures for resale.

“The suspect in this case obtained access to U.S. Info Search data through Court Ventures prior to the time Experian acquired the company,” an Experian spokesman said via email. According to Krebs, the Vietnamese criminals tricked Court Ventures into thinking they were U.S.-based private investigators. A missed red flag was that their payments always came via wire transfer from Singapore.

The obvious next step for Experian would be to issue data breach notifications to the more than 500,000 Americans affected by the breach, as well as offer identity theft services. Helpfully, of course, Experian already has the victims’ postal addresses — since it buys and sells this information — so they will be easy to find. In addition, Experian has its own ID theft monitoring service. That said, consumers might prefer that Experian contract with a third party, given that the company itself learned of the data breach not via due diligence of Court Ventures prior to the acquisition, but after the fact, courtesy of the U.S. Secret Service.

Article source: http://www.informationweek.com/security/privacy/experian-breach-fallout-id-theft-nightma/240163098

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