Archive for May, 2015

IRS promises to help victims of tax identity theft

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

The IRS has agreed to change its policy and provide the victims of tax fraud with copies of fraudulent tax returns containing their personal information.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., had written to the IRS on May 7, after hearing from several constituents who were victims of tax-related identity theft, including Lori Weeks of Strafford.

Weeks lost her 7-year-old daughter Madison in a fatal auto accident last year, and later discovered that identity thieves had used her daughter’s Social Security number to file fraudulent tax returns.

When the IRS refused to share information on the fraudulent returns, Weeks contacted Ayotte’s office.

Ayotte wrote to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and urged the agency to provide tax-related identity theft victims with copies of fraudulent returns.

The agency had previously refused to release the information, citing privacy concerns for innocent third parties whose information could also be on the return.

“As a result of your letter, we have decided to change our policy regarding disclosure of fraudulent identity theft returns to victims whose name and SSN the fraudulent return was filed under,” wrote Koskinen in a response to Ayotte on Thursday.

“We will put together a procedure that will enable victims to receive, upon request, redacted copies of fraudulent returns filed in their name and Social Security number,” he wrote.

Weeks said she is taking a wait-and-see approach in the wake of Koskinen’s letter.

“I’m really happy that the IRS has moved forward to make changes that will help families, and I hope that it’s not all talk and something to quiet down the masses for a little while,” she said. “I hope they are serious and really take to heart the effect this has on families, and that moving forward they make meaningful changes in their policies.”

Earlier this month, Ayotte was also among the co-sponsors of the Social Security Identity Defense Act of 2015, which would require the IRS to notify potential victims of identity theft, something the agency has failed to do in the past.

It also requires that the IRS notify law enforcement and that the Social Security Administration notify employers who submit fraudulently used Social Security numbers. The bill adds civil penalties and extends jail time for those who fraudulently use an individual’s Social Security number.

dsolomon@unionleader.com

Article source: http://www.unionleader.com/article/20150531/NEWS03/150539935&source=RSS

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Ex-NBA All Star — Arrested In Arizona … Alleged Kingpin In I.D. Theft Scam

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

0529-christopher-gatling-mug-tmz-01Ex-NBA player Chris Gatling — a former All-Star — was arrested in Scottsdale, AZ yesterday … with cops saying he was the kingpin in a massive illegal credit card and I.D. theft scam. 

TMZ Sports has learned … one of Gatling’s alleged victims is a woman he met on a dating website who owned a fitness studio — who he allegedly screwed out of $90,000.  

Long story short … cops say Gatling set up Internet businesses to gather credit card information from people.

Once he got the numbers, he would take them to the fitness studio … convinced the lady to run the cards for various dollar amounts (she believed they were legit) … and asked her to front him 90% of the payment in cash.

For example … if the woman ran a $100 credit card charge for Gatling, she would give him $90 in cash and keep $10 for herself. 

But cops say the credit card holders never authorized the fitness studio payments and cancelled their transactions — leaving the fitness studio owner in a $90,000 hole … the amount she had given to Gatling in cash. 

Officials eventually caught on to the scheme … and arrested Gatling for fraud, aggravated identity theft and forgery. 

And get this … he was busted while meeting with his probation officer — stemming from a forgery and theft CONVICTION back in 2013 when he attempted to rent out a home he didn’t own. 

An attorney for Gatling tells us she’s still gathering information on the case. 

FYI — Gatling was a 1st round NBA Draft pick in 1991 … and played in the league for 11 years. 

0417-sports-stars-under-arrest-footer-2

For more sports stories, check out tmzsports.com!

Article source: http://www.tmz.com/2015/05/29/nba-all-star-chris-gatling-arrested-arizona-credit-card-scam-kingpin/

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Cybersecurity and personal security: preventing identity theft

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

VISTA, California,  May 30, 2015 − There are so many areas of our lives where we need to protect ourselves that is sometimes seems overwhelming. Emotional, psychological, and physical abuse are at the top of the list. But we also need to look at the area of financial abuse. In many ways this can be just as damaging as the rest, and we need to know how we can prevent ourselves from becoming the next victims of this rising crime of fiscal abuse.

Stories have steadily emerged where the victims of this seemingly faceless crime find their personal identities may have been breached. Large retail chains, including Target and Home Depot have discovered account information of their clients may have been jeopardized. We just found out this week that even the supposedly ironclad IRS system was compromised, with the tax data of nearly one-million taxpayers apparently stolen, possibly by cybercriminals located in Russia.

Our electronic cyber-world already has various systems in place to ensure our financial information is protected. However, we are seeing quite clearly that those systems are not always effective. So to take the initiative and to protect ourselves, there are things we can do right now to make our personal identification harder for thieves to get hold of.

The easiest counteraction is also one of the earliest ones: hanging and varying our passwords between different accounts on a regular basis. With newer encryption technologies, a strong combination of upper and lower case letters and symbols in newly-created passwords is a good step.

Better yet is creating new password strings consisting of up to 32 characters. This provides more even security, since longer passwords are harder and harder to crack, although not all sites will presently allow passwords of this length.

Also, be sure to refrain from using passwords that contain personal information that can be easily guessed about you.

Another way to protect yourself: stay on top of your credit report information in all three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. These credit agencies offer credit monitoring services and you are also entitled to receive a free annual credit report update from each of them.

You can obtain your credit report by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. Credit Karma and Credit Sesame  offer free monitoring of your reports as well, although you may be urged to subscribe to associated credit protection and monitoring products at each site.

Checking your report regularly can keep you abreast with anything you may need to dispute that is inaccurate. In addition, should you discover that your identity has been compromised, you can request a “fraud alert” be placed on your information within these agencies.

Another problem area is online banking. Given this country’s slow but steady move toward employing digital technologies for a variety of financial transactions, many of us have grown accustomed to paying monthly bills through online banking services. We can quickly set up automatic deductions to cover items ranging from monthly car payments to readily ordering products via televised infomercials.

Indeed, that ancient form of managing and balancing a checkbook may soon be a distant memory, so monitoring your electronic bank transactions daily can help prevent your hard-earned money from evaporating in an instant.

If a transaction appears in your account that you did not authorize, your bank, once informed, can take strategic steps to reimburse you, suspend the account or card that was misused, and deploy their fraud team in an effort to identify the perpetrator(s) for prosecution and prevent the victimization of countless others.

Even in today’s sophisticated world of cybertheft, identity thieves still may decide to use old-fashioned methods of obtaining your information. You can still lose your data, your identity, or both to criminals who steal your mail or dig through your trash.

To protect yourself in these areas, you should retrieve your mail as soon as possible, or even rent a post office box. Shredding documents containing personal or fiscal information with a crisscross shredder prior to disposal can also help. Shredding documents at home immediately saves you time, keeps your area free of clutter, and can protect your identity in the long run.

If you don’t happen to have one of these relatively inexpensive shredders, don’t forget: there are reputable companies that offer shredding services.

As for your trash itself, putting your trash curbside the night before can give dumpster divers the nightlong advantage of not being seen. Therefore, when you place your trash can or receptacle out on the street for disposal pick up, try to place it out just before the truck comes to haul it away. Should you choose to place it out the night before, try to put it in a well-lit area or place a motion light close by.

Old school methods ranging from stealing your wallet or purse full of credit cards, or surreptitiously skimming your credit card information at ATM machines are still perfectly good ways for less tech savvy thieves to make off with your identity or financial information.

Keep your credit cards in a wallet that has RFID protection, keep your cards and pictured identification on your person, and don’t leave your purse or wallet in your car unattended or otherwise out of your view. Use caution when using your pin number at machines as well.

Creative identity thieves might even show up in person at your front door. These scam artists may pose as some salespeople attempting to sell you a product or service. But they might give themselves away by asking questions like “Are you the owner of this home?” They may also ask for your name and phone number along with the times you are available at home to “schedule” an appointment. The more personal information they obtain, the easier it can be for them trespass into your private affairs.

When an unknown person arrives at your door, ask him or her to provide you with their official photo identification. If they are legit, they should have no problem providing it. If pressed, a typical thief will quickly disappear rather than risk detection.

With regard to your personal information, just don’t give any of it out. To anyone. Should you suspect something is not right, contact your local police department and let them investigate further.

Protecting yourself and your identity is of crucial importance today Make it a regular habit to secure your valuables. Lock your car and your house, even when you are at home. When going to the gym, use a strong metal lock with a key when using their lockers. (Using a cheap one may save you a few bucks now. But in the long run, it can really cost you.

Making an extra effort to protect yourself now can increase your security on many levels, especially when it comes to facing the potential of financial ruin. So do it now.

Article source: http://www.commdiginews.com/featured/cybersecurity-and-personal-security-preventing-identity-theft-42501/

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Fraud, identity theft taking toll on metro investigators’ workloads

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Jeff Schmitz placed checks for his daughters’ college savings plans in a mailbox outside his Shakopee home last September, propped up the box’s flag and unknowingly became a target of a St. Paul man’s financial fraud scheme.

By the time investigators caught Michael Racho two months later, he had defrauded Schmitz and victims from 13 metro area cities of nearly $12,000. The case, detailed in a 75-page report that took an officer two weeks to compile, required the work of five police departments and a state task force before charges were filed in Ramsey County.

Amid a rise in such sprawling fraud cases — up 50 percent or more in some suburbs in the past year — police departments are trying to figure out how to accommodate the increased workload. Savage is looking at adding a detective’s position devoted to solving fraud crimes. Shakopee may shift an officer from patrol to fraud investigations.

“Our crime rate is one of the lowest in our history,” Shakopee Police Chief Jeff Tate said. But the crimes the department sees “are more labor-intensive than anything we’ve ever dealt with.”

The fraud can be as sophisticated as the black market sale of personal information gleaned from online data breaches or as straightforward as stealing checks from mailboxes. The checks Racho stole had been “washed” using antifreeze to erase the “to” field and readdressed to him. When Schmitz’s online bank account displayed an image of a $800 check written to Racho, Schmitz first thought the man forged his signature.

“It was scrubbed pretty well,” said Schmitz. “I thought, this guy’s got my signature dead-on.”

Cases increasing

In 2014, 12.7 million people nationwide were victims of identity theft, up 25 percent from 2010, according to Javelin Strategy and Research, a California consulting firm. In Minnesota, total fraud, forgery and counterfeiting offenses increased more than 10 percent from 2012 to 2013.

Some say the jump in cases is the result of increased attention by investigators and prosecutors. Others say data breaches and technology have created more opportunity for criminals. But law enforcement officials agree that the far-reaching nature of fraud makes it tough for individual agencies to tackle these cases.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi has made an effort in recent years to aggregate fraud cases like the one against Racho. Taken individually, nine of the 14 checks Racho and an accomplice forged last year wouldn’t have crossed the $1,000 felony threshold. Racho pleaded guilty to felony check forgery in December.

“These schemes or rings operate regionally, not just in one jurisdiction,” Choi said.

Shakopee’s discussion of reassigning a patrol officer to investigate fraud and identity theft came after such cases climbed 52 percent in the last 12 months. Tate said Shakopee had 28 reports of fraud in April 2015 vs. just eight in April 2014.

Savage’s police department must add a new position to keep up, Police Chief Rodney Seurer said. While violent crimes fell 13 percent last year, he said, fraud rose 54 percent.

“I want to try to get ahead of this if possible,” Seurer said.

Police have already spent more than two months investigating what they say is an organized identity theft ring that has been bouncing between Savage apartments and hotels.

The group includes Savage residents and people from out of state who use stolen personal information to acquire prepaid credit cards they then use elsewhere, said Sgt. Mike Schlitz. In one instance, he said, the group stole a credit card mailed to a local Mexican restaurant and charged more than $25,000 to the account.

“I would bet this group is responsible for well over $100,000 when it’s all said and done,” Schlitz said.

Aggregating offenses

Gov. Mark Dayton recently approved funding to add five positions to the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force that pieces together cases across jurisdictions. The task force created in 2000 includes local, state and federal authorities, prosecutors and private sector officials.

“What often happens without a financial crimes task force is [local police departments] take on an individual case, [and] get a charge but are not seeing the true severity of the crime,” said Assistant Superintendent Drew Evans, who leads the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension division that includes the financial crimes task force.

In Ramsey County, Choi has also added a second prosecutor to a financial fraud unit he created in 2011. Choi’s office prosecuted 43 identity theft cases last year.

In one case, Angela Hooks of St. Paul drove to parking lots in Roseville, Plymouth, Brooklyn Park, Shoreview and other suburbs stealing purses left in cars. She charged $35,000 to stolen credit and debit cards, often by purchasing prepaid gift cards from Target stores and transferring funds to PayPal accounts in her name.

Roseville investigators worked with other agencies and local businesses to compile evidence of three-months worth of Hooks’ crimes before sending the case to Choi’s office. Hooks, 46, was convicted of identity theft in May and faces up to 20 years in prison.

“Awhile ago people’s attitudes may have been that these are too small of cases to be spending people’s time on,” Choi said. Adopting a regional perspective is “the only way we’re really going to make a dent in it.”

 

<!– ENDNOTE REMOVED

Stephen Montemayor 952-746-3282

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Article source: http://www.startribune.com/fraud-identity-theft-taking-toll-on-metro-investigators-workloads/305580811/

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Oxnard couple arrested in identity theft case

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) – Oxnard police have arrested a married couple after investigating them in connection with a case of identity theft.

The Ventura County Star reports (http://bit.ly/1d30gZv ) that police say the couple, arrested Thursday, used the false identity to hide Guillermo Ezequiel Martin’s sex offender status.

Police say his wife used her job as human resources director to get Martin a job. He then used the stolen identity for six months while concealing his offender status.

Police say he also used a business account to buy $1,846 worth of goods for personal use.

The pair faces charges of conspiracy, identity theft, grand theft, false impersonation and being a sex offender failing to provide information.

Information from: Ventura County Star, http://venturacountystar.com

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Article source: http://www.ksby.com/story/29187213/oxnard-couple-arrested-in-identity-theft-case

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3 men indicted of fraud, aggravated identity-theft charges

Saturday, May 30th, 2015


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –

Two Texas men and a Florida man have been indicted on multiple counts of fraud and aggravated identity-theft charges, according to U.S. attorneys.

Joe Loving, 46, and John Humphreys, 41, of Conroe, Texas, have been indicted along with Paul Pennington Jr., 27, of Orange Park, with aggravated identity theft, bank fraud, false representation of a Social Security number, and manufacturing and passing counterfeit Federal Reserve notes, U.S. attorneys said.

In January 2015, Loving, Humphreys and Pennington obtained the personal identification information of various people from Texas and used the information to commit bank fraud in Florida. According to the indictment, the three also manufactured and passed counterfeit Federal Reserve notes throughout Clay County.

Each man faces up to 30 years in federal prison on the bank fraud charge, 20 years on the charges of manufacturing and passing counterfeit Federal Reserve notes, 5 years for false representation of a Social Security number, and a 2-year mandatory term of imprisonment for the aggravated identity-theft charge, according to U.S. attorneys.

Article source: http://www.news4jax.com/news/3-men-indicted-of-fraud-aggravated-identitytheft-charges/33293824

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IRS changes policies after NH family deals with identity theft

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

The IRS is changing one of its rules after a woman from Strafford became the victim of an income tax scam.

Click to watch News 9’s coverage.

While coming to grips with the death of her daughter last year, things got worse for Lori Weeks when she tried to file her tax return.

“It was a kick in the gut,” Weeks said. “It was grief on top of grief.”

Just over one year after her 7-year-old daughter, Madison, was killed in a car crash, Weeks and her husband were filing their tax return when they learned that someone had claimed their deceased child as a dependent.

“I think the most disturbing thing is that there are people out there who are waiting for children to die so they can steal their identity,” Weeks said.

Because of the fraud, the Weeks were unable to file their return. That led to hours online and on the phone with state and federal agencies.

“Everybody had a different answer as to what place I should call, who I should talk to, what paperwork I should file,” Weeks said.

She said the IRS would only tell her that Madison’s Social Security number was used three times. It gave no information about who used it, what information was stolen and how it happened.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., got involved and criticized the IRS for not being more open with victims of that type of crime.

Weeks said it took about a month-and-a-half to get her real return processed. She is now speaking out about policies that she called unnecessarily difficult on already-fragile families.

“Maybe this is the cause that I can get behind, and I can make Madison proud and help other families,” she said.

The IRS sent a letter Thursday to Ayotte saying it will change its policies to allow people in similar situations to get copies of the fake returns that were filed.

Article source: http://www.wmur.com/news/irs-changes-policies-after-nh-family-deals-with-identity-theft/33272288

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Why the IRS’s efforts to help identity theft victims are likely to fall short

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

The 104,000 people who had their most sensitive tax information stolen by hackers as part of the latest cyber-attack on the Internal Revenue Service are getting free credit monitoring services, courtesy of the agency.

However, there’s one major way that the protection might fall short: Much of the identity theft these consumers are vulnerable to now will not show up anywhere on their credit reports. Armed with more sensitive information from the tax records, criminals can now attempt to fraudulently claim government benefits such as unemployment insurance, Medicare and food stamps, none of which are tracked in people’s credit histories, security experts say.

“The big money to be made with that information is not in getting credit in your name or a car loan in your name,” says Frank Abagnale, who was convicted of fraud-related crimes when he was younger and now works as a security consultant. “The criminals have started to realize that where the big money is is the government — federal, county and state.”

The criminals who stole old tax refunds through the “Get Transcript” tool on the IRS Web site already had personal information such as names, Social Security numbers, home addresses and birthdays. But after accessing the tax records, they now know a lot more about the people they are pretending to be.

[Criminals want your tax returns. Here’s what you can do about it.]

The tax returns stolen can include information as sensitive as children’s names and Social Security numbers, how much money the victims made and what their tax refund was last year. Armed with those details about a person’s family, criminals can pose as the victims to claim government benefits, or sell the information to other people who do.

Credit monitoring, a solution commonly turned to by companies and health-care providers that have experienced a security hack, can help consumers look out for identity thieves attempting to open credit cards, take out loans or apply for jobs in their name. But the close surveillance would need to last much longer than the year or so of protection that is typically offered, consultants say. Victims need to guard their identities for the rest of their lives.

“There’s not too much they can do,” says Gavin Reid, vice president of threat intelligence for Lancope, a firm that helps companies detect hacks. “They can’t change who they’ve been. They can’t change their Social Security numbers.”

The IRS is flagging the identities of the people whose transcripts were stolen so that it can be extra cautious when processing their returns at tax time. But the best thing agencies and companies with access to personal information can do to protect consumers is to reduce the chances that personal information can get stolen in the first place.

That highlights a broader vulnerability that many criminals are exploiting.  Many companies and even government agencies are relying on information from people’s credit histories to verify their identities — just as that information is getting easier to find.

The “Get Transcript” tool, for example, asked people to enter “out of wallet” questions such as the size of a person’s car payment. The rise of sharing on social media sites, combined with a proliferation of Web sites that make it easier for people to look up records that may contain sensitive information, is making it easier for criminals to overcome those security measures and access accounts, security pros say. “They’ve really got to consider are those types of questions enough?” Reid says.

[How the breach of IRS tax returns is part of a much bigger problem facing taxpayers]

The IRS might consider using some of the fraud detection programs being used by some banks and retailers, which study consumers’ behavior to notice activity that seems out of the ordinary, says Michael Sussmann, a partner in the privacy and data security practice at Perkins Coie. For instance, some banks will text consumers when they make a purchase that seems larger than usual or from a location they haven’t been to before.  “A company may scrutinize more about where you’re logging in, how you’re logging in,” Sussmann says.

Tax-related identity theft is ramping up at a time when deep budget cuts are leaving the IRS with fewer resources to fight that fraud. A spokesperson pointed out that this year the agency requested an additional $82 million to improve its identity-theft efforts, deal with a backlog of cases and invest in technology that can help it protect taxpayer information. Meanwhile, its annual budget has been cut to $10.9 billion this year from $12.15 billion in 2010.

Read More:

Hackers stole personal information from 104,000 taxpayers, IRS says

Congress to question IRS officials about how data was stolen

What to do if your tax refund is stolen

Article source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2015/05/29/is-the-irs-doing-enough-to-protect-taxpayer-data/

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Why Medical Identity Theft Is Rising And How To Protect Yourself

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

Anthem. Premera. Carefirst.

Since the start of the year, these three major health insurers, all Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, have been victims of major data breaches, with up to about 92 million records affected.

For the past three years, the health/medical sector has accounted for the highest percent (42.5% in 2014) of total hackings of any industry, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. While data breaches at major retailers like Home Depot and Target may resonate more in consumers’ minds, files that contain someone’s medical data can make victims much more vulnerable.

The ramifications can range from financial to medical. Not only do medical records usually contain payment and billing information, leaving credit card information exposed, but they also often contain sensitive data like Social Security Numbers and information that could enable a fraudster to obtain medical services under the victim’s identity. If the perpetrator’s medical information mixes with the victim’s, she could receive medication to which she is allergic, or her record may contain the incorrect blood type.

For many years, the top cause of lost or stolen patient data was a health care organization employee losing a device or having one stolen. In 2014, for the first time, the top cause was a criminal attack, according to the recently released fifth annual Ponemon Institute Study on privacy and security of health care data.

 “Organizations in the health care industry, like hospitals, as well as their business associates — the organizations that help them manage and protect their data — are under cyber attack,” says Rick Kam, president and cofounder of ID Experts, which sponsored the study.

Ninety-one percent of health care organization have had at least one data breach involving the loss or theft of patient data in the last two years, and 59% of their business associates experienced the same.

1 HCO attack in last two years

Kam says the reasons are threefold: First, both the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Affordable Care Act in 2010 respectively incentivized and required that health care providers digitize their health information. Now, most health information is held electronically, creating more targets for hackers.

Second, other sectors such as financial services and retailers have become savvier about protecting their data. Throughout this year, many more credit cards will be shifted over to EMV cards that contain a chip instead of a magnetic stripe. These will be harder to hack because they create a unique transaction code that cannot be reused, whereas a traditional credit card’s magnetic stripe can be used over and over. Since it’s become harder to hack these industries and monetize their information, hackers have turned their sites to the less well-protected sector of health care.

Third, he says, health care data commands a higher price on the black market. In a recent FBI presentation, Kam says that the agency said that it had seen health insurance information fetching a price of $60-$70 on the black market as opposed to less than a dollar for a Social Security Number.

“This is all converging to create a perfect storm for getting this data,” says Kam. “It’s more available, it’s worth more, and the health care organizations aren’t as good at protecting the data because they haven’t had to be.”

2 BA attack in last 2 years

Tellingly, the top reason for a data breach among health care organizations was a criminal attack, while the top reason among their business associates — companies that help them manage their data in the cloud or on digital systems such as electronic health records — was employee negligence. This probably reflects the fact that health care organizations have only recently switched over to digitized records, meaning that their cyber security systems are less sophisticated, whereas their business associates may have advanced security systems but their employees may not be as conditioned as employees of health organizations to be vigilant about not losing devices containing sensitive information.

3 Root cause of health care org breach

BA top cause

Cybercriminals have many ways to profit from this data, including getting health care themselves or selling such information to the uninsured needing care. But the real profit schemes can lie in perpetrating health insurance and Medicare/Medicaid fraud. For instance, a fraudster could pretend to sell medical equipment such as electric wheelchairs. Every Medicare/Medicaid number they receive could allow them to bill the government a few thousand dollars for an electric wheelchair that they never ship. A similar type of fraud can be perpetrated using prescription medicines.

“The methodology in health care in terms of payments is they’ll make payments first and if they detect that there’s fraud, they’ll chase it afterwards,” says Kam, in a practice dubbed “pay and chase,” but until the last few years, this wasn’t a big problem in health care because hackers were targeting financial services or retail. But now that other industries are better protected against fraud, criminals are looking for other lucrative targets and finding opportunities in the newly digitized health care sector.

How To Protect Yourself

Unfortunately, just as the sector is less well-equipped to protect itself, there are also fewer services for consumers wanting to protect themselves from medical identity theft than there are in, say, financial services. That said, you can still take a few key steps.

1. Get a copy of your medical records from your doctors and review them for accuracy.

Make sure that all the information describes your medical history. If you see something you don’t recognize, it could mean that your health information has been mixed with someone else’s, whether it’s a fraudster or simply another patient with the same name as yours. Keeping your medical record, including your allergies and blood type, accurate will help protect you if, for instance, you have to go to the emergency room and need medicine or a blood transfusion.

2. Check your Explanation of Benefits.

Since EOB’s generally say in bold at the top, “This is not a bill,” most people don’t read them, but you should review every single one. Make sure you received the service it says you did on the date and at the organization stated. If not, this could be your earliest way of detecting whether someone else is using your health insurance or other personally identifying information.

3. Only give your Social Security Number if absolutely necessary.

If you’re asked for your SSN at the doctor’s office, find out why they need it, and see if there’s a way to avoid providing it.

4. Monitor your credit regularly.

You can obtain a free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. Pull one of them every four months so you can keep regular tabs.

5. Use a medical identity monitoring service.

A number of companies have begun offering identity theft protection services specifically around health care or health data. These services will alert you whenever there’s a health care transaction on your account.

Laura Shin is the author of the Forbes eBook, The Millennial Game Plan: Career And Money Secrets For Today’s World. Available for Apple iBooks, Amazon Kindle, Nook and Vook.

Article source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2015/05/29/why-medical-identity-theft-is-rising-and-how-to-protect-yourself/

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Hammond man charged with identity theft of 125 people – Chicago Sun

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

A northwest Indiana man has been charged with stealing the identities of more than 125 people in Illinois’ northern suburbs.

A six-month identity theft and fraud investigation led authorities to the home of 35-year-old Jeffery C. Edwards’ Hammond home on May 20, according to a statement from Lincolnshire police.

Investigators found documents with the birthdays and social security numbers of more than 125 people, as well as 25 credit cards issued to different names, police said.

Edwards was arrested Wednesday and charged with felony counts of aggravated identity theft and forgery, police said.

A judge ordered him held on a $150,000 bond on Thursday, according to the Lake County sheriff’s office. He is next due in court June 4.

Article source: http://chicago.suntimes.com/crime/7/71/647019/hammond-man-charged-identity-theft-125-people

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