Archive for May, 2015

Oxnard couple arrested in identity theft case

Friday, May 29th, 2015

OXNARD, Calif. – Police arrested an Oxnard married couple Thursday after investigating them in connection with a case of identity theft, according to the Oxnard Police Department.

Guillermo Ezequiel Martin, 39, got a job at a local business after his wife used her authority as the business’ human resources director to get him the position, concealing his true identity and the fact that he was a registered sex offender, authorities said. Martin used the stolen identity for six months while his wife continued to keep his sex offender status a secret, police said.

Martin also used a business account to buy $1,846 worth of goods for his own use, officials said.

Detectives served a search warrant served about 7:15 a.m. at a residence in the 1800 block of Pericles Place and found several items indicating that martin was using other identities, police said.

Martin and his 35-year-old wife were arrested in connection with the incident, officials said. The offenses included conspiracy, identity theft, grand theft, false impersonation and being a sex offender failing to provide information, authorities said.

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Jacksonville identity theft ring busted by IRS

Friday, May 29th, 2015


After collecting and cashing treasury checks from the living and the dead, a Jacksonville woman has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for her role in filing fraudulent tax refunds in a 2011 case.

According to the IRS 42-year-old Katrina Graham pleaded guilty to conspiracy and five counts of theft of government funds.

She now has to pay back more than $366,000 to the IRS for the crimes that occurred over several months in 2011 and in February of this year.

Over just a few months, Graham stole from 44 people, four of them deceased.

Graham owned an automotive repair shop on Beaver Street and used her business bank account to cash fraudulently obtained government checks.

“Ms. Graham used her business checking account to cash U.S. Treasury refund checks, fraudulently obtained refund checks,” Melissa Lee, with the IRS criminal investigations office, said.

Lee said the identities on the checks were taken from all over the nation, and the checks themselves were sent to Graham by someone who also worked nearby.

“It was individuals in the Lake City area that were supplying treasury checks to her,” Lee said.

From August to December of 2011, Graham deposited 44 checks into her business banking account and withdrew more than $366,438.80 from the treasury checks.

As complex as the scheme sounds, Lee said that there are levels to an identity theft ring like this and each one is important.

Lee said that first you need someone to steal people’s identities. Then someone prepares a fraudulent tax return. Once the return is prepared, someone else gets the checks or debit cards with a refund amount on them and finally, someone like Graham collects those checks and cashes them.

“This role is crucial to perpetrating an identity theft scheme. If you can’t get the money off the card, what good is it to perpetrate the scheme?” Lee said.

Graham has been ordered to pay back all the money she took, and when she is assigned to a prison, she must report by July 6.

Lee also said this is a good reminder keep an eye out for identity theft and never give out your Social Security number.

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FBI Says It’s Investigating Identity Theft At IRS

Friday, May 29th, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI says it’s begun an investigation into the theft of personal tax information of more than 100,000 taxpayers from an Internal Revenue Service website.

The FBI said Thursday that agents were “working to determine the nature and scope of this matter.” The agency is advising individuals it’s contacted to take steps to safeguard their personal information.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has said the information was stolen as part of an elaborate scheme to claim fraudulent tax refunds.

Two officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday that IRS investigators belief the identity thieves are part of a sophisticated criminal operation based in Russia.

The information was taken from an IRS website called “Get Transcript,” where taxpayers can get tax returns and other tax filings from previous years.

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2 Connecticut men sentenced in multi-million identity theft cases

Friday, May 29th, 2015

WATERBURY Two Waterbury men have been sentenced in separate identity theft cases.

U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly says Julio Trinidad was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in prison for his role in using stolen identities to collect fraudulent tax refund checks.

The 28-year-old pleaded guilty in February to stealing public money and aggravated identity theft. The U.S. Treasury lost $7.5 million from the thefts.

Prosecutors say Bernard Brantley was sentenced Wednesday to two years behind bars for his participation in collecting victims’ social security numbers, birthdays and other personal information and giving it to a woman who filed tax returns with large refunds. About $2.5 million was filed with more than $1 million lost.

Brantley pleaded guilty to conspiracy in February must pay nearly $400,000.

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1 number you should check each year to avoid identity theft

Friday, May 29th, 2015

What do your weight and your credit score have in common? According to a new video by personal finance website Bankrate, you should be checking both on your birthday.

Keeping up to date on your credit score is one of the easist ways to make sure your identity hasn’t been stolen or used, the Bankrate video explains. Your weight, of course, is good to check for your own personal health reasons.

JJ Feinauer is a writer for Deseret News National. Email:, Twitter: jjfeinauer.

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Children at risk for identity theft – WNDU

Friday, May 29th, 2015

The FTC says identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the US and children are just as susceptible as adults.

SOUTH BEND Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States, affecting some 9.9 million people, according to the Federal Trade Commission. What many people don’t know is children are just as much at risk as their parents.

“The identity of a child is prime real estate, it is the gold bar for the criminal. They are looking for the information of children because when they use the info of kids it’s easier to sneak it past credit card companies,” said Bill Stanczykiewicz, the President and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute (IYI).

Child identity theft affects 1 in 40 households often going unnoticed for years. Stanczykiewicz says most parents aren’t in the habit of checking a young child’s credit.

“They’ll take the name of one child, the social security number of another child, the birth date of a 3rd child and they’ll blend that together into what law enforcement calls a synthetic identity. They put that on a credit application and that application comes up as first time applicant,” said Stanczykiewicz.

According to local law enforcement, child identity theft is happening in Michiana.

“We have had cases dealing with utilities being turned on in children’s names, social security numbers, they’ve had credit cards. We’ve had issues where people have applied for student loans. Anything that you would think of on regular identity theft with an adult can happen to a child too,” said Lt. Dominic Zultanski with the South Bend Police Department.

To avoid problems down the road, local law enforcement and the IYI say parents should be proactive now. Lt. Zultanski suggests parents check a child’s credit before age 16. In fact, he says when adults check their own credit once a year, they should also check their child’s credit.

Stanczykiewicz says some of the warning signs include unsolicited mail addressed to young children and phone calls from bill collectors.

“If this happens to your family you immediately need to call local law enforcement,” said Stanczykiewicz.

Stanczykiewicz says adults should also contact the federal government and their financial institution.

“Almost always the financial institute will clean this up. They know this. And if you act promptly you can make your case.”

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Collier a top spot for identity theft — but there are ways to battle back

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Naples’ affluence makes it an especially attractive place to live — and also a particularly attractive target for identity thieves.

In fact, the Naples-Marco Island-Golden Gate area ranks third of all U.S. cities when it comes to reported identity theft, said Keith Dameron, vice president and business development officer of IBERIA Bank and a member of Collier County’s Identity Theft Task Force.

“When people move here, they think they are moving into a dome of security — but that’s the opposite of the truth,” he said.

Dameron spoke in front of about a dozen citizens who came to the Golden Gate branch of the bank Tuesday evening to hear ways to keep the bad guys at bay:

Don’t click links: “Because people in this area tend to be older, they tend to be vulnerable to Internet offers and email offers to make them look younger, eliminate wrinkles, or improve virility or memory,” Dameron said. “Almost always there will be a link for more info. When you click, odds are high you will get malware on your computer that will give them access to whatever you have on it.”

Don’t take online surveys: These often are vehicles for delivering malware, too.

File your taxes early, and always ask the IRS for a PIN number: Almost everyone’s information has already been stolen — or soon will be — and may already in the hands of scammers, Dameron said. If identity thieves already have your Social Security number and other personal information, they can file a false tax form in your name claiming a refund and have it sent to them.

Beware of skimmers” Often used at ATMs, these nearly invisible devices swipe your personal information from the magnetic strip on your credit cards. To foil them, use ATMs in bank lobbies or highly visible public places, which thieves tend to avoid. Also, push on the card slot to see if it wiggles — legitimate slots won’t move, but skimmers often are loose.

Beware fake fraud calls: In this scam, you’ll get a phone call from the “fraud department” of your credit card company that says someone made a transaction on your account. When you say it’s bogus, the scammer will ask for your three-digit pin number on your credit card for “verification.” Don’t do it — hang up and call the credit card company to inquire about recent activity.

Use credit cards: Thieves can drain your bank account quickly if you use a debit card. But you aren’t liable for false credit card transactions that you report promptly. Also, if necessary, banks can freeze your account.

“We live in a beautiful, safe place, but we still need to be cautious,” said Dameron. “Awareness is key.”

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Waterbury man gets 12 years for identity theft scheme

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

NEW HAVEN A Waterbury man was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in prison for his participation in using stolen identities to receive fraudulent tax refund checks that resulted in a loss of $7.5 million from the U.S. Treasury, according to a press release from Deirdre M. Daly, U.S. attorney for Connecticut.

Julio Lara Trinidad, 28, pleaded guilty in February to one count of theft of public money and one count of aggravated identity theft, the release said.

Trinidad was arrested in 2011 in New Jersey on a related charge and pleaded guilty in January 2012 for stealing checks from other people’s mailboxes. He was scheduled to be sentenced in May 2012 but never appeared in court thus an arrest warrant was issued, according to the release.

While Trinidad was on the run, he and co-defendants, Jerry De Los Santos Rodriguez and Cesar Penson-Perez, opened more than 50 bank accounts using names of identify theft victims that Trinidad stole. Once the checks hit the accounts, Trinidad quickly withdrew the funds, which cost the U.S. Treasury more than $663,000. Trinidad then purchased licenses between December 2012 and February 2013 to buy tax preparation software. The licenses were used to file more than 36,000 federal tax returns, which seeked more than $236 million in refunds to be issued to Trinidad, De Los Santos Rodriguez and Penson-Perez. Approximately $6.8 million was issued before their scheme was discovered.

In July 2013, Trinidad and another co-defendant, Ramon Mena, sold more than $60,000 in fraudulent checks to an undercover law enforcement officer, the release said.

De Los Santos Rodriguez, Mena and Penson-Perez also pleaded guilty for their roles, the release said. It was not immediately clear if they have been sentenced.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, another Waterbury man, 45-year-old Bernard Brantley, was sentenced to two years behind bars for his role in a similar but less costly case, according to a separate release from Daly.

Brantley and co-defendants, Kenya Malcolm, Charles Ross, worked together to file false federal income tax returns, the release said.

Malcolm operated a business in Arizona called “Biggest Refund Taxes” and falsely told others she was a certified public accountant, the release said. Malcolm hired Ross, also of Arizona, to recruit individuals for her business and Ross contacted Brantley.

Instead of getting people for Malcolm’s business, he hired people under false pretenses by telling them they were eligible for large tax refunds, the release said. Brantley then collected victims’ social security numbers, birthdays and other personal information and forwarded it to Malcolm, who would then file tax returns that generated massive refunds, the release said.

The money collected was then dispersed to Brantley, Ross, the victim and herself, the release said. Approximately $2.5 million was filed and more than $1 million was lost.

Brantley was ordered to pay $395,537 in restitution, the release said.

Brantley pleaded guilty February 17 to one count of conspiracy, the release said. Malcolm and Ross also pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

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Thieves find brazen way to steal your identity

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

(CNN)A criminal could be collecting unemployment benefits under your name right now — and you wouldn’t even know it.

It’s a crime so brazen that even police have been victims of the scheme.

And it’s so pervasive that prosecutors were surprised by the “tsunami of fraud that we have seen around the country,” according to Wifredo Ferrer, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Unemployment benefits are issued as part of a federal and state partnership to provide money to people out of work. State payments are issued on debit cards or to a bank account.

But criminals are capitalizing on that system by buying personal information stolen from places such as hospitals, medical offices, schools and retirement programs. They then log onto state websites and file for unemployment benefits. Since the priority is for states to get the money out quickly, they don’t wait for an employer to verify the identity of the person applying for the benefits. Victims typically don’t find out what’s happened until their employer is notified that they are receiving unemployment payments.

Federal investigators estimate the unemployment benefits fraud totals about $5.6 billion, which includes schemes where identities are stolen.

    “The fact that this is so easy to commit is something that has been a real challenge to law enforcement because the fraudsters keep evolving, and they always find a new way to steal our identities,” Ferrer told CNN. “And all you need sometimes is a name, a date of birth and a Social Security number. And sometimes, you don’t even need that to commit this crime.”

    Just ask Coral Mann, who was startled to learn that someone had filed for about $3,000 in unemployment benefits under her name. There was one problem — she’s a detective for the North Miami Beach, Florida, Police Department.

    “It makes me very angry because I work too hard for whatever I have and what I earn for myself and my family,” Mann said. “It just makes me angry that you could sit behind your computer and hide like a coward and just take my stuff without me having anything to do with it.”

    5 ways identity thieves are targeting you

    Mann took her case to one of her colleagues, Detective Craig Catlin, who happens to be one of the country’s leading experts on fraud.

    “Fraud’s better than drugs on the street,” Catlin said.

    North Miami Beach, Florida, police Detective Craig Catlin checks a fraud suspects information in a police database.

    Catlin said he first noticed that criminals were stealing unemployment benefits because states generally do not confirm the identity of the person filing a claim until after the money is sent.

    “It’s so new and overwhelming that now (states) are doing a catch-up process to get checks and balances so they’ll be less fraudulent funds,” he said. “We have cases that range from just a few high school kids doing $20,000, $30,000 in a few months to cases where we know we’re in the two, three, four million dollar range for just one group of guys in South Florida.”

    Identity theft tops list of consumer complaints

    Mann’s case led to a search warrant at a home in Miami Gardens, where police found more than 1,000 suspected stolen identities. Three brothers, including a juvenile, were arrested. The two adult brothers have pleaded no contest to identity theft charges and will be sentenced in July.

    “You feel so vulnerable,” Mann said. “You feel like somebody just assaulted you, physically assaulted you, when they do things like that.”

    Catlin, left, and Edward Garcia investigate fraud cases. South Florida has become a national hub for such activity.

    No one knows the extent of the fraud from identity theft alone. In a 15-month period, the state of Florida stopped 97,000 fraudulent claims worth about $400 million, according to Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which oversees unemployment benefits. Those cases were turned over to the U.S. Department of Labor’s inspector general’s office.

    He acknowledged the state could not specify the amount of fraud that went through to identity thieves.

    “We’re constantly adjusting the system to see what is efficient, and what is not and what protects against fraud,” he said. “But in the end, we can’t go back to 1982, where everything’s pen and paper again. We have to have a system that uses modern technology and is efficient for the good guys, for the people who actually need money from the system.”

    1. Florida

    2. Washington

    3. Oregon

    4. Missouri

    5. Georgia

    Source: Federal Trade Commission

    He said Florida, like other states, is under a federal mandate to pay claims “within a couple of weeks, even if an employer hasn’t responded” to confirm the person is unemployed.

    The fraud is so serious that Panuccio wrote a letter in March to U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, warning that “organized criminal enterprises are attacking public-benefit systems on a daily basis. Unfortunately, South Florida has become a national hub for this activity.”

    While Florida uses a state-of-the-art system to detect fraud, Panuccio wrote that “few states have implemented back-end analytics to actively combat fraud. We suspect that if such a program were deployed nationally, the amount of (unemployment insurance) fraud detected would be staggering.”

    The Department of Labor agreed to have Perez sit down with CNN for an interview on the issue, but it was abruptly canceled by Carl Fillichio, senior adviser in the public affairs office, and no reason was given.

    Instead, the department issued a statement.

    “It is important to note, though, that — at 3.19% — the estimated rate of fraudulent payments remains extremely low,” it said.

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    The department said it has taken numerous steps in the last four years to combat the fraud. That includes spending $625 million to assist states in modernizing their computer systems and creating an “unemployment fraud integrity center of excellence” to explore new technologies.

    “There is no place for fraud and abuse in the (unemployment insurance) program,” the statement said. “The department will remain vigilant and will continue to work with our state partners to prevent, detect and recover improper payments — and prosecute individuals suspected of fraud.”

    The Labor Department’s inspector general concluded in a 2014 report that the unemployment insurance program is “particularly at risk for improper payments and the department’s ability to identify and reduce UI improper payments continues to be a challenge.”

    The inspector general has recommended more vigilant oversight of the unemployment insurance program “by increasing the frequency of on-site reviews” at state agencies and to continue pursuing legislation that would allow states to use part of recovered fraudulent payments to detect and deter fraud.

    How to protect yourself from identity theft

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How To Tell You’ve Been A Victim Of Identity Theft

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

100,000 Americans have had their tax information stolen by sophisticated criminals. Here’s how: thieves got access to the “Get Transcript” program on the IRS website—it’s where taxpayers can access tax returns from previous years.

When thieves hacked into the IRS website, they got banking information, account numbers, names and addresses.

“All the things people would need in order to fraudulently file another tax return or open credit accounts in someone else’s name,” says Sgt. Joe Mahoney with the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office.

Ways to tell you’ve been a victim: check out your credit report. You can do it for free once a year at

“When you look at your credit report, you’re going to see any prior addresses that you might have listed, places of employment, places you’ve applied with for credit in the past. And all that stuff you want to review for accuracy to make sure someone hasn’t tried to use your name with another address,” says Counseling Services Coordinator Scott Hehman.

You can also put a fraud alert on your account by calling One of the three credit bureaus. Then, if someone tries opening a line of credit under your name, they’ll contact you to make sure it’s valid.

And there are a few tips to keep you safe every day from identity theft.

Tip number one: Don’t leave the house with anything but the cards you plan to use that day.

“If you lose your wallet or someone steals your wallet, then they only have what you’ve taken with you instead of every credit card that you own,” says Certified Public Accountant Robert Hall.

And don’t open any emails that ask you to click on a suspicious link unless you know for sure where that link goes.

Scammers can put software on there that you’re completely unaware of that allows them to take control of your computer, your email, your online accounts,” says Hall.

And if you’re worried about your mail getting stolen, you can come to the post office and get a p.o. box.

“People just drive by and see what kind of financial information you have, a bill, that’s sitting in your mailbox,” says Hall.

With more and more of our sensitive information going digital—and less of it on paper—officials say we can only expect to see more hacks.

If you do place a fraud alert on your credit, make sure you do it after you check your free credit report, otherwise you’ll have trouble accessing it yourself.

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