Archive for September, 2014

Identity theft, sexual assault, drug possession defendants head to court

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

A Harrisburg woman charged with impersonating another individual to get a job will be heading to trial after waiving the charges to higher court on Monday.

Toccara Marie Crenshaw, 30, was charged Sept. 9 with felony identity theft, theft by unlawful taking and misdemeanor forgery after an incident at the Golden Living Center, 46 Erford Road, East Pennsboro Township.

East Pennsboro Township Police began investigating after receiving a report from The Golden Living Center of a possible identity theft on Sept. 3. Police said it was reported that an employee, Crenshaw, was working at the facility under another individual’s name.

It was found that Crenshaw was using an assumed identity, even though she had a Social Security card, driver’s license and certified nursing assistance license in the other name.

The officer’s investigation revealed that Crenshaw unlawfully used the identity of another person to secure and maintain the job, police said.

She was fired from the position and arrested.

She was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Richard Dougherty and held in Cumberland County Prison on $5,000 cash bail.

The charges were waived to Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas during a preliminary hearing before Dougherty on Monday.

Bail was reduced to $5,000 unsecured and she was released.

A formal arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 18.

In other preliminary matters:

• A Mechanicsburg man charged with sexually propositioning a 15-year-old girl will head to trial after the charges were bound over Monday.

William F. Holmes, 42, was charged with felony criminal solicitation to statutory sexual assault, misdemeanor indecent exposure and corruption of minors after an incident reported in July.

Upper Allen Township Police reported that on July 30, a 15-year-old girl reported that Holmes solicited her to have sexual intercourse on one occasion between February and July.

Police said the girl reported walking by a bedroom where Holmes was seen inappropriately touching himself and watching pornographic movies.

He then propositioned the girl, police said.

Police interviewed Holmes on Aug. 26, when he admitted displaying the pornographic video and asking the girl about her sexual experience.

He was arrested and arraigned Sept. 18 before Magisterial District Judge Mark Martin and held in Cumberland County prison on $60,000 cash bail.

The charges were bound over to Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas during a preliminary hearing before Martin.

A formal arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 18.

• A Shippensburg man charged with inappropriately touching another person will be heading to trial after the charges were held over to higher court on Monday.

Justin D. Bryant, 40, was charged Sept. 2 with misdemeanor indecent assault after an incident at the Best Western Hotel, 125 Walnut Bottom Road, Shippensburg Township, at 2 p.m. Aug. 19.

State Police at Carlisle said two woman reported that Bryant had made sexual comments to them.

Bryant was identified as a maintenance worker at the hotel.

One victim reported that at 9 a.m. that day Bryant had entered a hotel room which she was inside, closed and locked the door and approached her, grabbing her.

He then pushed her onto a bed and grabbed her again, making sexual statements.

Bryant then left the room after being denied by the victim.

The charge was waived to Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas during a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge H. Anthony Adams on Monday.

Bail was set at $5,000 unsecured.

A formal arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 18.

• A Mechanicsburg man charged with drug possession after being found in a park late at night will be heading to higher court after the charges were bound over on Monday.

Anthony A. Rodriguez, 22, was charged with felony possession with intent to deliver, misdemeanor possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia after an incident on Sept. 3.

Mechanicsburg Police on patrol encountered two vehicles at 1:39 a.m. in Memorial Park, 2 Memorial Park Drive, police said. The vehicles were parked behind the pool building and could not be seen from the street.

Three people were found inside one vehicle and Rodriguez was standing outside the vehicles, police said.

The affidavit of probable cause states that Rodriguez told the officer that they were homeless and had planned to stay in the park that night.

Police said he appeared to be nervous and fidgety and could not stand still, constantly moving from one foot to the other.

While speaking with the other people, police said several small blue wax paper envelopes were found on the ground next to the driver’s side door and just under the vehicle.

Police said those envelopes are consistent with packaged heroin.

Police said three of the four occupants including Rodriguez had track marks on their arms consistent with heroin use.

During a search of one of the vehicles, two bundles of heroin with eight bags of heroin each, a pill bottle containing marijuana, a homemade foil smoking pipe with burnt residue, two syringes, a metal spoon, four packaged razor blades, one razor blade pocket knife, eight empty heroin bags and a cotton swab with some cotton removed were found, police said.

Rodriguez told police that all the items belonged to him.

He was charged on Sept. 9 and arraigned on Sept. 18 before Magisterial District Judge Mark Martin, with bail set at $8,000 unsecured.

The charges were bound over to Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas during a preliminary hearing before Martin on Monday.

A formal arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 18.

Article source: http://cumberlink.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/identity-theft-sexual-assault-drug-possession-defendants-head-to-court/article_5f914a78-481e-11e4-b185-7f18da510b6f.html

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4 simple ways to prevent identity theft

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Most of us figure we’re pretty safe from identity theft. That’s what one woman thought too.

Leslie Yeoman has always been careful where she shares her personal information.That’s why she couldn’t believe someone had stolen her identity.

“You just feel real violated,” she said. “It’s like who’s doing this to me?”

Credit Card Denied

Yeoman has spent the past 3 years fighting to get her identity back.

It all started when her credit card was declined one day. “I went to use my credit card for gas,” she said, “and it was declined. And I usually never go over my balance.”

So she called her card company, and received some jaw dropping news.

“They told me there was some cell phone and some cable set up in my name and was being paid through my credit card,” she said.

Yeoman closed her accounts, filed police reports, and placed fraud alerts at the credit bureaus Experian,Equifax , and TransUnion , which is what the FBI suggests you do as soon as you suspect fraud.

But it was a long wait to get answers, she says.

A year later, she says, a woman who worked at a store where she shopped was arrested for stealing more than a dozen customer credit card numbers.

Card Skimmed by Store Employee

How did it allegedly happen?

Yeoman said “The store has a frequent buyer card, and when I used my reward card she had all my personal information. And she apparently had a little device where she swiped my credit card and then had all my information. That’s what police think.”

In the wake of the recent Target security breach, and now a Home Depot breach, security experts say watching your credit and debit cards is essential.

To prevent ID theft, they say you should:

Leslie Yeoman now shreds everything and watches her cards very carefully. “I do check every statement now when it comes in the mail, to make sure every charge is mine,” she said.

Article source: http://www.king5.com/story/money/consumer/2014/09/29/4-ways-to-prevent-id-theft/16453333/

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New invention protects from medical ID theft

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

One way crooks often do this is by getting sensitive information from prescription bottles. Since then, we’ve learned of a St. Louis based start-up company trying to protect people from this type of fraud.

Article source: http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/2014/09/29/zapstrips-invention-medical-id-theft-prevention/16462681/

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Identity Theft: Who’s At Risk?

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

This AARP Fraud Watch Network study aimed to assess Americans’ habits around protecting their personal and financial information. Overall, the study finds that many are not taking precautions necessary to reduce their risk of identity theft.

Learn: Find more reports from AARP Research

Many Americans Struggle With Low-Tech Personal Information Protection

  • Almost six in ten (59%) Americans do not regularly lock their mailbox.
  • Over half (54%) of Americans 18-49 have left at least one valuable personal item in their car (e.g., a purse/wallet, paystub, laptop) that could be used to steal their identity just in the last week.  One in four (24%) Americans 50 and older have done so.
  • More than one in five (21%) Americans say they never shred any of the personal documents that could be used to steal their identity.

Many Have Also Failed to Adopt Online Theft Prevention Habits 

  • Over one in three (35%) Americans have not set up online access to all of their bank/credit card accounts.  Over four in ten (42%) Americans 50+ have not set up online access to all of their bank/credit accounts.
  • More than four in ten (45%) Americans admit to using the same password on two or more of their accounts.
  • Almost half (49%) of Americans have not changed the password on their online bank account in the past six months.

Few Adults Take Advantage Of Identity Protection Services

  • Over half (52%) of Americans do not check their free credit report annually.
  • Just 14% of Americans say they subscribe to identity theft protection services such as Lifelock, Identity Guard, or LegalShield. 
  • Just 17% of Americans check their credit regularly with one of the credit bureaus.
  • Just 7% use password services such as LastPass or KeePass.

Twelve Percent Of Americans Age 18 Or Older Have Been Subject To Identity Theft In Just The Past 12 Months

  • Four in 10 Americans age 18 or older (41%) have been notified by a company they have done business with in the past year that their information has been subject to a security breach.

Study was completed using an e-Rewards online panel of 2,250 adults age 18+. Data were weighted to represent the US population of adults 18+ by age, gender, ethnicity, and region using the Census’ Current Population Survey. Data were collected August 6-August 12, 2014. For more information, contact Gretchen Anderson at ganderson@aarp.org.

Article source: http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2014/identity-theft-incidence-risk-behaviors.html

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FMH installs new medical identity theft system

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Posted: Monday, September 29, 2014 8:30 am

FMH installs new medical identity theft system

NEWS AND TRIBUNE

News and Tribune

NEW ALBANY — Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services recently announced its partnership with CrossChx, a leader in health care intelligence solutions that was founded with the support of the state of Ohio.

Earlier this month, CrossChx began installing its CrossChx system at Floyd Memorial which offers patients advanced medical identity theft protection and efficient patient registration, while improving health outcomes and reducing the risk of medical errors.

Floyd Memorial is implementing the CrossChx system in phases. Phase I began on Sept. 9 at main registration and scheduling areas throughout the hospital. Phase II began Sept. 25 and will include all other points of registration throughout the hospital, as well as offsite ancillary locations such as physical therapy, diagnostics and more.

“We are very pleased to be able to offer this additional security feature to the community we serve,” said Mark Shugarman, president and CEO of Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services. “Identity theft is scary whether it is medical or financial in nature, and we hope that this step we are taking will help patients feel even more secure when they use a Floyd Memorial facility.”

CrossChx uses biometric technology to scan a patient’s right index finger. By scanning the patient’s minutiae points on their right index finger, CrossChx is able to give each patient a unique code that links them to their medical benefits so no one else can use them. All patients will be asked to initially scan their right index finger five times in order to get their unique code, then any returning visit will only require a fast, one time scan to verify.

Nationwide, medical identity theft is on the rise, and it is estimated that Americans spend $40 billion annually on medical identity theft. On a personal level, it is possible for someone to find or steal your health insurance card and use it to get treatment, all while posing as you. CrossChx prevents that from happening because your medical identity will be instantly verified at check-in, not by a laminated paper health insurance card.

While CrossChx is focused on protecting a patient’s medical identity, it also works to address a variety of other medical issues including eliminating duplicate medical records. It is estimated that 10 percent of all medical records are duplicates, which causes added expense for health care providers to carry and access those records. But it also poses problems for patients when they check in at a health care facility and there are multiple records for that one patient.

CrossChx will also help improve patient outcomes by ensuring that the right patient receives the right care every time they visit our facilities. It is common to see multiple patients with the same name and it would be possible, although unlikely, to pull the incorrect medical file because of the common name. This potential error cannot happen by using the CrossChx system because each patient will be identified and linked to his or her corresponding medical benefits; ensuring the right person receives the right care.

In two years, CrossChx has already had over 800,000 patient encounters at other healthcare systems, with an overall patient acceptance rate of 97 percent. CrossChx offers many long-term advantages with their new technology that will continue to benefit healthcare systems in the future. CrossChx will allow registrars to provide quicker patient registration, decrease administrative burdens of duplicate or incorrect records and will allow for quick and accurate patient identification in emergency situations.


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Monday, September 29, 2014 8:30 am.

Article source: http://www.newsandtribune.com/news/article_c0490504-4751-11e4-8d02-0b2cb2eb1c11.html

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Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Hundreds of dollars to an online gaming company. A $4 fast food tab. A few pennies here or there for who knows what.

Kathryn Broderick, 28, of Lincoln Park, doesn’t have weird spending habits, but the thieves that have gained access to her identity sometimes do. Over the past two years, Broderick has been issued about five new credit and debit cards because of data breaches—a term that refers to private information being lost or stolen by a company—at stores where she has shopped, and had false charges on her accounts a handful of times, too.

“It has happened so many times at this point, it doesn’t even phase me anymore,” she said.

She caught the false charges—which included a cheap trip to McDonald’s and about $300 on an online video game—by checking her statements regularly and quickly reporting them to credit companies.

“It’s scary,” she said. “It’s not just the credit cards. Those charges can get fixed. But if (thieves) know your address or your PIN numbers, it can spiral out of control without you knowing it.”

Broderick is hardly alone as data breaches and identity theft continue to soar. More than 56 million customers at Home Depot had their information stolen in a breach by hackers, announced Sept. 8, eclipsing the previous record of 40 million compromised customer accounts during a data breach at Target last year.

In 2013, according to the Illinois attorney general’s office, there was a 1,600 percent increase in complaints specifically for data breaches, as well as a jump in complaints about identity theft. In all, according to the attorney general, $21 billion was stolen from consumers’ bank and credit accounts in 2013.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. “I would be surprised if there is anyone out there at this point that hasn’t had to get a new credit card or debit card at this point.”

Madigan said identity theft is second only to consumer debt when it comes to complaints to her office, which has a dedicated unit to handle the crime. In the simplest terms, identity theft is when someone steals personal information from someone else for financial gain.

Data breaches, Madigan explained, are also becoming more common. They range from high- to low-tech. In some cases, a data breach can be a lost file cabinet or briefcase of personal information from a small business. In other cases—like Home Depot—it can be a sophisticated set of software from hackers used to obtain customer data.

“It’s rampant at this point,” she said.

A recent survey by Experian ProtectMyID—a personal identity monitoring service—found that 54 percent of Chicago residents report either having their identity stolen or knowing someone  who has. It’s an industry, according to Becky Frost, the senior manager of education for the company.

“In this day and age, identity theft is a business to some,” she said. “Your data is a commodity.”

Thieves who possess stolen personal data can either use it to purchase goods or services themselves, or turn around and sell it for profit, according to Frost. She said current estimates for what data goes for on the black market vary, but can be anywhere between $5 and $30, based on how much information a thief might have on a single individual.

“I will never encourage a consumer to be worried, but I will encourage them to be vigilant,” she said.

Keeping a watchful eye on every single credit account is the most important thing an individual can do in order to catch identity theft before it gets out of control, said Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Illinois Better Business Bureau.

“The faster you get to it, the better,” he said. “There’s no real protection. You have to be vigilant, that’s the only thing.”

Waiting too long can hurt a consumer’s credit score, making it hard if not impossible for them to purchase a home, a car or open more lines of credit.

Bernas said he encourages everyone to get a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com. They should look for credit cards they didn’t open, and any charges that seem out of the ordinary. He also said consumers should check their credit card and bank statements regularly. If there’s anything that looks off, it should be reported, no matter how insignificant.

In Broderick’s case of having charges of a few pennies on her accounts, Bernas said it’s common for thieves to make very small charges in order to test whether the card is still active.
Bernas also said consumers should be wary of strange phone calls they receive. He said his office constantly receives complaints about phone or email scams in which a thief will pretend to be a utility company, the Internal Revenue Service or lottery in order to gain someone’s information.

Broderick said she has been able to avoid negative effects to her credit score by quickly reporting any payments she knows are false. However, between the fraudulent charges and regularly being issued new cards because of breaches, she has become even more careful.

“Go and check all of your accounts,” she said. “Make sure everything is the way it is supposed to be. When it’s a charge like McDonald’s, you might not notice it.”

Tips for catching identity theft

With large data breaches and clever scammers increasingly preying on our bank accounts, Illinois Better Business Bureau President and CEO Steve Bernas says there’s no real way to prevent identity theft. There are ways to make yourself less of a target, however, and some tricks to catch identity theft before it really does damage to your credit. Here are five things you can do to protect yourself:

Question the other end of the line

If you get a call from someone who says they are with the IRS, utility company or anyone else trying to collect money, question it. Bernas said the BBB’s website has a database of scams you can check to see if that collection call is legit.

Check that credit

Bernas said getting a copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com—the only site endorsed by the federal government for credit monitoring—is key to catching thieves early. The report will spell out what credit accounts have been opened in your name. If something doesn’t look right, call the credit card company immediately. In many cases, thieves will open accounts and have statements sent to a bogus address, leaving you completely unaware an account had been opened in your name.

It’s not just $$

Identity thieves aren’t always after your wallet. It’s possible for thieves to also steal your medical identity, allowing them to use your insurance for all sorts of doctor’s visits. Check your medical statements and make sure nothing looks out of the ordinary.

Change that password

You should never use the same password for all websites, especially ones that have your financial information contained in them. Passwords should be changed often, once a month if possible, and be difficult to guess. “Password123” doesn’t cut it anymore.

Common sense

Thieves can be crafty. In some cases, it’s even been reported that they will set up bogus
Wi-Fi networks near busy hotels or businesses and snatch personal information of anyone who logs on. Stay vigilant, Bernas says, and use common sense when using the Internet.

 

Article source: http://www.redeyechicago.com/news/local/redeye-identity-theft-cases-on-the-rise-20140928,0,7058329.story

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money

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Within the past few weeks we have seen the hacking of the Affordable Care Act’s HealthCare.gov as well as a massive data breach at Community Health Systems, a hospital chain with medical facilities in 29 states in which the records of 4.5 million patients of Community Health Systems’ hospitals including names, addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers were stolen

Despite government assurances that the recent hacking of HealthCare.gov did not compromise the security of the personal information of enrollees and the hack was confined to a server that was not supposed to be connected to the Internet, many security experts continue to have doubts about the security of the HealthCare.gov website.

And why wouldn’t they?

In June, Access Health Connecticut, which operates the Affordable Care Act in Connecticut disclosed that a backpack of an employee of Maximus, the company providing call center services for Access Health, containing handwritten personal information on 400 Obamacare enrollees was found left on a Hartford street. The information contained included names, Social Security numbers and birth dates of Connecticut enrollees. And therein lies much of the problem with this large bureaucracy. The Affordable Care Act involves not just multiple government agencies, but numerous private contractors as well. As my grandmother used to say, “I can keep a secret; it’s the people I tell that can’t keep a secret.”

So who are these people?

Unfortunately, in many instances, we don’t know because the Affordable Care Act does not require that Navigators, the employees who enroll applicants undergo criminal background checks. Although some individual states have their own rules requiring background checks of potential Navigators, many do not.

As for Community Health Systems, their computers were hacked by Chinese identity thieves who stole personal information exploiting the infamous Heartbleed security flaw in the Open SSL encryption security technology discovered last April that is used by as many as two-thirds of websites on the Internet.

As much as data breaches at companies such as Target and Home Depot make headlines, according to the Ponemon Institute’s Annual Study on Patient Privacy and Data Security the health care industry accounted for 44% of all data breaches in 2013, the most, by far, of any sector of the economy. In fact, a survey done by the security firm ID Experts found that 90% of health care organizations polled had suffered a data breach during the past two years with 38% having had more than five data breaches during that period. Twice this year, the FBI has warned the health care industry that they are a prime target of hackers and that the industry’s security measures were not adequate to meet the threat.

Identity theft from medical institutions can impact you in a number of ways. First, the information can be used to access your medical insurance, incurring large medical bills in your name that may not be covered by your medical insurance and collection companies will come after you for payment. Second, as with other types of identity theft, bad debts incurred in your name by an identity thief can have a disastrous effect on your credit report, which in turn can affect your life in so many ways, from getting a job, to getting a loan to being able to buy insurance. Third, and most frightening however, is that your medical records can be mingled with the medical records of the identity thief, which can result in your receiving improper care, such as a blood transfusion of the wrong blood type. You also may find it difficult to access your health insurance as coverage amounts on your policy are used by people other than you, making it more difficult to get the benefits of your own policy.

What can you do?

1. Your Social Security number is a key to identity theft. Most health care providers routinely ask for it, but they often do not need it. In fact, in many instances, they are only asking for it to assist them in collecting an overdue bill from you. If your health care provider requests your Social Security number, ask if they are willing to accept your driver’s license or some other identifying number.

2. Shred documents with personal information such as old medical records that you have at home and don’t need. Otherwise, dumpster-diving identity thieves can go through your trash and turn it into their gold.

3. Although they are almost impossible to decipher, carefully review the poorly named “Explanation of Benefits” that you get from your health insurer to make sure that all charges were incurred by you. Often people just look at the bottom line and if they see that they do not owe anything, they fail to read the rest of the form.

4. Just as you should regularly check your credit report, you also should regularly check your medical records to make sure that there are not mistakes.

5. Never give your medical insurance information or any personal information to anyone over the phone or online unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate. Medical identity thieves pose as employees of your insurance company or your doctor.

When it comes to protecting yourself from identity theft, the place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

Steve Weisman is a lawyer, a professor at Bentley University and one of the country’s leading experts in scams and identity theft. He writes the blog scamicide.com, where he provides daily update information about the latest scams. His new book is Identity Theft Alert.

Article source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/09/13/identity-theft-hacking-medical/15345643/

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ID theft cases soar

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Hundreds of dollars to an online gaming company. A $4 fast food tab. A few pennies here or there for who knows what.

Kathryn Broderick, 28, of Lincoln Park, doesn’t have weird spending habits, but the thieves that have gained access to her identity sometimes do. Over the past two years, Broderick has been issued about five new credit and debit cards because of data breaches—a term that refers to private information being lost or stolen by a company—at stores where she has shopped, and had false charges on her accounts a handful of times, too.

“It has happened so many times at this point, it doesn’t even phase me anymore,” she said.

She caught the false charges—which included a cheap trip to McDonald’s and about $300 on an online video game—by checking her statements regularly and quickly reporting them to credit companies.

“It’s scary,” she said. “It’s not just the credit cards. Those charges can get fixed. But if (thieves) know your address or your PIN numbers, it can spiral out of control without you knowing it.”

Broderick is hardly alone as data breaches and identity theft continue to soar. More than 56 million customers at Home Depot had their information stolen in a breach by hackers, announced Sept. 8, eclipsing the previous record of 40 million compromised customer accounts during a data breach at Target last year.

In 2013, according to the Illinois attorney general’s office, there was a 1,600 percent increase in complaints specifically for data breaches, as well as a jump in complaints about identity theft. In all, according to the attorney general, $21 billion was stolen from consumers’ bank and credit accounts in 2013.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. “I would be surprised if there is anyone out there at this point that hasn’t had to get a new credit card or debit card at this point.”

Madigan said identity theft is second only to consumer debt when it comes to complaints to her office, which has a dedicated unit to handle the crime. In the simplest terms, identity theft is when someone steals personal information from someone else for financial gain.

Data breaches, Madigan explained, are also becoming more common. They range from high- to low-tech. In some cases, a data breach can be a lost file cabinet or briefcase of personal information from a small business. In other cases—like Home Depot—it can be a sophisticated set of software from hackers used to obtain customer data.

“It’s rampant at this point,” she said.

A recent survey by Experian ProtectMyID—a personal identity monitoring service—found that 54 percent of Chicago residents report either having their identity stolen or knowing someone  who has. It’s an industry, according to Becky Frost, the senior manager of education for the company.

“In this day and age, identity theft is a business to some,” she said. “Your data is a commodity.”

Thieves who possess stolen personal data can either use it to purchase goods or services themselves, or turn around and sell it for profit, according to Frost. She said current estimates for what data goes for on the black market vary, but can be anywhere between $5 and $30, based on how much information a thief might have on a single individual.

“I will never encourage a consumer to be worried, but I will encourage them to be vigilant,” she said.

Keeping a watchful eye on every single credit account is the most important thing an individual can do in order to catch identity theft before it gets out of control, said Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Illinois Better Business Bureau.

“The faster you get to it, the better,” he said. “There’s no real protection. You have to be vigilant, that’s the only thing.”

Waiting too long can hurt a consumer’s credit score, making it hard if not impossible for them to purchase a home, a car or open more lines of credit.

Bernas said he encourages everyone to get a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com. They should look for credit cards they didn’t open, and any charges that seem out of the ordinary. He also said consumers should check their credit card and bank statements regularly. If there’s anything that looks off, it should be reported, no matter how insignificant.

In Broderick’s case of having charges of a few pennies on her accounts, Bernas said it’s common for thieves to make very small charges in order to test whether the card is still active.
Bernas also said consumers should be wary of strange phone calls they receive. He said his office constantly receives complaints about phone or email scams in which a thief will pretend to be a utility company, the Internal Revenue Service or lottery in order to gain someone’s information.

Broderick said she has been able to avoid negative effects to her credit score by quickly reporting any payments she knows are false. However, between the fraudulent charges and regularly being issued new cards because of breaches, she has become even more careful.

“Go and check all of your accounts,” she said. “Make sure everything is the way it is supposed to be. When it’s a charge like McDonald’s, you might not notice it.”

Tips for catching identity theft

With large data breaches and clever scammers increasingly preying on our bank accounts, Illinois Better Business Bureau President and CEO Steve Bernas says there’s no real way to prevent identity theft. There are ways to make yourself less of a target, however, and some tricks to catch identity theft before it really does damage to your credit. Here are five things you can do to protect yourself:

Question the other end of the line

If you get a call from someone who says they are with the IRS, utility company or anyone else trying to collect money, question it. Bernas said the BBB’s website has a database of scams you can check to see if that collection call is legit.

Check that credit

Bernas said getting a copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com—the only site endorsed by the federal government for credit monitoring—is key to catching thieves early. The report will spell out what credit accounts have been opened in your name. If something doesn’t look right, call the credit card company immediately. In many cases, thieves will open accounts and have statements sent to a bogus address, leaving you completely unaware an account had been opened in your name.

It’s not just $$

Identity thieves aren’t always after your wallet. It’s possible for thieves to also steal your medical identity, allowing them to use your insurance for all sorts of doctor’s visits. Check your medical statements and make sure nothing looks out of the ordinary.

Change that password

You should never use the same password for all websites, especially ones that have your financial information contained in them. Passwords should be changed often, once a month if possible, and be difficult to guess. “Password123” doesn’t cut it anymore.

Common sense

Thieves can be crafty. In some cases, it’s even been reported that they will set up bogus
Wi-Fi networks near busy hotels or businesses and snatch personal information of anyone who logs on. Stay vigilant, Bernas says, and use common sense when using the Internet.

 

Article source: http://www.redeyechicago.com/news/local/redeye-identity-theft-cases-on-the-rise-20140928,0,7058329.story

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Your latest security threat: ‘Synthetic’ identity theft

Monday, September 29th, 2014

It’s hard enough to restore your identity when a thief steals your Social Security number then uses it to open bank accounts and obtain loans in your name.

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But there’s now a more complicated form of identity theft that could really cause you headaches.

It’s called “synthetic identity theft.” It occurs when thieves create new identities by combining real and fake identifying information then using those identities to open new accounts.

“This is where they’ll take your Social Security number, my name and address, someone else’s birthday and they will combine them into the equivalent of a bionic person,” said Adam Levin, chairman of IDT911, which helps businesses recover from identity theft.

Synthetic identity theft is harder to unravel than traditional identity theft, experts said.

“It’s tougher than even the toughest identity theft cases to deal with because they can’t necessarily peg it to any one person,” Levin said.

In fact, the fraud might not be discovered until an account goes to collections and a collection agency researches the Social Security number, he said.

Children and seniors are particularly vulnerable to synthetic identity theft, said Becky Frost, senior manager of consumer education at Experian Consumer Services.

Children are favorite targets of identity thieves because parents get Social Security numbers for their kids shortly after birth, but the number isn’t used for credit purposes for at least 18 years.

“Often times what that means is that profile is in the system as a separate profile, so it can go undetected for years,” Frost said. “That’s because all the bits and pieces of personal information confuse the system. The computer programs are designed to try and match a person’s information using their name, address, Social Security number and so forth. If the computer doesn’t get a true match, it moves on.”

Frost said credit repair scams might also contribute to synthetic identity theft.

In such scams, a credit repair company will sell a consumer a “credit profile number” or a “credit privacy number.” That number could be a stolen Social Security number, often from a child.

The outfit then uses the CPN and the consumer’s personal information to create a new credit file. That CPN and the new credit file are used intentionally to hide the consumer’s true credit history.

“By using a stolen number as your own, the con artists will have involved you in identity theft,” the Federal Trade Commission said.

What does all this mean? There’s more reason than ever to zealously protect your personal information and your identity.

• Make sure that your reported income figure for the year is in line and not overinflated from what you actually earned, said Becky Frost, senior manager of consumer education at Experian Consumer Services.

• Watch for mail that’s sent to your address but with someone else’s name.

• Review your credit reports regularly, and check for inaccurate information and unauthorized accounts. Go to annualcreditreport.com to get your free credit report from each of the three national credit bureaus.

• If you are denied credit, make sure the lender based their decision on your identity and your personal credit information and not someone else’s, Frost said.

Here’s how to protect yourself

Check your annual Social Security statement, which lists your earnings record, work credits and estimate of future benefits.

Article source: http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/personalfinance/your-latest-security-threat-synthetic-identity-theft/2198637

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How to protect yourself and recover from Identity Theft

Monday, September 29th, 2014

WASHINGTON, September 28, 2014 — Identity theft is the most frequently committed crime in the world. Becoming you is easy to do.

Identity thieves can steal your life, your credit and your medical history. Your name can be associated with crimes you did not commit, mortgage debts you did not incur, taxes you owe for money you did not earn, and much more.

Worse, you cannot prevent your identity from being stolen. You are “out there” in more places and in more databanks, times 100, than you could possibly identify.


READ ALSO: Tips to protect yourself and family from crime and other dangers


Imagine a bowl filled with the candy MMs. Each MM represents a person’s private information. Identity thieves possess the equivalent of 100 Empire State Buildings filled with MMs. It’s likely you are an MM in some big catch hauled in and held by some identity thief somewhere in the world. It is only a matter of time until they pick you as the next MM to eat.

As sick as it gets, identity thieves will also steal the identities of people who have died. When a loved one dies, notify all financial institutions, insurance companies, credit card companies, loan holders and the like and send them official death certificates. Remove the deceased relative’s name from all joint accounts. Finally, contact the credit reporting agencies and request a “deceased alert.” This places a notice on the deceased’s credit report telling companies that the person has died and cannot be issued credit.

Trying to fix or repair your stolen identity can be an enormous task and a financially devastating one as well. Stories of financial ruin are easily found. Just type “Identity Theft Victim” in any search engine and prepare to cry as you read what has happened to your friend, your neighbor or your relative. Recommendations about how best to position yourself before you become a victim follow just a bit later in this article.

Most people become aware that they have become victims when they get a warning notice from a creditor; or upon review, observe that their credit card has suddenly been maxed out with what appear to be fraudulent charges.

Getting an immediate jump on fixing an identity theft problem is very important. The sooner you can get to a small fire, the more likely you will be able to put it out before it burns down your house.

Your first step is to simply become proactive and monitor your credit. There are three credit bureaus that allow one free credit report per year: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You can periodically obtain your current reports,  staggering your requests among the three to obtain one report every four months. This allows you to view your credit reports on an ongoing, regular basis. In so doing, you should readily be able to ascertain if there are any items in the reports that are clearly “not you.”

The best way to accomplish this: Go to Annual Credit Report, the only site known of for truly free reports. All other sites have some catch” and will ultimately charge you for the reports.

Checking your credit is the best way to stay on top of your financial and identity status. Please do not fall prey to companies that promise so-called “credit monitoring” and use the words “prevention” or “protection” or something similar. Ultimately, you cannot really be protected and identity theft cannot really be prevented. Paying these companies for the promise that they can do so is the same as burning your money.

Your next step is to monitor your Social Security information. Go to the Social Security Administration and order your Social Security Benefits and Earnings statement once each year within a few months of your birthday if it does not come automatically within a few months of that date.


READ ALSO: Financial, legal and emotional tragedies from vehicular death


To attempt to completely control the dissemination of your private information would require more vigilance, time and effort than is humanly possible. Nonetheless, there are some things you can do to minimize harm. Here they are:

Protecting Personal Information

  1. Never give out your Social Security number (SSN) unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  2. Do not carry your Social Security card anywhere. Only keep the essentials in your wallet or purse.
  3. Get a paper shredder and use it for anything containing personal information.
  4. Protect PIN numbers – cover the number pad at the ATM machine.
  5. Don’t write your SSN on your checks.
  6. Don’t trust anyone over the telephone. Never give any personal information when solicited.
  7. Don’t keep any sensitive information in your car, such as credit cards, statements, checks.
  8. Buy a sturdy home safe or get a safety deposit box at the bank for securing important documents.
  9. Know how many credit cards you have. If you no longer use a card, cancel it. Do not just cut it up.
  10. Never leave credit card receipts behind even if the receipt doesn’t have the full credit card number on it. Gas stations and restaurants are the two primary places people just leave receipts. Don’t be one of them.
  11. Don’t sign the back of your credit cards. Write “Check ID” on them.
  12. Don’t store information on any store’s website. The site might be hacked.
  13. Opt for a credit card with your photo on it if available.
  14. Opt out of credit card offersGo to optoutprescreen.com. A thief can fill in your name and use the card!
  15. Carry your bag or pocketbook safely. Don’t leave it unattended. Even with you there, if it’s in a shopping cart, it can be easily snatched.
  16. Never leave your wallet or purse in a the pocket of a jacket or coat that’s hanging on the back of a chair. Again, easily swiped.
  17. Keep credit card telephone contact numbers on hand. That way, if you notice your card has been stolen, you can cancel it immediately.
  18. Only make online purchases through trusted websites. Go to the site through a known URL or by searching for it on a search engine.

Computers and the Internet

  1. As above, only make online purchases through trusted websites. Go to the site through a known URL or by searching for it on a search engine.
  2. Make passwords at least 15 characters, as many hacking programs only search for passwords up to 14 characters. Make passwords complicated: use upper and lower case, numbers and symbols.
  3. Change passwords regularly. Use different passwords for different accounts and logins.
  4. Don’t use public computers if you have to log in. You don’t need the possible problems you may encounter if you forget to log out. Also, you don’t know the computer or what it may be copying.
  5. Use and regularly update firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on your computers.
  6. Be aware of online phishing scams. Sophisticated emails can trick you into thinking they are legitimate. The most common examples are emails allegedly from banks or online services you use. Don’t click links to “update” them. Rather, go to the website directly and log in there
  7. Other phishing scams: false lottery wins, requests for money to help people who have lost money and the usual plethora of claims and schemes from various Nigerian princes.
  8. When you get rid of your computer, wipe out all of your information first. Ideally, restore it to the factory settings as explained in the user manual or on-line.

Secure Your Mail and Mailboxes

A study found that the most frequently used non-technological method for identity theft was the rerouting of mail through change of address cards. Defend against this by adopting the following routines:

  1. Never leave bill payments in your mailbox.
  2. When you move, contact all credit cards, creditors, and the IRS immediately.
  3. Use electronic bill delivery when possible. If no mail, no lost mail.
  4. If you don’t opt for electronic bills, make sure you are getting all your bills. A missing bill is a red flag.
  5. Consider a P.O. box for your mail.
  6. Take your mail as soon as your mailman delivers it. Personal information is available in nearly every average mail delivery and can be stolen. That includes bank and investment statements and even drivers license renewal.
  7. Be aware what time of the month your bills usually arrive. If it is a week late, there is cause for concern.

If You Find You Are a Victim, Act Quickly

  1. Contact each of the three credit agencies noted above  and have them freeze your credit. This prevents the opening of new lines of credit and the viewing of your credit. You can lift the freeze at any time using the PIN given to you by each of the agencies.
  2. Contact all credit card companies and cancel all your cards.
  3. Contact the local police and fill out a report. This is important as a record and may be required by insurance companies.

For optimum security, the best risk agency to work with is Kroll, Inc. If you are a “member” when you become a victim, the cost of salvaging your credit is minimal compared to what it will cost to have other professionals clean up the mess created by your identity being stolen. Kroll will put you back to where you were before the theft occurred.

An excellent protection plan can be obtained through an organization called Legal Shield. Legal Shield works with Kroll and incorporates Kroll’s credit monitoring with a pre-paid legal plan, all for a cost less than what other credit monitoring companies charge. And the differences are significant. With Legal Shield, attorneys trained in identity theft matters are there for you and are included in your plan along with Kroll, whose professionals are the best in the world at uncovering problems and fixing them.

Other so-called prevention companies only offer notification if a problem is detected. This minimal response essentially leaves you on your own to try to solve the problem. Further, in a typical identity theft attack, there is not just one issue to deal with, but many. If your identity has been compromised, chances are there are dozens of places where someone is using your information and putting you in harm’s way. As you probably don’t have the time or the knowledge to fight off the attack yourself, you likely need professionals to resolve all the issues involved.

For more information on serious identity security, go to Legal Shield.

 

In addition to being an attorney, Paul A. Samakow is a Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist, as certified by the Institute of Consumer Financial Education.  He is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website

His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?, The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on http://www.completeaccidentbook.com and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order

 

Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website http://www.textarudo.com and “like” the concept on the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/textarudo.

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Article source: http://www.commdiginews.com/business-2/how-to-protect-yourself-recover-identity-theft-26621/

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