Archive for September, 2015

AARP Vermont hosts talk by identity theft expert

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

News Release — AARP Vermont
Sept. 29, 2015

David Reville Communication Director
[email protected]

Leading Identity Theft Expert Frank W. Abagnale to Share Insights on Avoiding Scams, Protecting Families from Fraud

Security Expert and Subject of 2002’s “Catch Me If You Can” to address VT and NH Residents

BURLINGTON, VT — Frank Abagnale, a security consultant to the FBI for more than four decades, will give an engaging talk on identity theft Oct. 8 in Lebanon, N.H. at the Lebanon Opera House. As an AARP Fraud Watch Network Ambassador, he will share insights on spotting and avoiding scams and help families protect themselves from fraud and identity theft.

Abagnale’s colorful past as a con artist in the 1960s inspired the 2002 movie Catch Me If You Can. He has written three books on fraud and identity theft, and has helped some of the largest companies in the world beef up their security against cyber-attacks. He will explain how easy it is for thieves to steal identities from online sources and debit cards to take out mortgages, drain victims’ bank accounts or mask con artists’ identities while committing other crimes. He will share simple tips to protect yourself and will take questions.

“Area residents will have a rare opportunity to hear from one of the world’s foremost experts on fraud. His advice on how we can protect ourselves from identity theft and cybercrime is invaluable,” said Greg Marchildon, state director for AARP Vermont.

The free presentation will be at the Lebanon Opera House from 6 to 7:30 p.m., with a reception to follow.

WHAT: Join the AARP Fraud Watch Network and AARP Vermont and New Hampshire for a presentation by Frank W. Abagnale on protecting yourself and your family from identity theft. The event is free. His advice is invaluable.

WHO: Frank W. Abagnale, one of the world’s leading con artist experts, and newly named AARP Fraud Watch Network Ambassador.

WHEN: Thursday, October 8, 2015, 6:00 – 7:30 PM

WHERE: Lebanon Opera House, 51 No. Park St., Lebanon, NH

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The Medical Identity Theft Apocalypse? Fear the Walking Files

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015
by Adam Levin, Contributor

Criminal cyber attacks on healthcare information repositories have increased 125% since 2010. With the announcement of the Excellus breach last week, the total number of big-headline medical information compromises reported in 2015 (such as Anthem, Primera, Carefirst) had crossed the mind-blowing demarcation line of 100 million files.

The Excellus breach exposed the names of clients as well as their dates of birth, Social Security numbers, mailing addresses, telephone numbers, member identification numbers, financial account information and claim information. In terms of the type of information compromised and the amount of it, this most recent mega medical information breach, estimated to affect as many as 10 million consumers, was negligibly smaller than the Premera compromise, which exposed 11 million records. Yet it received nowhere near the same amount of media attention.

The reason is something called breach fatigue. Sure, news of the Excellus breach was a lead story, but if you think about it for a moment, was it the first thing people brought up at the proverbial water cooler the day the news broke? Probably not.

Here’s why the Excellus breach should have had tongues wagging:

  • According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, the medical/healthcare sector accounted for the highest percentage of breaches in 2014 at 42.5%.
  • As discussed in my forthcoming book, Swiped, medical identity theft can be life-threatening. When your personally identifiable information is used by another person to acquire healthcare, your medical history is literally contaminated with the PII, and hence the medical information, of another person. If that mingling of data results in the removal of an allergy or a change of blood type, the result could put your life in jeopardy.
  • If someone gains unauthorized access to your health insurance, you could find yourself in a quagmire should you suffer from the same ailment as the thief and require a particular treatment or medical procedure. Consider how serious that could be if the procedure you need (and can’t get because it’s already been performed on the imposter) happens to be something like bypass surgery, amputation, cancer treatment or any other major intervention.

While you think back to the day the Excellus news broke—there was the talk about the floods in Japan, refugees in Europe, the U.S. Open, the upcoming third episode of “Fear the Walking Dead”—I’m guessing the number of times that particular breach came up was low to nil. That’s fine. We’re not talking about breach fatigue per se. The real issue is that we need to raise and maintain awareness of the threat.

While you reflect upon the non-discussions about last week’s Excellus news, consider how a person might reply to a “Howya doing?” greeting at the water cooler after learning that they have become the victim of medical identity theft. Most likely, they would say something about it. And dollars to donuts, they would say they were in a waking nightmare.

How to Tell If You’ve Been Bit by the Medical ID Theft Zombie

Medical identity theft is hard to detect, and many people still alarmingly do not understand that it’s a real and present danger.

In the first episode of the new AMC show, “Fear the Walking Dead,” it takes a while for Los Angelenos to understand what’s happening, i.e., that the zombie apocalypse has begun. We are in a similar situation with medical identity theft, but in the real-world version, with vigilance on your part, you can better protect yourself.

Here are the telltale signs you’ve been infected.

  1. There is an error on your medical file. While this can happen in the usual way—even doctors make mistakes—it could signal trouble. TIP: Many doctors provide online access to your medical records. If yours does, take advantage of it and make sure the information there is accurate. If you cannot access your file, ask your doctor to read it to you.
  1. You receive phishing emails that refer to your healthcare provider or billing that require personally identifiable information to learn more. TIP: Always look up and call the main number of any entity that requests personally identifiable information. Only authenticate yourself when you are in control of the virtual or telephonic conversation.
  1. You get one-ring phone calls. TIP: If you do not recognize the number, let it go to voicemail. Some fraudsters call your phone number after purchasing your information on the black market to see if your number works (i.e., your file is worth trying to exploit). Never return a one-ring call to ascertain who called, because these can also be scams that trigger a charge on your phone bill.
  1. Your Explanation of Benefits lists a doctor visit you didn’t make or a prescription that wasn’t issued to you. TIP: Read all your mail from healthcare providers, making sure that there is nothing in the correspondence that could point to fraud. If you suspect your information has been used, call your healthcare provider immediately.
  1. You are contacted by a debt collector regarding your failure to pay in a timely manner a doctor, laboratory or medical facility. TIP: Demand that the debt collector provides the details within five days and immediately contact the medical provider and your insurer.
  1. Your credit score takes a sudden dive due to a medical collection that mysteriously appears on your credit report. TIP: You can get a free annual credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (or more frequently, depending on the state where you reside). Schedule time to check those reports for any suspicious items, like collection accounts that might not really belong to you. You can also get a free overview of your credit and two free credit scores from, updated monthly so you can watch for important changes.

While we may not be looking at a medical identity theft “apocalypse” a la the zombie shows, movies and comics, medical identity theft can definitely feel apocalyptic when you’re the victim. Protect yourself, know the warning signs and you just might stand a chance.


This article was written by Adam Levin from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.



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Banks turning to ‘biometrics’ to prevent identity theft

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015
mobile banking technology

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Passwords are meant to keep hackers out of your various accounts, but with identity theft being an ever-present problem, some banks are instead using something much more personal.

In an effort to keep accounts more secure, the companies are turning to cutting-edge technology known as biometrics, which includes voice activation, fingerprint verification and facial recognition.

“There’s the bio component, that’s biology, and metrics, that’s the measurement, so it’s using the measurement of our unique characteristics to distinguish one person from another,” explained biometrics expert Todd Mozer.

This new type of security is booming – and it’s starting to be used for more than just mobile banking.

“They’re better than what we have now,” said Claes Bell of Bankrate. “It’s much more convenient to provide a physical trait that can’t be impersonated easily, such as your voice and facial features.”

Call 12 for Action asked around, and learned that Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, American Express, VISA and MasterCard are all experimenting with voice and facial recognition, and some now offer a form of biometric log-in for their customers.

Eastern Bank is also offering the call-in voice verification for customer service.



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17.6M Experienced Identity Theft In 2014

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — An estimated 17.6 million persons, or about 7 percent of U.S. residents age 16 or older, were victims of at least one incident of identity theft in 2014, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. These statistics were similar to those in 2012.

Identity theft is the attempted or successful misuse of an existing account, such as a debit or credit card account, the misuse of personal information to open a new account or the misuse of personal information for other fraudulent purposes, such as obtaining government benefits or providing false information to police during a crime or traffic stop.

In 2014, the most common type of identity theft was the unauthorized misuse or attempted misuse of an existing account—experienced by 16.4 million persons. Victims may have experienced multiple types of identity theft. An estimated 8.6 million victims experienced the fraudulent use of a credit card, 8.1 million experienced the unauthorized or attempted use of existing bank accounts (checking, savings or other) and 1.5 million victims experienced other types of existing account theft, such as misuse or attempted misuse of an existing telephone, online or insurance account.

Most identity theft victims discovered the incident when a financial institution contacted them about suspicious activity (45 percent) or when they noticed fraudulent charges on an account (18 percent). The majority of identity theft victims did not know how the offender obtained their information, and 9 in 10 identity theft victims did not know anything about the offender.

Two-thirds of identity theft victims reported a direct financial loss. Victims whose personal information was misused or who had a new account opened in their name experienced greater out-of-pocket financial losses than those who had an existing credit card or bank account compromised. About 14 percent of identity theft victims experienced an out-of-pocket loss of $1 or more. Of those, about half suffered losses of $99 or less and 14 percent lost $1,000 or more.

The majority of identity theft victims (52 percent) were able to resolve any problems associated with the incident in a day or less, while about 9 percent spent more than a month. Victims who spent more time resolving the associated problems were more likely to experience problems with work and personal relationships and severe emotional distress than victims who resolved the problems relatively quickly. Among identity theft victims who spent six months or more resolving financial and credit problems due to the theft, 29 percent experienced severe emotional distress, while 4 percent who spent a day or less experienced such distress.

In 2014, fewer than one in 10 identity theft victims reported the incident to police. The majority (87 percent) of identity theft victims contacted a credit card company or bank to report misuse or attempted misuse of an account or personal information, while 8 percent contacted a credit bureau.

Other findings include—

  • In 2014, 85 percent of people took actions to prevent identity theft, such as checking credit reports, shredding documents with personal information and changing passwords on financial accounts.
  • The number of identity theft victims age 65 or older increased to 2.6 million in 2014— up from 2.1 million in 2012.
  • More females (9.2 million) were victims of identity theft than males (8.3 million) in 2014.
  • People in households with an annual income of $75,000 or more had the highest prevalence of identity theft (11 percent), compared to those in all other income brackets.
  • Ten percent of identity theft victims reported that the crime was severely distressing, compared to 33 percent of violent crime victims.

The report, Victims of Identity Theft, 2014 (NCJ 248991), was written by BJS statistician Erika Harrell. The report, related documents and additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ statistical publications and programs can be found on the BJS website at

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason, provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has six components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at


To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:

SOURCE Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs

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Newport News men guilty of fraud and ID theft in card cracking scheme

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

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5 States Where Identity Theft Is a Major Problem

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

By Sreekar Jasthi

Everyone is vulnerable to identity theft, but residents of some states seem more susceptible than others.

To determine where Americans are most often victims of this crime and what kinds of fraud are occurring, personal finance website NerdWallet analyzed data from the Federal Trade Commission, which received 332,646 identify theft complaints in 2014 — up 15% from the previous year.

The most common kind of identity theft is fraud involving government benefits or documents, such as Social Security cards, passports and driver’s licenses. Other types of fraud involve credit cards, phone or utility accounts, banks and employment.

Where does your state rank? Below are the five states with the highest rates of identity theft.
Check out the full analysis of identity theft and credit card fraud at NerdWallet and learn more about how to protect your identity and credit.

States with the highest rate of ID theft complaints

1. Florida

ID theft complaints per 100,000 residents: 186.3

Florida leads the nation in identity theft complaints. The state also had the highest rate of complaints about fraud involving government documents or benefits, credit cards and banks. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan area had 316.2 identity theft complaints per 100,000 residents, the highest rate among the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

2. Washington

ID theft complaints per 100,000 residents: 154.8

Washington’s identity theft complaint rate more than doubled from 2013 to 2014. Specifically, the number of government documents or benefits fraud complaints increased dramatically from 854 in 2013 to 6,050 in 2014. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area had 207 identity theft complaints per 100,000 residents, the second-highest rate among the 50 largest U.S. metro areas.

3. Washington, D.C.

ID theft complaints per 100,000 residents: 142.8

The nation’s capital actually saw a slight decrease in the rate of ID theft complaints — from 147.9 to 142.8 per 100,000 residents — from 2013 to 2014. Washington, D.C., trails Florida when it comes to the rate of complaints about fraud involving credit cards and banks.

4. Oregon

ID theft complaints per 100,000 residents: 124.6

Much like its neighbor to the north, Oregon saw a sharp increase in identity theft complaints from 60.3 to 124.6 per 100,000 residents from 2013-2014. The Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metro area, which includes Oregon and parts of Washington, had 159.2 complaints per 100,000 residents in 2014, the seventh-highest rate among the country’s 50 largest metro areas.

5. Missouri

ID theft complaints per 100,000 residents: 118.7

Fraud complaints in Missouri jumped from 67 to nearly 119 per 100,000 residents. The St. Louis metro area saw 204.4 complaints per 100,000 residents.

To see where other states rank when it comes to identity theft, check out NerdWallet’s interactive map of fraud across the U.S.

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There’s a 7 percent chance you were a victim of identity theft last year

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

About 7 percent of Americans had their identity stolen last year – and most don’t know how a stranger got their personal information.

In a report released Sunday, the Bureau of Justice Statistics said about 17,576,200 people (ages 16 or older) were victims of identity theft in 2014.

That’s about one in every 14 people, and close to the same rate as 2010 (the last time the bureau looked at the numbers).

About 14 percent of them actually experienced an out-of-pocket loss of $1 or more – and half of those people took losses of more than $100.

Here’s a breakdown that includes age, sex, income and race.

2014 identity theft victims

(Photo: Bureau of Justice Statistics report)

There are a lot of interesting nuggets in the report: For example, two-thirds of victims don’t know how a thief got their information. Read the summary here.

“These folks are crafty, and good at what they do,” Dan Hendrickson, spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, told BringMeTheNews. “It’s really important for people to know that they are, largely, their own best ally against identity theft.”

One note: Of all the victims, 45 percent found out what happened when their financial institution notified them.

According to Hendrickson, the only way to notice earlier is “vigilance.”

Check your accounts every few days, and consider signing up with a credit monitoring company.

One trick fraudsters use is to charge a very small amount to a card, a couple bucks, to see how closely it’s being watched, Hendrickson says. And if it goes through, they’ll consider coming back for a bigger bite.

The BBB has more tips for safety, plus background information on what’s targeted by thieves (mainly Social Security cards, IDs or diver’s licenses, bank cards and forms, wallets or purses, and even junk mail).

Dangers of coffee shop Wi-Fi

One big factor (which many people don’t realize) is public Wi-Fi, Hendrickson says – “people not realizing that they can be hacked at their local coffee shop.”

The reason is lack of digital protection; no encryption is required for the data traveling back and forth, ABC News said.

Hackers can create a Wi-Fi hotspot with a nearly identical name to the one you’re trying to connect to, or can use your computer’s own info to create a stronger network your device will automatically go toward, NBC News reported.

Last year, Medium brought a hacker (and a small black device) to a cafe with free Wi-Fi and within 20 minutes had learned where people were born, where they went to school, their hobbies and interests, and more. He also showed the writer how easy it is to steal passwords or redirect people to fake bank sites that look real – then take the log-in information from it.

To stay safe, TheNextWeb suggests using two-step authentication for all your accounts, encrypting your own data (which they walk you through how to do), and make sure to only log on to sites that start with “https:” not just “http:” – those contain a layer of built-in security.

Hendrickson says to avoid accessing financial info when you’re on public Wi-Fi as well.

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Ringleader of $24M identity theft ring gets 15 years

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Federal authorities say that the sentencing of a woman on Friday brings to an end a huge $24 million scheme in which 10 women from Alabama and Georgia stole more than 9,000 identities from the U.S. Army, several Alabama state agencies and Georgia companies and used them to defraud the government through falsified tax returns.

Keisha Lanier, who the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted as the ringleader of the operation, was sentenced to 15 years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to forfeit $5,811,406.

“Today’s sentence brings to a close an extensive criminal network led by Keisha Lanier and designed to victimize U.S. citizens and defraud the U.S. Treasury of over $20 million in fraudulent refund claims,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo.

“The substantial sentences imposed on Ms. Lanier and her co-defendants send a clear message that those who chose to engage in such criminal conduct will pay a very heavy price.”

The resident of Newnan, Georgia was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Kristi K. DuBose of the Southern District of Alabama, according to U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. of the Middle District of Alabama, which is located in Montgomery.

Between January 2011 and December 2013, Lanier and Tracy Mitchell led a large-scale identity theft ring in which Lanier, Mitchell and their co-defendants filed more than 9,000 false individual federal income tax returns that claimed more than $24 million in fraudulent claims for tax refunds, according to information in court documents and at the sentencing hearings,

The IRS paid out close to $10 million in refunds on these fraudulent claims.

The defendants obtained the stolen identities from various sources, including from the U.S. Army, several Alabama state agencies, a Georgia call center and employee records from a Georgia company.

Mitchell, who worked at the hospital located at Fort Benning, Georgia where she had access to the identification data of military personnel, stole the personal information of soldiers, including those who were deployed to Afghanistan.

Lanier was only the latest in a long line of women from Alabama and Georgia who have been sentenced in the scheme:

And on Aug. 7, the following sentences were imposed on Lanier’s other co-defendants:

  •  Tracy Mitchell, of Phenix City, Alabama, was sentenced to serve 13 years and three months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $329,242, which was seized in cash from her residence;
  • Talarius Paige, of Phenix City, was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $762,512 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS);
  •  Mequetta Snell-Quick, of Columbus, Georgia, was sentenced to serve two years and one day in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $199,471 in restitution to the IRS;
  •  Latasha Mitchell, of Phenix City, was sentenced to serve three years in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $513,821 in restitution to the IRS;
  • Dameisha Mitchell, of Phenix City, was sentenced to serve five years and five months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $440,176 in restitution to the IRS;
  •  Sharondra Johnson, of Phenix City, was sentenced to serve two years in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $440,176 in restitution to the IRS;
  •  Patrice Taylor, of Midland, Georgia, was sentenced to serve one year and one day in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $28,783 in restitution to the IRS; and
  •  Cynthia Johnson, of Phenix City, was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay $5,047 in restitution to the IRS.

Floyd stole personal information from two Alabama state agencies and provided those names to Lanier. Lanier provided those names to Tracy Mitchell, Latasha Mitchell, Paige and others to file false tax returns. Lanier also obtained stolen identities from the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Paige and Taylor worked in a call center for a payment-processing company in Columbus and stole identities. Paige, in turn, used those identities to file false tax returns, some of which he filed from Tracy Mitchell’s residence. Tracy and Latasha Mitchell also obtained employee files from a Columbus company and used those identities to file false tax returns.

To file the false tax returns, the defendants obtained several IRS Electronic Filing Numbers in the names of sham tax businesses. On behalf of those sham tax businesses, the defendants applied for bank products from various financial institutions. Under the guise of a legitimate business account, the institutions mailed blank check stock to the defendants’ homes.

The defendants directed the IRS to pay anticipated tax refunds to prepaid debit cards, in U.S. Treasury checks and to financial institutions, which in turn issued the tax refunds via prepaid debit cards or checks. When the refunds were sent through the financial institutions, the defendants simply printed out the refund checks from the check stock that had been sent to their homes.

After a period of time, the financial institutions stopped permitting the defendants to print out the tax refund checks. To continue the scheme, Tracy Mitchell and members of her family recruited U.S. Postal Service employees. The corrupt postal employees specified addresses along their postal routes to have the U.S. Treasury checks mailed, then obtained those checks and turned them over to the defendants for a fee.

The scheme also involved a complex money laundering operation. Nearly $10 million in fraudulent tax refund checks were cashed at several businesses located in Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky. To coordinate this massive check cashing scheme, the defendants communicated using text messages and maintained detailed records.

For instance, Sharondra Johnson worked at the Wal-Mart money center in Columbus, where she cashed checks for customers as part of her job. Dameisha Mitchell recruited her to cash tax refund checks that were fraudulently issued in the names of other individuals. Sharondra Johnson agreed to cash the checks and communicated with Dameisha and Tracy Mitchell via text messages. In an attempt to conceal the crime from Wal-Mart, the defendants had multiple individuals deliver the tax refund checks to Johnson for her to cash them.

Beck was particularly appalled at the crimes carried out against soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

“No sentence is too strong for those who prey on our fighting men and women,” said U.S. Attorney Beck Jr. “War is hell on the home front, too, and the family left behind holding things together must be strongly protected.”

At sentencing, the government offered victim impact statements from several individuals whose identities were stolen, from family members, and from companies and governmental agencies where the identity theft breaches occurred.

The mother of a U.S. Army soldier whose identity was stolen submitted a statement describing the consequences of the fraud on her and her family:

“While [my son] was fighting for our country and all back home, I received a very disturbing phone call from an Agent from the IRS that my son, while at Ft. Benning training to defend our country … had his identity stolen and fraudulent tax returns were filed with his social security number. This news was devastating to think that my 19-year-old son, who was defending the very freedom this country stands for, was wronged by one of those people he was willing to die for.

“My whole family could not believe what was happening. We now had to worry about this terrible act by one of our own. As I tried my best to keep composed and handle all of the gruesome mounds of paperwork to get this straightened out with the IRS, my son was then denied his tax refund. This created a financial hardship on him. We were too afraid to tell him while he was deployed because we did not want to worry him and we wanted him to focus only on getting home alive and not have to worry about such an atrocious act by someone who did not even know him.”

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Identity theft affected 17.6M, cost $15.4B in 2014: Justice Dept.

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Identity theft victims in the United States last year accounted for roughly seven percent of the country’s adult population, a new government report found.

The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics announced over the weekend that figures for 2014 suggest an estimated 17.6 million Americans older than 16 had their personal information compromised at least once during the last calendar year.

About half of last year’s identity theft victims were able to resolve their problems within one day, according to the department report released Sunday. The statistics are similar to those from the last time the study was conducted in 2012.

Millions reported suffering from setbacks in 2014 that took months to rectify in some cases. Roughly 1.7 million victims went as far as to describe their experiences as “severely distressing.”

Eighty-six percent of the 17.6 million Americans who had their identity compromised during the last year said fraudsters tried to open up credit card or bank accounts in their name soon after, according to the report. In all, the Justice Department said the total financial loss stemming from identity theft in 2014 was $15.4 billion, down significantly from 2012’s figure of $24.7 billion.

Households with an annual income of more than $70,000 were targeted more frequently than those earning less, the study found, and incidents in which the elderly were victimized by identity theft grew by half-a-million between 2012 and 2014, the report reveals, up from 2.1 million to 2.6 million.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, Florida Republican, announced Monday he is sponsoring a bill aiming to cut down on identity theft by encouraging employers to keep Social Security numbers off federal tax documents.

“This bipartisan, common-sense measure will protect Americans from identity fraud by limiting the use of Social Security numbers on the most popular tax forms, including the W-2,” the senator said in a statement. “We must be doing all we can to end this growing problem, which hits seniors especially hard.”

Over 800 residents of the Florida community Mr. Buchanan serves were victims of identity theft last year, according to the Bradenton Herald newspaper. Nine of the 20 U.S. cities with the highest identity theft rates are in Florida, the senator’s office reported.

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GOP lawmaker backs bill to combat identity theft

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

A House Republican wants to reduce identity theft by keeping Social Security numbers off many federal tax forms.

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) has introduced the Taxpayer Identity Protection Act, which would let companies use an alternative to the Social Security number on the W-2 tax form, issued to every employee earning at least $600 a year.

“This bipartisan, common-sense measure will protect Americans from identity fraud by limiting the use of Social Security Numbers on the most popular tax forms, including the W-2,” said Buchanan, who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, the panel that writes U.S. tax code.

Digital thieves earlier this year accessed the IRS computer network to steal more than 300,000 taxpayer’s returns.

These forms are valuable to fraudsters, since they contain important sensitive information — such as Social Security numbers — that can be used to file future fraudulent returns or commit a number of other types of identity theft.

“We must be doing all we can to end this growing problem, which hits seniors especially hard,” Buchanan added.

According to a Department of Justice report, 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity in 2014.

Buchanan’s state of Florida is hit particularly hard by identity theft, as fraudsters often target senior citizens.

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