Archive for July, 2015

Bay City woman pleads guilty to felony in identity theft case

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Kathryn A. Janowicz

BAY CITY, MI — A 33-year-old Bay City woman has pleaded guilty to a felony after police accused her of stealing another’s identity to buy merchandise from Kmart and a convenience store.

Kathryn A. Janowicz in early July pleaded guilty to one count of illegal use or sale of a financial transaction device. The charge is a four-year felony.

In exchange, prosecutors agreed to dismiss single counts of identity theft and using a computer to commit a crime. Those counts are punishable by up to five and seven years’ imprisonment, respectively.

The charges stem from an investigation began Wednesday, May 27, when a local woman called the Bay City Department of Public Safety to report that she recently noticed someone had opened a Citibank account in her name. Citibank had issued a card with a $2,000 credit limit, $226 of which had already been spent, the woman said, according to court records.

The woman closed the account, which listed an address belonging to Janowicz and her husband, court records show.

Records indicate the card was used at King’s Party Store, 1029 S. Madison Ave., and the Kmart at 4001 N. Euclid Ave. in Bangor Township. On June 1, Kmart provided police with a receipt number for the purchase on the bogus card. Apparently, the purchaser also provided the cashier with a member rewards card belonging to Janowicz’s husband, court records show.

Surveillance camera footage indicated a woman matching Janowicz’s description made the Kmart purchase, court records show.

Also on June 1, the identity theft victim called police to say Citibank’s fraud department had informed her a woman had just called claiming to be her and inquiring about the now-canceled card, court records show. The woman also told police she theorized Janowicz was the culprit.

Janowicz worked as an office manager at Alliance Contracting and Design, 1201 S. Lincoln St., where the victim had worked the previous year. The woman theorized that is how Janowicz obtained her personal information, court records show.

Police interviewed Janowicz, who made a confession to police, court records indicate.

“I was having financial problems so I decided to open up a credit card in someone else’s name,” she told police, according to court records. “I used an application on file at Alliance Contracting to get information … .”

Janowicz went on to say she charged about $800 on the fraudulent card. She said she intended to pay off the card with student loan money, court records show.

Bay County Chief Circuit Judge Kenneth W. Schmidt is to sentence Janowicz at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 24.

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Woman sought in ID Theft in Petaluma

Friday, July 31st, 2015

PETALUMA (KRON)  — Police in Petaluma are looking for a woman who made more than $2,300 in charges with a stolen credit card in Petaluma on Saturday. The victim was out shopping when she noticed her wallet was missing according to police.

The victims credit cards were used in multiple locations in Petaluma, including $2,300 in purchases at Target and Kohl’s stores, police said. The suspect also tried to make an additional $2,000 in purchases that were declined, police said.

The woman was seen in video surveillance footage using the cards in the two stores. She is a Hispanic woman believed to be between 20 and 30 years old and was seen driving a white sedan.

Police have asked anyone with information that can help identify her is asked to contact officer Brenden Sawyer at (707) 781-1248.

Bay City News contributed to this report 

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Gautier man admits role in identity theft

Friday, July 31st, 2015


New information: Police say woman killed in crash was driver’s mother, car’s owner

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South Miss. man pleads guilty to identity theft

Friday, July 31st, 2015

A 33-year-old Gautier man has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of aggravated identity theft.

U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis says Edgardo Batiz Medina was accused of selling birth certificates and Social Security cards.

The Mississippi Press reported Medina will be sentenced Oct. 22. He faces a maximum penalty of two years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

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Poll: Have You Been a Victim of Identity Theft?

Friday, July 31st, 2015
credit card on top of laptop with receipt paper printing out of side
Walker and Walker—Getty Images

Research shows that identity thieves claim a new victim every two seconds.

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HPD investigates reports of identity theft

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

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Identity theft complaints up sharply, agencies say – Pittsburgh Post

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

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With a record number of data breaches reverberating across the nation last year, identity theft zoomed to the top as the fastest-growing complaint reported by state and local consumer protection agencies in 2014, according to a just-released survey by the Consumer Federation of America.

The report from the Washington, D.C.-based association of nonprofit consumer groups, done in conjunction with the North American Consumer Protection Investigators, offers an annual snapshot of common ways people are being ripped off.

“It’s clear that more needs to be done to address ID theft,” the federation’s director of consumer protection, Susan Grant, said in a conference call with reporters, calling data breaches an epidemic.

Although legislators in Washington are considering a federal breach notification law, most states already have regulations requiring that consumers be notified when their personal data has been compromised, Ms. Grant said.

Lawmakers should instead focus on requiring better security to prevent sensitive personal data from being stolen in the first place, she said.

One type of ID theft cited in the survey as particularly fast-growing and troublesome was the use of consumers’ stolen personal information to impersonate them in order to claim their income tax refunds.

“Government benefits fraud … makes it very difficult for the victims to claim benefits that are rightfully theirs,” said Amber Capoun, president of the North American investigators group.

In all, the 37 agencies in 21 states that participated in this year’s survey received nearly 300,000 consumer complaints last year.

The top three consumer complaint categories were the same as last year and in previous years — autos, home improvement/​construction, and credit/​debt complaints.

“The reason they’re usually at the top is because they involve a fair amount of money and those problems have a significant impact on people’s lives,” Ms. Grant said.

The rest of the top 10 list also was essentially unchanged, and did not include complaints about ID theft.

Besides ID theft, other fast-growing categories involved complaints about erroneous bills for health care and about Internal Revenue Service impostor scams.

When agencies were asked what new laws were needed to better protect consumers, several suggested that regulators address the “sharing economy.”

Current laws “generally apply only to business-to-consumer transactions,” Ms. Grant said. “It can be unclear who is legally responsible for problems when consumers purchase services” through platforms such as Uber and Airbnb, she said. She said the agencies did not provide any specific examples of problems.

“We can see from the survey that this is starting to percolate up as an issue. It’s something to keep an eye on.”

For the federation’s report, visit the newsroom section at

Patricia Sabatini:

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9 Investigates identity theft trend

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

9 Investigates examined how your personal information may be getting posted online without your knowledge, allowing crooks to steal your identity.

Channel 9’s Vanessa Welch worked with a local cybersecurity expert who was able to find Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and salary information for dozens of Floridians.

The sensitive, personal information was posted where anyone could find it.

It only took a few minutes searching online with security expert Johnathan Singer. He easily found personal information for people all over central Florida.

“These are valid driver’s licenses, valid socials, valid home addresses, valid bank accounts,” Singer said as he scrolled through the data. “Wow.”

Some of the information Singer discovered belongs to Thomas Lewis, in Cape Canaveral.    

Welch went to Lewis’ home to alert him that his personal information was on the Internet and available for anyone wanting to illegally use his data for personal gain.

“Is that your address, your Social Security number?” Welch asked after approaching Lewis at his home. “Is that your driver’s license number?”

“The birthdate is right. The Social Security number is right,” Lewis said. “Oh, my gosh. Yes, it’s all right. How did they get this stuff?”

Singer was able to find the information online and didn’t have to pay for the data. It was all on a site called Pastebin.

Lewis told Welch he feels violated.

“Someone’s stolen me,” he said. “I’ve been stolen. Yes, it is scary.”

Data breaches at major retailers like Home Depot and Target are becoming more common. Hackers sell the personal information online, but they often post free samples on sites like Pastebin to prove they have more for sale in bulk.

“I think this should be stopped,” Lewis said as he looked at Welch’s findings. “This is not just me. There is a lot of people on here.”

You can ask Pastebin to remove your information, but Singer said the second your data hits the Internet, people copy it.

“Once something is on the Internet it tends to be there forever,” Singer said.

Crooks use the identifiers to get credit cards and loans, but catching those behind the scam is tough.

“Millions of identities are being stolen,” said Sgt. Brian Neal, of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.

Neal leads Brevard County’s Identity Theft Task Force. He told 9 Investigates that many thieves use hidden internet protocol addresses to sell personal data.

“When we do identify we have large-scale identity theft, we aggressively pursue that working with our state attorney,” Neal said.

If you find your information posted online, you should immediately lock down your accounts with credit freezes and monitoring.

It’s something Lewis plans to do right away.

“I’m glad you told me about this. I didn’t know,” Lewis said.

9 Investigates contacted Pastebin for a comment but never heard back. 9 Investigates also shredded Lewis’ information and that of others found online so that data won’t get into the wrong hands.

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Montco business owners nabbed in $124K ID theft case

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Authorities say the owners of a Montgomery County business have been taken into custody for their alleged roles in a $124,000 identity-theft scam.

The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office said 33-year-old Eric Martin and 29-year-old Portia Martin were apprehended on Tuesday, after law enforcement distributed their photos and sought information about the pair’s whereabouts.

The owners of Centra Spark, a Fort Washington-based heating, ventilation and air-conditioning company, they are accused of applying for fraudulent loans in the names of at least eight people.

Prosecutors say the fake loans, obtained through Synchrony Financial, which provides loans for home improvement projects, were to finance purported HVAC services.

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Singletary: Holes in the fence of ID-theft protection

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

photophotoMichelle Singletary

Michelle Singletary

Your personal financial information can’t be completely protected.

Witness the recent news involving the Federal Trade Commission and LifeLock Inc., one of the leading companies in the identity-theft protection business.

The FTC has filed charges alleging that LifeLock violated a 2010 settlement in which the company vowed to stop making deceptive claims about its services and implement stronger measures to safeguard its own customers’ personal data, including credit card, Social Security and bank account numbers.

“We disagree with the substance of the FTC’s contentions and are prepared to take our case to court,” LifeLock said in a statement. “LifeLock takes the accuracy of our advertising materials very seriously. The alerting claims raised by the FTC did not result in any known identity theft for LifeLock members.”

Whatever happens this time (LifeLock previously shelled out $12 million), the case should serve as a reminder that identity-theft services are limited in what they can do and still can leave you exposed. Here’s how:

The claim: In its advertising, LifeLock says it “uses advanced technology to constantly monitor over a trillion data points to help detect suspicious uses of your identity information to get loans, credit and services in your name.”

The caveat: Let’s say that with all of its super-duper detection, LifeLock discovers that your information has been compromised. This means the data is already out there and perhaps being sold for goodness knows what. By the time a breach is detected, it’s too late. Oh, and by the way, in those ads — and in smaller print than the protection claim — is this disclosure: “Network does not cover all transactions.”

The claim: “At the center of all LifeLock services is the patented LifeLock Identity Alert system. Actionable alerts are sent in near real time as soon as LifeLock detects your Social Security number, name, address or date of birth in applications for credit and services within our extensive network. … You can choose alerts by text, phone or email.”

The caveat: Again, alerts only come after the fact. Also, the FTC noted in its original 2010 complaint that LifeLock’s alerts don’t protect you from some of the more common types of identity theft, such as misuse of an existing credit account, that typically do not involve obtaining consumer credit reports.

The claim: Identity-theft services may offer alerts of activity on your credit card, checking and savings accounts.

The caveat: You’re paying for something you can do yourself.

With so many data breaches, most financial institutions now allow you to sign up for free alerts. I have alerts on all my accounts.

The claim: You’ll get your alerts lickety-split.

The caveat: You may not get alerted as quickly as you think.

In its new complaint, the FTC said that from at least January 2012 through December 2014, LifeLock falsely claimed it protected consumers’ identity around the clock, 365 days a year, by sending alerts “as soon as” there was any indication there was a problem.

LifeLock says in its FAQs that it’s “possible that, due to a lender or service provider’s internal processing procedures, in limited circumstances an application made within our network may not result in an alert or may result in a delayed alert notification.”

As the FTC noted, even when you put a fraud alert on your credit files, creditors could overlook such notices. And many institutions simply don’t have sufficient protections within their systems to thwart identity thieves.

Even the best identity-theft protection service still leave you vulnerable because what they largely provide is an after-the-fact “defense.”

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