Archive for July, 2014

Identity theft program

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 6:00 am

Identity theft program

Enterprise report

Calaveras Enterprise

A program on Wednesday teaches seniors and their loved ones about how to protect themselves from elder abuse, scams and identity theft. In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Justice reported that about 16.6 million people were victims of identity theft, resulting in an estimated loss of around $24 billion. The impact of identity theft on lives can be drastic, affecting personal or work relationships or resulting in emotional distress. Hosted by Wine, Women and Wealth of Calaveras County, the free two-hour presentation begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 30, at the Ebbetts Pass Fire Station, 10137 Blagen Road, Arnold.

For more information, call 728-8008 or email bonnie@bonniekuhn.com.

© 2014 Calaveras Enterprise. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Article source: http://www.calaverasenterprise.com/news/article_dc60dfba-16a9-11e4-add4-0019bb2963f4.html

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Eugene police looking for burglary, identity theft suspects – The Register

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Eugene police are asking for the public’s help in identifying two male suspects accused of stealing credit cards, jewelry and a work truck from a southwest Eugene home earlier this month, police said today.

The two men, described as being between 18 and 25 years old , are believed to have burglarized a home in the 2000 block of Hawkins Lane in southwest Eugene on July 13, Eugene police detective Rick Lowe said. The burglars stole jewelry, credit cards, power tools and a construction truck. The vehicle was later recovered by the Lane County Sheriff’s Office in northwest Eugene, Lowe said.

The homeowners were out of town attending the Oregon Country Fair that night, Lowe said.

Police also are looking for a female suspected of using the stolen credit card at the Orange Julius at Valley River Center, Lowe said.

So far, the thieves have put about $1,000 on the credit cards at six different locations in Eugene, including at Walmart, Lowe said.

Surveillance photos show the two men carrying two packs of Mason jars outside of Walmart. One of the men was wearing blue reflective plastic sunglasses.

Rowe said police are waiting for test results from DNA and fingerprint evidence collected after the burglary.

Anyone with information is asked to call Lowe at 541-682-5573.

Article source: http://registerguard.com/rg/news/local/31934127-75/eugene-lowe-police-credit-suspects.html.csp

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WINK News anchor fights to clear name after ID theft

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, according to the FBI, with a new victim every two seconds.

And it can happen to anybody.

WINK News asked me to share my story after discovering my personal information was hacked earlier this month.  If we haven’t met, let me introduce myself: I’m Cayle Thompson. 

I say those three words every day, in every newscast in which I appear.  My name and face are there for everybody to see.  But suddenly, my name and reputation are at risk.  Somebody else is using them to commit crimes.  I am now on a mission to repair the damage done by a total stranger who doesn’t know Cayle Thompson, and doesn’t care. 

We don’t know yet how my identity was stolen, and we don’t know who did it. But I know who caught it, and I am grateful.

Karen Seiferth is in charge of Human Resources at WINK-TV. She’s delightful and witty, with a framed motto on her desk that reads: “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Journalists can appreciate sarcasm. I appreciate Karen Seiferth all the more after this experience.

She received a document in the mail that would make most HR directors think I was no longer with the company.

“I saw you in the hall, and I saw you on the news,” Seiferth told me. “I knew you were still here.”

She handed me the document as we sat in her office. It took me a moment to realize what it was: an application for unemployment containing my full legal name and my social security number. My social security number.

“My hackles went up because I knew it was fraud,” Seiferth said.

She assured me I wasn’t in trouble and that the appropriate officials within the state’s re-employment office were on the case. A fraud investigation was already underway.

I wish that’s where the story ended, but it’s not.

My producers allowed me to take the rest of the day off. Phone calls had to be made, letters drafted, and emails sent. I called my bank and mortgage company. I called the three credit reporting agencies and requested a free fraud alert on my accounts. I spoke with a woman at the Federal Trade Commission and filled out an FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. I went to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and made a full report. I visited the Social Security Administration office on Colonial Boulevard. Aside from the unemployment claim, I had no idea of how or when or where my identity had been used.

And I still don’t. That’s part of what makes the experience so terrifying.

We discovered the crook tried to take out at least two loans in my name. The credit companies couldn’t give me any information by phone or email without documentation, including the LCSO and FTC reports. Fortunately, the loan requests were denied.

I signed up for credit monitoring with Experian.  It costs me $20 a month.  Not a bad price to pay for peace of mind, I thought.  If it works.

We do stories all the time on identity theft. We speak with victims. We speak with experts. I spoke with LCSO fraud specialist Beth Schell.

“We probably average about 400 calls a month,” Schell says.  “Anybody can become a victim of identity theft. Literally from a baby, to somebody who is 100 years old.”

Schell says the theft of government benefits using fraudulent identities is on the rise. This month, dozens of people were arrested in Collier County, accused of using stolen social security numbers to obtain jobs. Many are illegal immigrants.

According to the FTC, Florida has the unflattering distinction of reporting more identity thefts per capita than any other state. Equally unsettling, Cape Coral-Fort Myers ranks sixth in the nation among cities. Naples-Marco Island comes in at number three.

“We are a nation of convenience,” Schell says. “We want things quick and we want it now. Unfortunately, that has opened up a whole new can of worms for identity theft.”

Applying for benefits online is meant to be easier than standing in line. But online applications also allow thieves to collect benefits using stolen identities, without the fear of a security camera catching their face. Computer IP addresses can be traced, but many lead back to WiFi hotspots, hotel rooms, coffee shops.

Experts say the best you can do is to act quickly once you discover you are a victim.

First, check your credit reports and ask for a free fraud alert. File a complaint with local law enforcement and share any evidence you have. Remember to call the Federal Trade Commission and request an FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. Inform your banks and credit card companies. And if needed, request the Social Security Administration place a block on your number.

On a personal note, take the time to get to know your Human Resources Director. You never know when it might pay off.

Because of Karen Seiferth, we think we caught on early. And with the steps I’ve taken since, I’ve seen no evidence of continued activity under my name.  But the fact remains that my information is out there, in the hands of a crook, and I don’t know when or if they’ll try again.

Article source: http://www.winknews.com/Call-for-Action/2014-07-28/WINK-News-anchor-fights-to-clear-name-after-ID-theft

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POLICE BEAT: Identity theft reported in Palo Alto

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Items selected are from the daily police logs of the cities listed below. Times shown are when the incidents were reported to the police

TV CRIME: A 50-foot flat screen television was stolen from a residence on Nora Way in Atherton between 9 a.m. and 7:45 p.m. Thursday.

Menlo Park

Friday

600 block of Santa Cruz Avenue, 1 p.m.: A bicycle was stolen.

200 block of Ivy Drive, 1:16 p.m.: An overnight vehicle theft occurred.

Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road, 2:17 p.m.: A hit and run occurred, resulting in property damage.

800 block of Santa Cruz Avenue, 2:45 p.m.: A 33-year-old Hayward man was arrested for possessing drugs.

Sand Hill Road and Monte Rosa Drive, 3:40 p.m.: A vehicle accident occurred, resulting in a minor injury. One person was transported to the hospital.

West Bayshore Road and Green Street, 9:34 p.m.: A 26-year-old Newark man was arrested in East Palo Alto for being drunk in public.

Saturday

Willow Road and Bayfront Expressway, 12:33 a.m.: A 54-year-old East Palo Alto man was arrested for driving drunk.

Unit block of Lassen Court, 3:51 p.m.: A residence was burglarized.

Sunday

First block of Hesketh Drive, 2:02 a.m.: A mailbox was vandalized.

600 block of Sharon Park Drive, 8:11 a.m.: A vehicle was burglarized overnight.

300 block of Sharon Park Drive, 8:26 a.m.: Items were stolen during a vehicle burglary.

700 block of Coleman Avenue, 6:54 a.m.: A 40-year-old man was cited for being under the influence of drugs.

Ivy Drive and Willow Road, 11:57 a.m.: A 64-year-old man was cited for driving under the influence of drugs.

1300 block of Crane Street, 2:59 p.m.: A vehicle was vandalized.

600 block of Sharon Park Drive, 3:16 p.m.: A petty theft was reported.

First block of Willow Road, 7:52 p.m.: A dog bite was reported.

Menalto Avenue and Okeefe Street, 10:26 p.m.: A vehicle accident caused damage to a property’s fence.

1100 block of Marsh Road, 11:58 p.m.: A 53-year-old Redwood City man was cited and arrested for being under the influence of drugs.

Palo Alto

THURSDAY

300 block of University Avenue, 1 p.m.: Identity theft was reported; a person’s credit cards were used.

1700 block of Waverley Street, 2:04 p.m.: Harassing phone calls were reported.

FRIDAY

400 block of Lytton Avenue, 5:07 p.m.: A 61-year-old Menlo Park man was arrested for public intoxication.

Los Altos

FRIDAY

200 block of South San Antonio Road, 12:47 a.m.: Theft was reported.

SATURDAY

300 block of North Avalon Drive, 2:43 a.m.: A residence was burglarized.

Mountain View

FRIDAY

200 block of South Rengstorff Avenue, 8:35 a.m.: A vehicle was stolen.

800 block of Castro Street: Petty theft was reported.

1900 block of West El Camino Real, 2 p.m.: Petty theft was reported.

700 block of East El Camino Real, 10:32 p.m.: Petty theft was reported.

SATURDAY

1900 block of Crisanto Avenue, 2:22 p.m.: A vehicle was burglarized.

800 block of Jordan Avenue, 7:03 p.m.: Vandalism was reported.

Article source: http://www.mercurynews.com/peninsula/ci_26233730/police-beat-identity-theft-reported-palo-alto

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Almost 13 million people were the victims of identity theft in 2012; are you …

Monday, July 28th, 2014

What comes to your mind when you hear “identity theft”? Possibly, some undesirable has used one of your credit cards to make a purchase. Now you need to contact the credit card company, if it has not contacted you by the time you get your monthly statement. Hopefully, you can prove the purchase in question was not one of your transactions.

Next step is cancel that card and get a new one issued. Be sure the credit card company moves any bonus or reward points that you have to your new card. Now you can either contact each entity that you have on a monthly payment on that card, or wait until you get a notice that the payment did not process, then record the new card information.

This can be quite a frustrating process to go through, but it pales compared to having your identity stolen and sold to criminals around this great country or even around the world. You may be driving around one beautiful day and make a “California Stop” and be greeted by one of Santa Rosa’s finest. He takes your license to his car and does a check, only to come back to your car and directs you to get out of your car and put your hands behind your back. This is a possibility when your background is switched by someone with a criminal history.

Identity theft not a “fullz” errand

Cybercriminals can make a lot of money, nontaxable, with your identity. Information packages, called “fullz,” can fetch $500 or more on the market. The packages may contain full names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses with corresponding passwords, dates of birth, Social Security numbers (accessible in more than 34 billion cyberplaces), employer ID numbers and financial data such as bank account info, including account and routing numbers, online banking credentials, credit card information including mag stripe data with associated PINs.

These information packages can also be accompanied by counterfeit physical documents including credit cards, drivers licenses, insurance cards and more.

RFID cards are vulnerable

Newer credit cards are being issued using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. This gives a card more flexibility at retail. But for a hundred dollars or so one can purchase a reader online that will allow them to pass by a person and capture all the information stored within that card. A TV documentary recently showed how easy one can take that information and transfer it to a hotel room key with a mag stripe and start using it as a debit card.

Medical records at risk

Your biggest nightmare can begin when you find out that your medical information has been taken from you and you receive one that has negative medical issues. This  may be unknown until you are trying to get a large loan that will require a medical search. You get rejected due to your records saying you have a life-threatening illness. It is possible that you would be billed for medical care you did not receive. Now you need to convince some entity that it was not you.

Majoring in minors

 One of the most cherished identities to steal is that of a minor. Most newborns are given a Social Security number for any number of reasons. Thieves know they may be able to use that number for 16 to 18 years, when a youth may start working, until the deviousness is detected.

 Many persons may feel that if the government is asking for confidential information to sign up for a program that it will be permissible to provide the data. But there is a potential problem lurking out there.

When enrollment started for the Affordable Care Act, thousands of “navigators” were assisting citizens through the process. Many are not registered. So far about 23 states have mandated background checks. What about the ones not registered?

Millions of ID thefts in the U.S. annually

It is estimated that over 12 million Americans have their identities stolen every year. As of now, close to one-third have been part of an identity breach, and the numbers are growing. There is not a program anywhere that is 100 percent fail safe, but I represent one that will give you peace of mind if you follow it and a restoration program if your identity is compromised.

Mike Runyan is past owner of Food4Less and was a member of the Santa Rosa City Council. Currently he is president of Skyhawk Village Marketplace on Highway 12 and is an associate with LegalShield (legalshieldassociate.com/runyanjm, runyanjm@legalshieldassociate.com or 707-484-3663).

Article source: http://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/95553/almost-13-million-people-were-the-victims-of-identity-theft-in-2012-are-you-protected/

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Medical identity theft can threaten health as well as bank account

Monday, July 28th, 2014

45 minutes 33 seconds ago by Julia Dahl – CBS News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Police aren’t necessarily going to put resources toward investigating the $5,000 surgery you didn’t have,” she says.

So, if a lone thief steals your identity and starts using it to get medical care, chances are he or she could get away with it – at least for now.

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

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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

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Shop for identity theft protection that suits you

Monday, July 28th, 2014

We’ve all heard the news reports of recent data breaches at big retailers, like Target, Nordstrom, TJ Maxx and Michaels. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there have been more than 400 data breaches in 2014, so far.

Clearly, we can no longer completely control who sees our personal information.

Given that fact, you might be asking yourself if it’s time to purchase identity theft protection. For every person, the answer to that question is different and will depend on how much effort you’re willing to spend to protect yourself, your tolerance for risk, and how much money you’re willing to pay. But, here are some things you should consider before you do.

What services will the protection provide?

Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you know what you’re purchasing. There are many different types of identity theft protection:

• Credit monitoring: This service informs you of changes on your credit reports and gives you a summary of your credit report, upon request. Here, you’d be able to see if someone has been given a line of credit, like a mortgage or credit card, in your name. Unfortunately, credit monitoring only helps with financial identity theft and doesn’t help you with other forms, such as medical, criminal, government services, etc. In addition, it won’t alert you if someone has taken over an existing account.

• Identity theft insurance: These are insurance programs that you can add on to an existing policy, like your homeowner’s insurance, that reimburse you for costs associated with recovering your identity, but not necessarily for your losses. You’ll need to read the fine print of your policy. Make sure you have a low deductible and that the policy covers any identity theft case that unknowingly existed before you purchased the insurance.

• Victim resolution or restitution services: If you’re ever a victim of identity theft, these services will help restore your identity and clear all fraudulent records created by an identity thief. Again, you’ll want to make sure that the product covers any identity theft case that unknowingly existed before you purchased the service. Ask about the fees and the services provided. Do they cover all types of identity theft (financial, criminal, governmental services, etc.)? Research the company by checking them out at bbb.org.

Can you get the same protection yourself for free?

There are some (but not all) credit monitoring services that you can do yourself for free. The real question is, will you? It’s easy to do.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. You could spread them out, and make those requests once every four months. However, the Identity Theft Resource Center doesn’t recommend it since each of the credit bureaus report different things.

To get started, go to annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. Be prepared to provide personal information, such as your social security number, to verify that you’re really you. And beware of look-alike sites that either want to charge you for the information, or are a ploy to steal your personal information.

For more information, check out the Identity Theft Resource Center at idtheftcenter.org or call 888-400-5530.

— Susan Bach is regional director of the Better Business Bureau for northeastern Wisconsin. She can be reached at sbach@wisconsin.bbb.org or 920-734-4352.

Article source: http://www.postcrescent.com/story/money/2014/07/27/shop-identity-theft-protection-suits/13184435/

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Madigan warns Elgin conference about consumer fraud, identity theft

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

ELGIN — When odd charges show up on a credit card statement, a bank alert tags a high debit card transaction, or an annual credit report check shows unpaid utility bills, there are things residents can do, said Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

In addition to local police reports, Madigan advised residents to “call us. We are here to help,” she said.

Madigan, representatives from her office, and more than 50 elected officials, police department representatives and many from organizations that give aid to residents were at the Centre of Elgin Wednesday for a round table discussion on consumer fraud and identity theft.

The Attorney General’s office reached out to her staff to bring the event to Elgin, said State Rep. Anna Moeller of Elgin.

Madigan left before the event was finished, heading to Washington, D.C., to testify on college loan debt collection scams.

Each year, Madigan said, between 25,000 to 30,000 people file a complaint to her office because of scams and other fraud.

One of the biggest problems they have seen in the past 10 years comes from the data breaches and identity thefts surrounding large companies. Target saw a huge breach right around 2013 holiday season, but craft store Michael’s and online retailer Ebay have also had breaches, she noted.

“A lot of people in our office found charges even before the notification occurred,” she said of the Target breach.

“Right now, they estimate that since 2005-06 there have been 4,000 major data breeches in this country,” she added.

There are things consumers can do to protect themselves from data breaches and other incidents that can leave their personal financial information at risk, Madigan said.

It would help, she said, if consumers used cash more often and plastic less often for small purchases. But for many, that isn’t an easy option either.

“If you are not going to do that, put a transaction alert on your cards,” that alerts the card holder if more than a set amount is being charged to the card. Then, the cardholder can stop the transaction as quickly as possible.

Reading bank and credit card statements also helps catch unauthorized transactions quickly, she said.

Then, using the federal law that allows consumers to get a free copy of their credit reports once a year also helps to ensure no unusual charges are happening. Madigan suggested creating calendar alerts that remind residents to check with one of the three credit reporting agencies once every four months — so that in a calendar year people can see what each agency is reporting.

Scams are also a way residents can have their financial security threatened, said Lizveth Mendez, community outreach liaison for the Attorney General’s office.

Often, senior citizens and youth are the targets of those scams.

The longer a scammer can keep a senior citizen on the phone, the more likely it is that person will fall for a scam, Mendez said. They counsel seniors to “just hang up,” and not listen to the spiel the scammer is selling them.

While many in the audience work with seniors and residents, it was a nice reminder of what the Attorney General’s office and other organizations can do when a resident is the victim of identity theft, said South Elgin Chief of Police Chris Merritt.

“Identity theft is a serious problem, especially in our senior community. We work with Kane County Triad and our detectives often on this,” Merritt said.

It was also a good primer for someone who has not yet started building credit. Often, young people can find out their credit has been compromised even before they start seeking credit cards.

Evangeline Bero, 16, is interning for Moeller this summer and sat in on the roundtable.

“I actually want to go home an check my credit now. You don’t know until you check and I will apply for loans for college soon. I might not be able to if my credit is bad,” she said.

Article source: http://couriernews.suntimes.com/2014/07/24/madigan-warns-elgin-conference-consumer-fraud-identity-theft/

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Preying on the Vulnerable: Foster Youth Face High Risk of Identity Theft

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Children in foster care are at greater risk of becoming victims of identity theft and entering adulthood with their credit already in shambles, experts say.

Child advocates say that foster youth are particularly vulnerable to identity theft because they bounce from one home to another, giving an expanding group of adults access to their private information. There are no national figures on the problem, but one Los Angeles County study found that eight percent of 16 and 17 year old foster kids had fraudulent charges on their credit reports. Most had thousands of dollars in accounts in their name. (Advocates add that the rate of identity theft would appear higher if the California study accounted for fraud that happened before age 16 or after age 18.)

Child welfare experts and government officials say foster children in every state face similar issues. And although state and federal lawmakers have in recent years passed laws to protect foster youth from identity theft, the fixes are not working for all children, advocates say.

“We see young people with credit open up in their names; they’re in massive debt for things like houses, utilities, cars; people get jobs in their names,” says Sam Cobbs, the who directs First Place for Youth, a California organization for foster kids. “They come into contact with so many group homes and social workers, relatives and foster parents, there’s no shortage of opportunities for people to steal their identities.”

Lenique Carter, 24, was confused about why three different rental companies turned her down for apartments in the last year. “They said I had bad credit,” she said, “but I shouldn’t have any credit at all.”

Carter is an upbeat and confident 24-year-old African American woman with a lanky frame and short cut hair who goes everywhere with her backpack that holds a toothbrush, some extra clothes and a notebook. She doesn’t have a credit card, hasn’t taken out any loans and uses a pay-as-you-go cell phone. She’s been in good health and says she tries to live frugally. But according to her credit report, Carter has been in and out of the hospital for the last six years, has racked up over nearly $5,000 in hospital bills and bought nearly $500 in jewelry on credit.

Carter is one of what advocates say could be tens of thousands of young people who’ve spent time in foster care in the U.S. and have been victims of identity theft.

With the pro bono support of a local law firm and a youth advocacy group Carter now has free legal support to help her clear up her credit, but this could take more than a year. It’s a wait that Carter can scarcely afford: she still has no permanent place to live and has spent three nights this month sleeping on the Blue Line train. On a good night, she waits at an L.A. community center for gay and lesbian youth until it closes, or sits on a bench after her shift at Wal-Mart, and then nabs whatever space she can on a relative’s floor or a friend’s couch.

Despite the instability, Carter speaks with nonchalance about her circumstances, saying, “I make it work, you know.” It’s an outlook that’s not uncommon for foster youth, who often have few others to rely on but themselves.

Carter was 16 when the county placed her and her younger sister in foster care after police raided their mother’s house looking for drugs. Carter can’t count all the social workers and relatives who were supposed to be in charge of her life after she was taken from her mother. “I bounced around, ran away, went back, bounced around again,” she said. What she knows is that somebody or several people—she suspects a relative and a worker at a group home—used her Social Security number.

“Someone’s been living on my name, and it’s messing up my life.”

Along with paying for medical bills and jewelry, someone also used her identity to try to get a job. She believes someone she knows, who would have found her Social Security number in one of her group homes where she lived before she turned 18, used her identity in applications because she has a clean criminal record that will pass an employer background check. As a result of the identity theft, Carter now owes nearly $600 in back taxes from 2010, a year she did not work. In 2012, California began garnishing her wages from T.J. Maxx, where she worked stocking shelves. Her bank even put the 36 cents in her account on hold.

“Someone’s been living on my name, and it’s messing up my life,” says Carter, who is dressed in new jeans and a dress shirt one recent afternoon for a meeting with Sasha Stern, an attorney with the Alliance for Children’s Rights, a Los Angeles-based legal services provider who’s helping to clear Carter’s credit. “I’ve been doing everything right, but this messed me up.”

“The number of foster youth who come to us who have I.D. theft is unbelievable,” said Stern.

About 25,000 young people age-out of the foster care system each year, and according to Mark Courtney, a leading researcher on the child welfare system, “they are instantly rendered economically precarious.” Without family supports, these youth often face homelessness, drug addiction and jail.

“We know foster youth are in debt, and vulnerable to all sorts of practices that put them behind,” said Courtney, a professor at the School of Social Services Administration at the University of Chicago. Courtney added that because many foster youth are also in the juvenile just system, they’re sometimes also burdened in adulthood by legal fees from youthful charges. And he said, unlike youth with strong family ties, “foster youth are less likely to have relationships with a relative who can advise them and more likely to have people around who would do harm.”

In 2011, Congress passed a bill that included a provision requiring child welfare agencies to provide all 16-18 year old foster youth with free credit checks and help interpret and resolve inconsistencies before they age out of the system. Before the federal legislation, California and several other states had already passed similar bills. But advocates say that state and federal laws have not been fully implemented, and even when checks are run, thousands of young people still age out of the system with unresolved credit issues as a result of fraud.

“There’s no teeth behind the requirement,” says Cobbs. “Case workers are notoriously overburdened, and these requirements are not always followed.” Cobbs adds that the credit reporting agencies have not always been easy to work with.

In 2010, L.A. County launched a pilot partnership between the Department of Family and Children’s Services and the Department of Consumer Affairs to clear up the credit of any foster youth. It was the first effort to ensure that no foster youth ages out of foster care with bad credit.

“Our goal is to run the names of any kids who turn 16,” said Rigo Reyes, who runs the program for the L.A. Department of Consumer Affairs. The program went into full effect this year, and Reyes’ office is culling through 1,600 potentially fraudulent credit reports from foster kids over the age of 16. “Once we get the reports back, we clear anything that is in the report that should not be there and then freeze the report till they’re 18.”

Since 2010, Reyes said, the L.A. program has cleared nearly 500 foster youth’s credit.

Advocates around the country have applauded the Los Angeles program as a model, and other California counties are looking to implement similar systems. But Sasha Stern and other service providers in Los Angeles say that many foster youth fall through the cracks, even in L.A. Some find that their Social Security numbers are being used after they turn 18 by people who had access to them when they were children.

Reyes says his office will still help adults who were formerly in foster care, but he acknowledged that these former foster youth may not know how to access the assistance. “Many foster youth are cut off from supports after they age out,” he says. And those like Carter are still struggling with credit fraud that occurred before the L.A. program went into effect.

“Foster youth end up getting hit from all angles.”

Colleen Gonzalez’s identity was initially stolen when she was a teenage foster kid, years before the L.A. program was implemented. Now 23 and raising a one-year-old daughter, Gonzalez says that old fraud is making it difficult for her to live fully. On a recent evening, she came home to her one bedroom Long Beach apartment around 9 p.m. after a shift at her part-time pet supply store job. She collapsed onto the couch and took a moment to sit with her daughter, Julie, who climbed into Gonzalez’s arms and pulled at her earrings. Julie had spent the day with her aunt and had taken a late nap.

“For me, it’s been one thing after another,” Gonzalez said after getting settled. “I try to get ahead but it’s hard when you have these credit issues, and the state chasing you for things that happened when you were a kid.”

Image: Colleen GonzalezAnn Johansson / for NBC News

Gonzalez landed in foster care after what she describes as years of abuse by her mother. Like Carter, someone used her Social Security number, racking up significant credit card debt in her name. Gonzalez and her lawyer believe it was a close relative.

Youth advocates say poor parents or other family members often use their young relatives’ social security numbers out of economic necessity.

“It’s not family members going out to harm kids; it’s family members trying to provide the basic necessities,” said Cobbs. “But regardless of why they do it, out of need or something more sinister, the impact is the same.”

Recently, Gonzalez tried to buy a used car, but the dealer asked her for a large down payment because she had bad credit. “They wanted $6,000 down because I could not get financing,” she said. Gonzalez suspects that her credit history is hurting her with potential employers, too. Although she has applied for several retail jobs, she never gets called back. “I don’t really know what else it could be,” she said.

Credit problems aren’t the only worries of foster youth like Gonzalez. “In addition, they are at risk of predatory financial practices—from high interest car loans to unscrupulous for-profit universities,” Cobbs said. “Foster youth end up getting hit from all angles.”

Gonzalez had a full time job at a pet supply store for several years, but last year, a letter from the L.A. County Courts arrived at work. It said the county planned to begin garnishing her wages to cover an outstanding legal fee from a minor juvenile conviction. The fees have since been waived by a court, but her employer fired her several weeks after the letter arrived. “There was never any problem before,” Gonzalez says. “And then the letter came and they were looking for a reason to let me go.”

Gonzalez has other credit issues too. The only thing on her report that she’s actually responsible for is $1,000 in debt to Everest College, a for-profit intuition that has come under investigation from the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and attorneys general in a dozen states over whether the schools lied about student job placement and completion rates. In June, federal officials froze the payout of government education subsidies to Everest’s parent company, leading to announcements that dozens of campuses will be sold or closed. Though the company is in crisis, Gonzalez, who never graduated from Everest, still owes the institution money.

According to child advocates, many foster youth attend for-profit universities because of promises of fast access to a career. Though records from the state of California show that just 6 percent of federal education grants for foster youth in California—usually $5,000 annually—went to for-profit institutions, many foster youth who are eligible for these grants don’t learn of them, and end up in debt without a degree to show for it.

Now, with only a part-time job, Gonzalez has paid the last three months rent using money from her 2013 tax return, but that’s gone. She’s not sure how she’ll pay next month’s rent.

Lenique Carter is still having trouble with housing, too. Last week, she applied for another apartment and was turned down.

“Honestly, I have not had a good night sleep where I can wake up and say, ‘oh good morning everybody,’ well, it’s been years,” Carter said. “I’d like a place to be able to do that in.”

This story was produced with support from the independent Economic Hardship Reporting Project, a journalism non-profit dedicated to stories about inequality.

Article source: http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/in-plain-sight/preying-vulnerable-foster-youth-face-high-risk-identity-theft-n157641

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Target involved in another identity theft incident

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Retail giant Target may have created more targets following a massive data breach.

After data on some 110 million customers was lost, the company offered free identity theft protection from Experian.

The problem: Experian also had a data leak and unknowingly sold personal information on millions of Americans to a crook in Vietnam.

That data was then sold to identity thieves around the world. It wasn’t until U.S. secret service agents alerted Experian that the company stopped.

Target and Experian insist the two incidents are unrelated.

Copyright 2014 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

Article source: http://www.wdrb.com/story/26115208/target-involved-in-another-identity-theft-incident

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