Archive for October, 2015

Seven indicted in largest BP fraud identity theft case to date – WNEM TV 5

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) –

Seven people, including a Pascagoula woman, were indicted in the largest fraud identity theft case to date associated with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust.

The indictments were announced in a joint news conference with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Secret Service.

The focus was on Texas attorney Mikal Watts, who prosecutors say claimed more than 40,000 clients claimed to have suffered from the BP oil spill — 41 of which are listed in the indictment; with 18 from the Coast.

“Defendant Watts falsely claimed that each of these 41 victims were the deckhand on a commercial fishing vessel,” U.S. Attorney Greg Davis during a press conference. “In fact, none of the 41 person worked on a commercial fishing vessel or even in the seafood industry at the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

The indictment alleges the total amount of claims submitted by the defendants to BP was in excess of $2 billion. The defendants are facing 95 counts including conspiracy, identity theft and fraud.

Five of the seven appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Gargiulo for their initial appearance and arraignment. They include Mikal Watts; his brother David Watts; and Wynter Lee, all of San Antonio Texas; Hector Guerra of Harlingen, Texas; and Abbie Nguyen of Grand Bay, Alabama.

Kristy Le of Pascagoula and Greg Warren of Lafayette, La., who are accused of creating dozens of clients by illegally obtaining names, addresses, and social security numbers, were not present.

The feds say the “clients” never agreed to be represented by the legal firm.

Mikal Watts’ attorney, Robert McDuff, says his client is innocent of the charges.

“We’ve read the indictment,” McDuff said. “Mikal Watts and all of the defendants have pled not guilty. I think once we have a trial and all the evidence will come out, it will be clear that Mikal and everyone in his office did not do the things of which they are accused and we’re looking forward to a trial.”

Each of the defendants pleaded not guilty in court, and are free on a $25,000 appearance bond.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

Article source: http://www.wnem.com/story/30388868/seven-indicted-in-largest-bp-fraud-identify-theft-case-to-date

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Seven indicted in largest BP fraud identity theft case to date

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) –

Seven people, including a Pascagoula woman, were indicted in the largest fraud identity theft case to date associated with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust.

The indictments were announced in a joint news conference with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Secret Service.

The focus was on Texas attorney Mikal Watts, who prosecutors say claimed more than 40,000 clients claimed to have suffered from the BP oil spill — 41 of which are listed in the indictment; with 18 from the Coast.

“Defendant Watts falsely claimed that each of these 41 victims were the deckhand on a commercial fishing vessel,” U.S. Attorney Greg Davis during a press conference. “In fact, none of the 41 person worked on a commercial fishing vessel or even in the seafood industry at the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

The indictment alleges the total amount of claims submitted by the defendants to BP was in excess of $2 billion. The defendants are facing 95 counts including conspiracy, identity theft and fraud.

Five of the seven appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Gargiulo for their initial appearance and arraignment. They include Mikal Watts; his brother David Watts; and Wynter Lee, all of San Antonio Texas; Hector Guerra of Harlingen, Texas; and Abbie Nguyen of Grand Bay, Alabama.

Kristy Le of Pascagoula and Greg Warren of Lafayette, La., who are accused of creating dozens of clients by illegally obtaining names, addresses, and social security numbers, were not present.

The feds say the “clients” never agreed to be represented by the legal firm.

Mikal Watts’ attorney, Robert McDuff, says his client is innocent of the charges.

“We’ve read the indictment,” McDuff said. “Mikal Watts and all of the defendants have pled not guilty. I think once we have a trial and all the evidence will come out, it will be clear that Mikal and everyone in his office did not do the things of which they are accused and we’re looking forward to a trial.”

Each of the defendants pleaded not guilty in court, and are free on a $25,000 appearance bond.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

Article source: http://www.wlox.com/story/30388868/seven-indicted-in-largest-bp-fraud-identify-theft-case-to-date

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Identity Theft: A Real-World Version of ‘The Walking Dead’

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

In the post-apocalyptic world of “The Walking Dead,” it’s a foregone conclusion that zombies happen, and they aren’t picky. One real-world parallel of finding yourself surrounded by hungry zombies is the plague of identity theft. With more than 1 billion records “out there,” it’s just a matter of time before you get got.

When it comes to identity theft, people have many questions and few answers. Should I shred sensitive documents? (Yes.) Is it worse to lose a wallet, a smartphone, or a computer? (It depends on how much sensitive information they contain.) Does it really matter if all of the logins and passwords for my online accounts are the same? (Yes, it really does.) How common is identity theft? (Very.) What are my chances of being defrauded by identity thieves? (The odds are ever in their favor.) Is there anything I can do to avoid becoming a victim? (No.)

Identity theft is the worst kind of dumb luck. You can do a number of things to keep it from ruining your life, but there isn’t much you can do to stop it from happening to you. Identity thieves are like coyotes (or zombies): They wander around looking for scraps (or surviving humans). They take whatever they can find. They are opportunists.

The proposition that you will be able to fence off your property and maintain a completely buttoned-up, coyote- (or zombie-) free life while remaining on high alert 24/7 is a pipedream. When the bad guys of Scamville pad your way, there’s not much you can do about it. You can hope they don’t find a way into your personal finances, or that your information camouflage is failsafe, but no one is that good or that lucky all the time.

As Hunter S. Thompson wrote in Fear and Loathing in America, “Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it.” If I can persuade you of nothing else, let me convince you that everyone gets got. If you believe this, or you’ve already been the victim of an identity-related crime, my hope is that you’ll find what you are looking for in my new book, “Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves.”

With very few outlier exceptions, we’ve all been swiped, scanned, digitized, filed and disseminated to such a staggering extent that it’s impossible to know where our information is and who’s had access to it.

More From Credit.com: How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Unless you live in a log cabin on Loon Lake and do all your business in cash or kind, you’re gettable. If you’ve ever seen a doctor, or if you’ve ever registered for classes at an institution of higher learning, you’re already in the crosshairs of countless identity snipers. If you’ve ever provided personal information via email, you may be in jeopardy. If you’ve ever swiped a credit card through a card reader, your chances of being given the gift that keeps on taking are only getting better. If you gave your ZIP code, email address or telephone number at the cash register of any store you’ve ever shopped in, you’re a target. Every time you roll out of bed, you’re entering the identity theft lottery.

If you remember every single retailer, medical provider, financial institution, or government agency that has ever collected, stored and disseminated your personally identifiable information, and you have time to talk to each of those places about data security you might not need to learn more about the problem. If you’re anything like me, you have no idea where your data is, how (or even if) it’s being warehoused or how long it will be there (wherever “there” happens to be). And, like me, you’re already a target. That’s the point. We all are.

When it comes to identity theft, cyberattacks, and successful hacks, the difference between those of us who are aware and prepared for identity theft and the rest of the world is not terribly big, but it’s nonetheless a crucial one: We use common sense. We don’t think we are invincible, and we’re pretty sure that it’s only a matter of time before we get entangled in a cyberattack. In fact, we assume something is going to go terribly wrong, and we’ve made it our habit to look for it. The fact that we’ve swiped our credit cards, debit cards, identity cards, and work badges means we’re vulnerable to having our personal information swiped and used for all kinds of things. There is one thing that separates us from those who hope that they’ll somehow slip the noose of identity theft because, for some magical reason, it will never happen to them: We approach our personal information and the threat of identity theft in a spirit of preparedness. We are as ready as anyone can be for the worst that can (and most likely will) come our way.

More From Credit.com: How Monitoring Pays Off Down the Road

The other day, a reporter asked me who’s to blame for the growing epidemic of identity-related tax fraud. I could have answered, “the bad guys”—the identity thieves who devote their days to hacking people’s accounts and putting their personal information to profitable use. Or I could have said it was the government, which is so overwhelmed by the information security problem that it can’t even keep the NSA safe from breaches, never mind the rest of us. But I chose a third answer.

“We’re all to blame,” I said. And I truly believe it. When it comes to any identity-related crime, the buck stops with you and me, because we’re the only ones who can know what’s what in time to stop from getting hurt, or at least to move quickly enough to contain the damage.

More From Credit.com: Signs Your Identity Has Been Stolen

Breaches, and the identity theft that flows from them, have become the third certainty in life, right behind death and taxes. Your introduction to the fact that you got “got” can take many forms. It may be a call from a debt collector, or the flashing lights of a police car as you are pulled over for missing a stop sign, only to find yourself handcuffed and cooling your heels in jail because someone stole your identity and used it in the commission of a crime. Whatever it is, like a horde of zombies, you’re far better off if you can see it coming.

The above is an adapted excerpt from “Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers and Identity Thieves,” which hits bookstores everywhere Black Friday.

Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.

Adam Levin is chairman and co-founder of Credit.com and IDT911. His experience as former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs gives him unique insight into consumer privacy, legislation and financial advocacy. He is a nationally recognized expert on identity theft and credit. His new book, “SWIPED: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves” will be released this fall.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/identity-theft-real-world-version-walking-dead/story?id=34867279

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Seven indicted in largest BP fraud identity theft case to date

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) –

Seven people, including a Pascagoula woman, were indicted in the largest fraud identity theft case to date associated with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust.

The indictments were announced in a joint news conference with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Secret Service.

The focus was on Texas attorney Mikal Watts, who prosecutors say claimed more than 40,000 clients claimed to have suffered from the BP oil spill — 41 of which are listed in the indictment; with 18 from the Coast.

“Defendant Watts falsely claimed that each of these 41 victims were the deckhand on a commercial fishing vessel,” U.S. Attorney Greg Davis during a press conference. “In fact, none of the 41 person worked on a commercial fishing vessel or even in the seafood industry at the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

The indictment alleges the total amount of claims submitted by the defendants to BP was in excess of $2 billion. The defendants are facing 95 counts including conspiracy, identity theft and fraud.

Five of the seven appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Gargiulo for their initial appearance and arraignment. They include Mikal Watts; his brother David Watts; and Wynter Lee, all of San Antonio Texas; Hector Guerra of Harlingen, Texas; and Abbie Nguyen of Grand Bay, Alabama.

Kristy Le of Pascagoula and Greg Warren of Lafayette, La., who are accused of creating dozens of clients by illegally obtaining names, addresses, and social security numbers, were not present.

The feds say the “clients” never agreed to be represented by the legal firm.

Mikal Watts’ attorney, Robert McDuff, says his client is innocent of the charges.

“We’ve read the indictment,” McDuff said. “Mikal Watts and all of the defendants have pled not guilty. I think once we have a trial and all the evidence will come out, it will be clear that Mikal and everyone in his office did not do the things of which they are accused and we’re looking forward to a trial.”

Each of the defendants pleaded not guilty in court, and are free on a $25,000 appearance bond.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

Article source: http://www.wsmv.com/story/30388868/seven-indicted-in-largest-bp-fraud-identify-theft-case-to-date

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Landscaper arrested on forgery, impersonation, ID theft charges

Saturday, October 31st, 2015


(Photo: Parker Police Department)

(Photo: Parker Police Department)

(Photo: Parker Police Department)

(Photo: Parker Police Department)

PARKER, Colo. — A landscaper was arrested last week and charged with forgery, identity theft, criminal impersonation and theft, and there might be more victims in the Denver metro area, the Parker Police Department said Friday.

Jeremiah Lopez of Jeremiah Lopez Landscaping is out on a $20,000 bond after police allege he took up-front cash then failed to do the work.

Police said Lopez is known to use Craigslist to make contact with his victims, and uses aliases for himself and his company. Police said he has used John Manzanares as an alias and different names for his company, including Yankee Landscaping.

Police said they believe Lopez has been working throughout the metro area from Boulder to Parker.

Anyone who has information or might have been a victim is asked to call Det. Penny McLean at 303-805-6560 or Sgt. Andy Coleman at 303-805-6512.

Article source: http://kdvr.com/2015/10/30/landscaper-arrested-on-forgery-impersonation-id-theft-charges/

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An unlikely but efficient way to stop identity theft: Freeze your own credit

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

For almost two years now, security breaches of all sorts have made the news. Hackers attacked retail stores and stole credit card numbers and other data, and they have attacked banks, medical insurers, and various governmental institutions. Add to that the odd attack against an online service caught off-guard by hackers – Ashley Madison comes immediately to mind – and the chances are that some of your data may have ended up in the wrong hands.

Criminals can clone your credit cards, at least until you’ve canceled them, but the worst thing that can happen is having your identity stolen. In such a case, you might be in for a wild ride as you’re trying to get your identity back.

DON’T MISS: How to stop Microsoft’s relentless Windows 10 upgrade ads from spamming your PC

The higher-profile the hack, the bigger the chances that the affected retailer or bank will get you complimentary identity theft protection coverage. But as the Washington Post reveals, these are only temporary fixes limited to up to two years of protection. And they don’t prevent identity theft, they just tell you when someone uses your data to pretend they’re you.

The way to go is to freeze your credit, regardless of whether your personal data was breached or not. A credit freeze filed with the three major national credit bureaus will prevent companies from accessing your credit when a criminal tries to use your personal data to set up accounts and services.

The process is reversible, so you can unfreeze it when you need a loan or want to do something that involves a credit check.

In those cases where you can prove you have been the victim of identity theft, you’ll get free security freezes. But certain states offer free freezes and freeze lifts.

The news site notes that there are seven states that offer free freezes regardless of whether you’ve been a victim or not, including New York and Colorado.

As for pricing, credit freezes are available to all consumers for anywhere between $3 and $10, while lifting a freeze can cost from $2 to $12 depending on the state, according to a report from U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocate organization.

However, the same report says that freezing your credit doesn’t prevent other kinds of identity theft. “It is important to note that neither credit monitoring nor a security freeze can detect or prevent unauthorized use of your existing credit accounts, tax refund fraud, medical fraud, or reputational or physical harm, by thieves,” the report notes.

Article source: http://bgr.com/2015/10/30/identity-theft-protection-trick/

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Seven Indicted in Massive Fraud, Identity Theft Case

Friday, October 30th, 2015



Seven people, including a Texas attorney, have been indicted for mail and wire fraud and identity theft in a lawsuit against BP.

Gulfport, Miss.
Seven people, including a Texas attorney, have been indicted for mail and wire fraud and identity theft in a lawsuit against BP.

48-year-old attorney Mikal C. Watts, David Watts, 50, Wynter Lee, 37, of San Antonio, Texas, Gregory P. Warren a/k/a Greg Warren, 51, of Lafayette, Louisiana, Hector Eloy Guerra, 48, of Harlingen, Texas, Thi Houng Le a/k/a Kristy Le, 48, of Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Thi Hoaug Nguyen a/k/a Abbie Nguyen, 30, of Grand Bay, Ala., were named in an indictment unsealed Thursday in Mississippi.

All were indicted Sept. 15 by a federal grand jury on 95 counts of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, identity theft, and aggravated identity theft, according to U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis and U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Craig Caldwell.

The indictment alleges the defendants conspired to defraud numerous victims from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and elsewhere, as well as the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and BP.

The government contends that the defendants, without contacting the individuals, would obtain names, addresses, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers from any source available to create “clients” for anticipated litigation as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

The indictment alleges the defendants fraudulently submitted names of over 40,000 individuals as “plaintiffs” in an attempt to procure in excess of $2 billion.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is asking people who believe they might have been a victim of identity theft in connection with this case or if you have any knowledge of fraudulent claims or schemes to obtain funds intended for the victims of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, please contact the Gulf Coast Disaster Fraud Hotline at (877)NCDF GCF (623-3423).

Article source: http://www.wtok.com/home/headlines/Seven-Indicted-in-Massive-Fraud-Identity-Theft-Case-338381022.html

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Statesboro man convicted in Valdosta identity theft sting

Friday, October 30th, 2015

Statesboro man convicted in Valdosta identity theft sting

Statesboro man convicted in Valdosta identity theft sting

Jai Devon Lee



Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2015 2:09 pm

Statesboro man convicted in Valdosta identity theft sting

BY ADAM FLOYD adam.floyd@gaflnews.com

Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — A Statesboro man arrested here in 2014 on federal identity theft and fraud charges was convicted earlier this week.

He faces the possibility of 22 years in prison.

Jai Devon Lee, 39, was arrested June 25, 2014, during an undercover operation conducted by the United States Secret Service and the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.

Evidence presented at Lee’s two-day jury trial this week in Valdosta before U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson showed Lee was in possession of “personal identifying information, including names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth of more than 1,000 individuals,” according to a statement released by U.S. Attorney Michael Moore.

Lee was attempting to sell the information through a source for $50 each. A LCSO detective posing as a buyer arranged to purchase 900 of the documents for $45,000 at a Valdosta restaurant.

“Mr. Lee arrived with a backpack containing a shoebox filled with the stolen identifying information he intended to sell, as well as a folder containing more identifying information, including some personal credit reports,” stated Moore’s release.

Lee will be sentenced 9:30 a.m., Feb. 24, in Valdosta.

Lee has nine prior felony convictions and faces a possible maximum sentence of 22 years imprisonment, according to Moore’s office.

“This conviction in this case is the result of the good work and cooperation between the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and the Secret Service,” Moore said. “Identity theft crimes wreak havoc for those whose information is stolen. The frustration that these victims suffer in having to monitor their credit reports and request new credit cards and checking accounts is not lost on federal law-enforcement agencies. We’ll continue to pursue those who commit these crimes.” 

Adam Floyd is a crime reporter at the Valdosta Daily Times.


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Article source: http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/news/local_news/statesboro-man-convicted-in-valdosta-identity-theft-sting/article_7b90e65e-2e30-5fc5-a681-ab063b54e576.html

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9 Ways to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Friday, October 30th, 2015

Identity theft is a serious crime that can be ruinous to your finances and credit score. Even if you catch a breach quickly, resolving the damage may be costly and time-consuming.

Fortunately, you can take steps to protect yourself and your sensitive information. Here are nine ways you can minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud:

1. Shred your documents. Don’t toss bank statements and credit card receipts in the trash. Dispose of them using a cross-cut shredder or shredding service.

2. Strengthen your passwords. Use random combinations of letters, numbers and special characters. Create different passwords for each account, and change them frequently.

3. Check your credit reports. You’re entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Request one report every four months and review it for suspicious or incorrect information.

4. Guard your Social Security number. Avoid sharing it when it’s not absolutely necessary, and don’t keep it, or your Social Security card, in your wallet.

5. Be smart about social media. Consider leaving personal details, such as your birthday or address, off your profiles. Strengthen your privacy settings and be cautious about whom you accept as a connection.

6. Secure your phone. Lock your device with a password, turn off Bluetooth when you’re not using it, and be cautious when downloading apps — especially free versions of popular apps, which may contain malware.

7. Know the signs of phishing. Watch out for emails, links or unsolicited phone calls, asking for your personal information.

8. Monitor your financial statements. Report any suspicious activity in your bank and credit card accounts as soon as you notice it.

9. Keep your mail safe. Swiping your mail is one of the easiest ways for a thief to steal your identity. Consider using a locked mailbox or P.O. box, and have the post office hold your mail if you go out of town.

Following these guidelines can help you keep sensitive information private. But remember, you must be proactive to protect your personal information. These tips won’t be much help after your identity is stolen.

This article was originally published on NerdWallet.com.

By Jeremy S. Office, PhD, CFP
Learn more about Jeremy on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor

Article source: http://www.nasdaq.com/article/9-ways-to-protect-yourself-from-identity-theft-cm536683

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Eau Claire man shares his experience about identity theft

Friday, October 30th, 2015




Identity theft is a growing issue that affects millions of Americans every day.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- Identity theft is a growing issue that affects millions of Americans every day.

It took Mario Racanelli of Eau Claire, 17 years to get over his identity being stolen, and now shares his experience and advice with others all over the nation.

“I had no idea it was going to impact my credit the way it did, we have since gotten that fixed, but it cost me a lot of money through legal and accounting fees, and time,” Racanelli said. “The loss of time is incredible to fix it and get your identity.”

Identity theft may not be something we think about every day, but it is all around us.

“It’s something that we read about in the paper every day, it’s something we see on the internet every day,” Joe Watson said, a friend of Racanelli’s and Blue Sky Financial Association Certified Financial Planner.

Racanelli of Eau Claire was the victim of both identity theft and fraud.

“I think that’s why my hair turned white.” Racanelli joked.

Seventeen years dealing with $7.7 million embezzled under his name, lawsuits and multiple federal warrants, Racanelli was finally able to put this case in the past.

“So those dreams and hopes of being financially dependent kind of got shut down, but at the end of the day I’m still able to see, walk, talk; and I always tell people when you get really down, distraught, because I really was, I’m not immune to that, I had to get a mindset change,” Racanelli said.

The man responsible for Racanelli’s troubles was sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay $7.7 million in restitution.

Although Racanelli may have overcome his case of stolen identity, it’s an issue that will not disappear.

Watson classified identity theft, only as a growing business in a digital age.

Last year alone, IBM reported over one billion records stolen containing identifiable information.

“This is a huge global business, and this is a target and it’s not going to stop,” Watson said. “We’ve become so much more dependent on technology to make our lives easier but in the process we’re adding risk.”

Racanelli said it’s been therapeutic for him to share his story and help others avoid his situation.

The Blue Sky Financial Associates and Thrivent Financial teamed up with UW-Eau Claire Chapter of Financial Management Association to host a presentation by Mario Racanelli Thursday on the UW-Eau Claire campus. Racanelli shared his experience and advice on how to protect yourself against identity theft.

Article source: http://www.weau.com/home/headlines/Eau-Claire-man-shares-his-experience-about-identity-theft-338547442.html

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