Archive for July, 2016

MARKET MATTERS: Identity theft concerns span the financial spectrum

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Identity theft is, unfortunately, an all too familiar topic in today’s society. As technology and the Internet continue to play a growing role in our daily lives, we must always remember to be alert and err on the side of caution when sharing information.

We are often reminded of how intrusive a breach of personal information can be — whether through commercials on TV or articles in the local paper. Falling victim to identity theft can be stressful, particularly in instances that impact your finances.

A recent Morgan Stanley poll of high net worth investors (those with $100,000 or more in investible assets) between the ages of 25 and 75 years old showed that identity theft ranks as both an issue respondents are most concerned about — 72 percent — and an issue that 51 percent feel they are most likely to be impacted by, surpassing concerns over major illnesses and terrorism.

According to data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Connecticut ranks number two across all 50 states in the per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints. In addition, the Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk Metropolitan Statistical Area ranked number 5 nationally in the Largest Metropolitan Area ranking for identity theft complaints.

This data comes in comparison to 2014, when Connecticut ranked 14th in the country. According to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network report for 2015, 225 complaints per 100,000 residents were logged in 2015, compared to only 84.4 complaints per 100,000 residents in 2014. Those numbers did not include fraud or other forms of consumer complaints.

Connecticut’s increase mirrors an upward national trend in identity theft. In 2015, the FTC registered approximately 490,220 complaints, a notable rise from 332,647 in 2014.

Based on the Morgan Stanley poll, 91 percent of high net worth investors say they have been affected by data security issues, with security breaches at companies where they do business leading the way at 63 percent. In spite of these breaches, 83 percent of the investors polled trust their financial institutions to protect their personal information, compared with 71 percent who trust their doctors and hospitals, 61 percent who trust their employers and 49 percent who trust retailers where they shop.

The prevalence of identity theft requires that we plan for it and take precautions to help avoid it. For starters, stay alert when people ask for personal information and never divulge your credit card number or other sensitive data over the Internet or telephone unless you initiate the communication.

It also is wise to regularly monitor your financial accounts and reconcile them at least monthly, so your financial institution can be notified of any discrepancies immediately. Remember, fraudulent charges can be small purchases initially, and if successful, can lead to more regular theft without detection.

It is also important to report unauthorized financial transactions to your bank, credit card company and the police as soon as you detect them.

And don’t be careless with your passwords. Simple combinations that are easy to remember can also be easy to hack. Be unique and use different passwords for banking and social media accounts — taking extra caution to never share them.

Identity theft is an unfortunate reality, but that doesn’t mean we have to be helpless against it. Your financial adviser can help share additional tips for protecting sensitive financial information, as well as insuring your on-line transactions are conducted with institutions that place a high priority on protecting your assets and best interests.

The Investor Pulse Poll surveyed 752 high net worth investors during spring 2016. High net worth investors account for 95 percent of total U.S. household investable assets by value, according to Federal Reserve data. The Investor Pulse Poll was conducted by GfK Public Affairs Corporate Communications using the GfK KnowledgePanel. In order to qualify for this study, respondents were required to have $100,000 or more in household liquid investable assets, be between the ages of 25 and 75 years old.

Joseph Matthews is a Financial Advisor with the Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley on Post Road in Fairfield. He can be reached at 203-319-5165 or by email at information contained in this column is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, or its affiliates. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC, member SIPC.

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Savvy Senior: 10 ways seniors can avoid identity theft

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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New identity theft insurance is free for consumers – USA Today

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Identity theft is a huge problem in America today.

In 2015, 13.1 million Americans were victims of identity theft, according to an Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy Research. New account fraud increased by 113% in 2015.

Companies that provide identity theft insurance do not generally pay the victims of identity theft, but rather reimburse the costs that may incur in restoring the identity and credit.

Identity theft insurance companies provide a great range of services.  Some will put fraud alerts on your credit report for when someone attempts to use your credit. But frankly, fraud alerts are often ignored and there is no penalty on a company granting credit without contacting the consumer after a fraud alert. Other companies monitor your credit report on a regular basis.

It should be noted, however, that for less than the cost of any credit monitoring service, you can place a credit freeze on your credit reports so no one can get access to your credit report without your PIN.   For more information about credit freezes, see my previous column.

Some of the things you should consider in deciding whether or not to buy identity theft insurance include:

1.  The cost of the policy.
2.  What services do you get for the cost?   Will they merely reimburse you for the costs involved in recovering your identity or will they assist you in doing the work necessary to restore your identity and your credit?
3.  Is there a deductible and, if so, how much?
4.  Does the policy cover lost wages you incur while restoring your identity?
5.  Does the policy cover lost wages you incur while restoring your identity?
6.  Does the policy cover legal fees required to restore your identity?

Other companies proclaim they provide identity theft protection, but in fact that is not entirely accurate. They primarily monitor your credit and promptly notify you if you have become a victim of identity theft. It’s like, after you get hit by a truck you didn’t see coming someone comes over to you as you lay in the street and promptly informs you that you have just been hit by a truck.  I would much prefer someone to warn me ahead of time so I could avoid being hit.

Just recently a new startup company called Civic became the first company to turn identity theft protection into truly warning you before the identity theft truck hits you.  Civic created a network of businesses that use your Social Security number for authentication, including banks, financial services companies, lenders, insurance companies, health care organizations and background checking companies. When someone attempts to use your social security, you will be immediately notified via email or a push notification via the Civic app on your smartphone. That enables the consumer to immediately deny the transaction thus stopping identity theft before it begins.

In addition, Civic will also provide access to identity theft consultants by phone twenty-four hours a day. They can instruct Civic members what they need to do to remedy identity theft if it does occur in various situations such as income tax identity theft and the compromise of the member’s email account. Civic also will be providing members with a one million dollar identity theft insurance policy.  Perhaps the best news of all is that there is no cost to becoming a member of Civic.  Stand-alone identity theft protection policies from companies such as Identity Guard, Identity Force and Lifelock can cost as much as $25 per month.

The cost of the service is entirely paid for by the banks and other financial service companies that partner with Civic. They pay a small fee each time the company contacts a Civic member to notify them that their Social Security number is being used. The advantage to these companies is to reduce their own losses due to fraud and identity theft. Presently the number of Civic partners is small, but as more and more companies come on board, the advantages of becoming a member of Civic will increase dramatically.

Civic raised 2.75 million dollars in seed funding from investors including Ashton Kutcher, who has notably invested in a number of successful high tech ventures, to launch its public beta testing which began on July 19th.

Back in 1974, a rock critic after watching 25-year-old Bruce Springsteen play a small theater wrote, “I have seen rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”  After learning more about the promise of Civic, I can say, I have seen the future of identity theft protection and it may well be Civic.

Steve Weisman, an expert in preventing cyberscams and identity theft, is a lawyer and professor at Bentley University. He writes the blog, where he provides daily update information about the latest scams. His new book is Identity Theft Alert.

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Police: Hyde Park homeless man charged with identity theft

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

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Seniors Protect Themselves Against Identity Theft in Port Washington

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

The elderly might be old and wise, but they are often the biggest victims of scams and fraud.

Senator Jack M. Martins held a community program Wednesday in Port Washington to help local senior citizens protect their personal information from criminals

This program held at the Port Washington library looked to prevent identity theft in seniors and prevent them from being victimized by fraud.

Those in attendance had the opportunity to ask questions or voice their concerns.

Seniors who were unable to attend the program but would like information about how they can protect themselves from identity theft and scams can call Senator Martins’ office at 516-746-5924 or email him through his website,

Image via Office of Senator Martins

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1 Convicted, 2 Sentenced In Identity Theft S | WBAL Radio 1090 AM

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced a guilty plea and two sentences in two separate identity fraud schemes.

The plea was in the case of Adebola Opeyemi Adeniyi, 31, a Nigerian citizen and Baltimore resident. In a plea agreement, he admitted to filing false tax returns in victims’ names between October 2013 and March 2015. He and co-conspirators got account information in the 2013 breach of Target’s systems. The ill-gotten funds were loaded onto debit cards used to buy money orders, some of which were cashed at check cashing businesses. The total value of the money orders purchased and cashed by Adeniyi or at his direction was at least $446,635, while the total value of money orders purchased with information stolen in the Target breach was at least $80,500.

The proceeds were used to buy vehicles at auction, arrange their shipment to Nigeria and to exchange for Nigerian currency. Adeniyi faces up to 20 years for wire fraud conspiracy and must pay $550,000 restitution.

In the second case, Chief U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake last Friday sentenced LaKeisha Butler, 33, of Columbia to 30 months in prison. On Tuesday, she sentenced co-defendant Kesa Baker, 43, of Baltimore to 13 months. Both had faced prison time for their parts in a $1.5 million bank fraud scheme in which six others are awaiting sentencing. 

Prosecutors say Butler and Baker were part of a scheme to defraud financial institutions by depositing counterfeit and stolen checks into accounts opened and controlled by those in the conspiracy and withdrawing the funds before the checks were identified as fraudulent. Butler and Baker opened accounts using stolen identifying information and depositded and cashed checks on those accounts. They generally got 5 to 10 percent of any checks cashed. They and co-conspirators obtained more than $1.5 million in extensions of credit, out of more than $3.1 million they attempted to obtain.

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New information but no answers in my identity theft case

Saturday, July 30th, 2016
New information but no answers in my identity theft case
Not my identity thief…or is it?

Between having my identity stolen and that pesky heart condition I’m having quite a year. I wrote about getting answers regarding the latter. Recently I got more information about the former, but sadly that information doesn’t provide any answers.

The detective in Bloomington, Indiana who investigated my case said that he talked to several stores and was able to obtain surveillance video of a woman who was involved. Unfortunately, the video was of poor quality and she was wearing large, dark sunglasses. (Apparently, my identity was stolen by a cliche.)

Several of the stores in Terre Haute said that they have recently been having problems with individuals from the Chicago area coming down and opening in-store credit using Illinois ID cards with other people’s information on them. (It’s a crime ring?)

Since the suspects are assumed to be from out of state and because there is not good quality surveillance video the detective told me that there is nothing else he can do at this time.

Well, that was unsatisfying. Sadly, life isn’t like the crime dramas I used to watch on TV. No one is going to “enhance” the video then compare it to a secret facial recognition database in order to hunt down the criminals. I will never know who did this or how my information was stolen. I will just have to continue on, keeping a watchful eye on my credit report and hoping this doesn’t happen again. But it will happen to again. To someone. I just hope it doesn’t happen to me again. I’ve had my turn.

RELATED POST: What I learned about being a victim of identity theft

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    Savvy Senior: 10 ways seniors can avoid identity theft – Capital …

    Friday, July 29th, 2016

    Dear Savvy Senior, What can seniors do to protect themselves from identity theft? My brother-in-law, who’s 77, recently had his identity stolen and I want to make sure it doesn’t happen to me. — Worried Relative

    Dear Worried, Great question! Each year around 17 million people fall victim to identity theft, which happens when someone gets access to your Social Security number, bank or credit card account number, or other identifying information and uses it to steal from you. Here are some free steps you can take to reduce your risks.

    Guard your personal information: Never give your Social Security number, credit card number, checking or savings account numbers to anyone unless you initiate the contact. Also, do not carry your Social Security card around in your wallet or purse, and don’t carry around your Medicare card either unless you’re going to the doctor.

    Get off mailing lists: Put a stop to preapproved credit-card offers, which is a gold mine for ID thieves. To do this visit or call 888-567-8688 — they will ask for your Social Security number and date of birth. You can stop other junk mail at, and reduce telemarketing calls at

    Use strong passwords: To safeguard your personal data on your smartphone or tablet, don’t use a password that’s easy to hack, like 1234 or 0000. Also, make your computer passwords more than eight characters long, with uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols like # and %, and use different passwords on different accounts. If it’s hard to remember them, try a password manager service like, or

    Be wary of unknown emails: Never click on links in emails from strangers, or those that claim to be from the Social Security Administration, IRS or other government agencies, or from your bank, phone or credit card company warning of a “problem.” This can result in identity-stealing malware being installed on your computer. To protect your computer from malware, install antivirus software (see and for free options) and set up automatic security updates and full weekly scans.

    Secure your mail: Empty your home mailbox quickly or buy a locked mailbox to deter thieves. And mail outgoing payments from a U.S. Postal Service mailbox or the post office, not from your more vulnerable home mailbox.

    Get safer credit cards: If you don’t already have one, get an EMV chip credit card from your credit card provider. They’re much more difficult for fraudsters to hack than magnetic strip cards.

    Shred unneeded documents: Buy a crosscut paper shredder so you can shred all unneeded records, receipts, statements, preapproved credit offers or other papers you throw out that has your financial or personal information.

    Monitor your accounts: Review your monthly bank and credit card statements carefully, and see if your bank or credit card issuer offers free alerts that will warn you of suspicious activity as soon as it’s detected. If they do, sign up for them or use, which will do it for you for a small fee.

    Watch your credit: Check your credit report at or call 877-322-8228. You can receive one free report a year from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), so consider staggering your request so you can get one free copy every four months.

    Set up security freezes: If you don’t plan to apply for new credit, loans, insurance or utility services, freeze your credit reports so crooks can’t open up new accounts in your name. Rules vary by state, but the $5 to $20 fee is waived if you’re 65 or older, or show proof of past ID theft. Security freezes are set up at all three credit bureaus at, and

    Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC “Today” show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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    Siskiyou County woman gets two years for identity theft

    Friday, July 29th, 2016

    U.S. Department of Justice officials said a Montague woman has been sentenced to two years in prison for an identity-theft scheme that included stealing mail from a slew of Siskiyou Couty post offices.

    Stacy Miranda Phillips, 29, was sentenced today by Judge Troy L. Nunley and also ordered to pay $2,163 in restitution to the U.S. Postal Service over the aggravated identity theft, said Office of the United States Attorney Eastern District of California Spokeswoman Lauren Horwood. 

    Horwood said Phillips conspired with others between September and December 2015 to steal from Siskiyou County banks and merchants by taking mail and property to get personal information.

    Phillips stole mail from post offices in Hornbrook, Grenada and Montague in the process, Horwood said. 

    After obtaining victims’ signatures, PINs, account numbers and more, Phillips got cash from their accounts and also tried to open a credit card under the identity of a Weed victim, Horwood said. 


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    Two West Haven women charged in alleged mail, identity theft …

    Friday, July 29th, 2016

    WEST HAVEN, Conn (WTNH)– Local Police Departments and the U.S. Postal Service are investigating an alleged mail and identity theft scheme.

    On July 21st, 36-year-old Jamila Williams-Stevenson was arrested on a complaint of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, while 42-year-old Lorena Coburn was arrested for conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Both were released on $100,000 bonds.

    Court documents dating back to February 2014 claim Williams-Stevenson and Coburn had the addresses of residents in and around New Haven changed to their own. When they received these residents’ mail, the two could access personal information to open bank accounts, deposit stolen checks, and withdraw funds.

    Over 20 people in the greater New Haven area have been victimized by this scheme, resulting in a loss of more than $50,000 to banks and individuals.

    District of Connecticut Attorney Deidre M. Daly stresses that a complaint is only a charge, not a conviction. Williams-Stevenson and Coburn are innocent unless and until proven guilty.

    Daly encourages citizens who think they may be victim to this scheme, or have a mailing address changed without their consent, to call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 203-782-7391.



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