Archive for October, 2017

After Equifax Hack, Calls For Big Changes In Credit Reporting … – NPR

Friday, October 20th, 2017

David Mifflin says there have been multiple unauthorized attempts to open credit cards in his name since his Social Security number was stolen.

Courtesy of David Mifflin


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Courtesy of David Mifflin

David Mifflin says there have been multiple unauthorized attempts to open credit cards in his name since his Social Security number was stolen.

Courtesy of David Mifflin

This past spring, David Mifflin looked at his credit report online and saw that something wasn’t right.

There were inquiries from Chase Bank about an application for a credit card that someone was trying to open in his name. Mifflin, who lives in San Antonio, says he called the bank and was told the identity thieves “had my Social Security number.”

He set up fraud alerts with the three major credit reporting companies. But he says the fraudulent attempts to open credit cards continued “multiple times a week, multiple times a day.”

The Equifax security breach — the largest known theft of Social Security numbers in history — has lawmakers, prosecutors and identity theft victims like Mifflin angry with the company. The revelations have put a spotlight on the industry, raising some important and deeper questions and sparking calls for tough new rules to reshape the credit reporting landscape.

Mifflin soon found himself talking to collectors about debts he didn’t recognize. He kept seeing inquiries to open credit cards on his credit report and would call the bank to say “don’t issue those cards, it’s fraud.” He says he would wake up in the middle of the night worried and angry.

Even to discover any of this, Mifflin says he’d had to sign up for a service with the credit reporting firm Experian, paying $26 a month. He says that was frustrating too, to have to pay some $300 a year “just to get my information that they’re collecting.”

“That’s my information; I should have access to that at any time for free,” he says.

Senator To Ex-CEO: Equifax Can't Be Trusted With Americans' Personal Data

To Protect Children From Identity Theft, Parents Must Be Proactive

Mifflin put a freeze on his credit report with the credit bureaus. That apparently stopped anybody from opening new accounts. But he had to pay more money for that.

Then the Equifax hack came to light, involving stolen Social Security numbers and other records of more than 145 million Americans. “My anger level really, really kicked up after that,” Mifflin says. He doesn’t know whether he was a victim of that hack. The Equifax website told him his information may have been stolen.

All this got Mifflin asking questions that many lawmakers are now asking too:

  • How can these credit reporting firms collect our information, and sell it for a profit, without asking our permission?
  • Why do they have the right to charge us to see our own credit report regularly, or to freeze it, especially when they aren’t doing a good enough job of protecting our information from hackers?

“It’s incredible power that they have and they hold us just short of hostage,” Mifflin says. “I’d like to see some major reform.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is working with state lawmakers on legislation to require better security of credit records.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images


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Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is working with state lawmakers on legislation to require better security of credit records.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

So would a growing number of lawmakers and regulators. Maura Healey of Massachusetts is one of more than 30 state attorneys general investigating Equifax. She was the first to file a lawsuit against the company in the aftermath of the massive hack.

“I find this incredibly irresponsible and outrageous,” she says. “The company and its executives need to pay and reforms need to be brought to this industry.”

Healey is working with Massachusetts lawmakers on new legislation to require better security. It would also block any company from buying consumers’ credit reports or scores without their permission.

“For far too long these companies have been out there collecting our personal data,” Healey says. “We never gave them permission to collect it, let alone to sell it to other entities.”

Equifax Takes Down Webpage After Report Of New Cybersecurity 'Situation'

In Congress, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., introduced a bill that would force the credit reporting firms to get federal cybersecurity reviews and to stop using Social Security numbers to identify people.

“You could develop technology very easily that would allow people to go to an app on their phone to put a credit freeze on and off free of charge,” Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana told an industry spokesman at a Senate Banking Committee hearing Tuesday. “That ought to be a minimum.”

A bill introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., would require free credit freezes. And several proposals in Congress would also give Americans more access to their credit reports free of charge.

Chris Hoofnagle, a cybersecurity expert at Berkeley Law school, says all of these measures are necessary steps toward fundamentally changing the credit system. Currently, he says, “every second of your existence someone can come along and pretend to be you, get your consumer report, and get a new credit card or an auto loan in your name.”

Hoofnagle says your credit report should be frozen by default and then you could unfreeze it to, say, buy a car.

Andrew Smith, representing the Consumer Data Industry Association at the hearing, said the industry already faces enough regulation and that the credit bureaus play an important role in the economy by helping consumers get access to credit.

Every Yahoo Account That Existed In Mid-2013 Was Likely Hacked

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/10/18/558570686/after-equifax-hack-calls-for-big-changes-in-credit-reporting-industry

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‘Property Wars’ star pleads guilty to ID theft

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Scott Menaged, of “Property Wars,” pleaded guilty to identity theft and other charges.

 (Discovery)

A former star of “Property Wars” pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and two other charges involving furniture stores he owns and operates in the Phoenix metro area.

Federal authorities say Scott Menaged also pleaded guilty Tuesday to aggravated identity theft and money laundry conspiracy.

He’s scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 27.

Prosecutors say Menaged could be facing at least a 10-year prison sentence and having to pay more than $2.1 million in restitution to banks.

Menaged was arrested in May in a case investigated by the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security.

Prosecutors say Menaged and three other defendants fabricated receipts of purchases at Furniture King stores and used the information of recently deceased people for bank credit applications.

The Discovery Channel show ran for two seasons and focused on a group of buyers who competed to outbid each other on foreclosed homes in the Phoenix area. The final episode aired in 2013.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Article source: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2017/10/20/property-wars-star-pleads-guilty-to-id-theft.html

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Unpaid $7 Waffle House bill uncovers intricate ID theft ring

Friday, October 20th, 2017

PEARL RIVER, La. — Police in Louisiana have uncovered a sophisticated, Los Angeles-based identity theft ring, thanks to two men who skipped out on their $7 Waffle House bill, authorities said.

Waffle House employees called police Saturday, saying two men had stiffed the restaurant and driven away in a U-Haul van. Investigators were still taking statements at the restaurant when patrol officers spotted a U-Haul van parked at a nearby hotel, Pearl River police said Thursday.

A passenger ran into nearby woods as officers approached, according to a news release from Deputy Chief Daniel Hunter.

The officers arrested the driver, and a police dog tracked down the passenger, who also was arrested, he said.

Hunter said a search of the van turned up fake identification and credit cards, credit card skimming devices — and a Waffle House receipt for $7.41.

The investigation revealed “a highly sophisticated identity theft scheme operating out of Los Angeles,” he wrote.

He said the driver, Stayshawn D. Stephens, 20, of California, and Richard A. Brown, 18, of Indiana, had flown into New Orleans from different states, rented the van in New Orleans, and had installed credit card skimming devices at multiple gas stations in the area to steal customers’ credit card numbers.

Investigators are working with the Secret Service and more arrests are possible, he said in an email.

Hunter said in an email that he did not immediately know Stephens’ or Brown’s hometowns.

The police statement said both were arrested on charges of identity theft, bank fraud, monetary instrument abuse and theft by fraud. Charges against Stephens also include criminal damage to property, driving with a suspended license, fraudulently acquiring credit cards and forgery, while those against Brown also include battery on a police officer and resisting arrest by flight, Hunter said.

“As long as I am here, we are not going to put up with any of this criminal nonsense, especially from criminals flying in from California and Indiana,” Police Chief Johnny “JJ” Jennings said in the news release. “Let this be a lesson on etiquette as well; pay your bill and tip your waitress.”

Article source: http://nypost.com/2017/10/20/unpaid-7-waffle-house-bill-uncovers-intricate-id-theft-ring/

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Huntington supervisor candidate blames tax problems on ID theft

Friday, October 20th, 2017

HUNTINGTON –

Tracey Edwards, the Democratic town supervisor candidate in Huntington, is using past federal and state tax liens filed against her as part of her campaign for office – saying she was once a victim of identity theft. 

Public records show that between 2005 and 2012, the IRS filed more than $173,000 in tax liens against Edwards. New York state also filed judgments for unpaid taxes between 1999 and 2010 worth more than $59,000. 

News 12/Newsday Report: IRS, state filed tax actions against Tracey Edwards, records show

Edwards doesn’t deny any of this, but she says there’s a catch.

“Someone put in tax returns in our name,” she told News 12 Long Island

The Huntington Democrat says she is the victim of identity theft. She says in 2014, her accountant informed her that the IRS rejected her electronic tax return. She says she then received a document from the IRS, which says she may have been the victim of identity theft. It assigned her a special PIN number for added protection.

Edwards told News 12 that she did not file a police report because “automatically, the IRS does the investigation.” She is doubling down on the alleged identity theft, even letting voters know about it in a mailer. 

Mark Balog, a Melville-based certified public accountant, says her claims “doesn’t seem to make sense.” He says Edwards may very well have been the victim of identity theft at one time, but the liens filed against her span over the course 15 years. He calls that a “red flag.”

“To be quite frank with you, if you have liens going back that far, more likely or not, in my professional opinion, that should be unrelated,” said Balog. 

Republican Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Edwards’ opponent in the upcoming election, says her history with tax liens calls her judgment into question.

“Fiscal responsibility in your personal life, I think, definitely relates to fiscal responsibility in your professional life, too,” says Lupinacci. 

Edwards has served on the Huntington Town Board since 2013. She and Lupinacci are vying to succeed Democrat Frank Patrone, who has served as the Huntington town supervisor for the past 24 years.

Article source: http://longisland.news12.com/story/36639239/huntington-supervisor-candidate-blames-tax-problems-on-id-theft

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‘Property Wars’ star Scott Menaged pleads guilty to ID theft in Phoenix

Friday, October 20th, 2017

A former star on the “Property Wars” reality TV show has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and two other charges involving furniture stores he owns and operates in the Phoenix metro area.

Federal authorities say Scott Menaged also pleaded guilty Tuesday to aggravated identity theft and money laundry conspiracy.

He’s scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 27.

Prosecutors say Menaged could be facing at least a 10-year prison sentence and having to pay more than $2.1 million in restitution to banks.

Not Released (NR)

Menaged was arrested in May in a case investigated by the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security.

Prosecutors say Menaged and three other defendants fabricated receipts of purchases at Furniture King stores and used the information of recently deceased people for bank credit applications.

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Article source: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv/property-wars-star-pleads-guilty-id-theft-phoenix-article-1.3575259

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Identity theft is on the rise: Here’s where Iowa ranks on risk for fraud

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Nearly half of all Americans are affected by a cyber security breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit-reporting agencies. Here’s how to avoid being a victim.
USA TODAY

Article source: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/business/2017/10/19/identity-theft-rise-heres-where-iowa-ranks-risk-fraud/775940001/

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Man faces sentence for ID theft targeting hospital workers

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Cuban national is set to be sentenced by a federal judge in Pennsylvania for his role in an international conspiracy to file more than 900 phony federal tax returns seeking $2.2 million using employee information stolen from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Yoandy Perez Llanes (YAWN’-es) pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charged in April.

Llanes was due in court for sentencing Thursday.

Federal prosecutors say Llanes’ tracked phony tax refunds that were to be paid as Amazon.com credits and received cellphones, computers and other electronics bought with the credits that were shipped to him in Venezuela. The service that converts tax refunds to the merchandise credits is offered by online filing service Turbo Tax and is known as monetizing.

Article source: https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/man-faces-sentence-for-id-theft-targeting-hospital-workers/

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UL football player accused of felony identity theft

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Blake Comeaux, who was thrown from his motorcycle on Friday, is now recovering in Lafayette General.

Article source: http://www.katc.com/story/36631464/ul-football-player-accused-of-felony-identity-theft

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After Equifax Hack, It’s Time For The U.S. To Create A National ID Card

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Identity theft has been a growing problem for years, but the recent Equifax hack has raised the issue in people’s minds again. Equifax may be the biggest security breach of personal information, but it is not the first and will not be the last.

Americans continue to rely on antiquated methods of identification, the most prominent of which are Social Security numbers. Forcing the Social Security number to act as a secure means of identification asks more of the nine-digit combination than was ever intended.

Last week, reports emerged that the Trump administration was considering the problem of SSNs. They should be. The cobbled-together identification system has been failing for years and will continue to do so unless it is replaced by a secure method of documenting Americans’ identities. We need a better answer to the problem of identifying oneself and protecting that identity from fraud. We need a national identification card.

A Long Time Coming

This is not a new issue. That we do not have a national ID card yet should be chalked up as a victory for two groups: federalists and privacy advocates. For the former group, the idea of the federal government taking over one of the duties of the states—issuing primary identification documents—would continue the troubling trend of concentrating power toward Washington, away from the people. For the latter, giving the government access to and control over our personal information would necessarily degrade our personal autonomy and force people deeper into a system of which some of them want no part.

Neither is a bad position, but their proponents make the mistake of comparing a world with a national ID to one where perfect conditions of federalism and privacy prevail. That’s not a world that exists now, if it ever did.

Federalist opponents of the national ID should consider that we are presently living in a system where the federal government already is deeply involved in tracking everyone’s identity. We have SSNs, as well as passports, and the coordination of state IDs through the REAL ID Act of 2005, among other things. That makes for a hodgepodge of barely functional federal documents combined with federal coercion of the states regarding their own IDs. One federally issued, a secure identification system would simply improve the existing federal IDs while obviating the need to force the states into line on their own. National ID doesn’t bring the feds into the equation: they are already there.

The way things stand now is also unacceptable from a privacy standpoint, as the Equifax hack shows. No matter how careful you are with your own documents, unless you live in an off-grid, cash-only economy, the credit reporting agencies have your information. And they do a terrible job of keeping it safe. In the security breach, which exposed names, addresses, SSNs, and driver’s license numbers, the company did not even exercise the bare minimum of caution in keeping customers’ information safe.

As cybersecurity writer Brian Krebs explains, one section of Equifax’s website was protected by a password and login that were both “admin,” which Krebs notes is “perhaps the most easy-to-guess password combination ever.” The federal government is not the best steward of information, as the 2015 Office of Personnel Management hack showed, but even they are better than Equifax.

Privacy advocates will tell you that Americans have long resisted a national identification card. That’s true, but the result has not been more privacy: it has been less security and less privacy. They are not denying the government a tool, they are simply forcing it to use tools that are less effective and more dangerous.

New Tools Exist

We do not have to re-invent the wheel here. Other countries have been innovating in this field for years. That they do so is not a reason in itself for America to follow: different countries have always had different laws. But actions of other governments can show us that such things are possible, as well as showing which methods are likely to be successful.

Since 2010, India has been rolling out its Aadhaar card to its one billion-plus citizens. While Americans have been using the same SSN technology that their great-grandparents were issued in the New Deal, India has taken a technological leap in using secure, biometric indicators to give its people a reliable form of identification.

The 12-digit ID number is no great improvement on the nine-digit SSN, but it is linked to a database containing enrollees’ fingerprints and iris scans. Stealing the number itself becomes irrelevant, as it is useless without its owner being present, either physically or by a secure mobile connection. By April 2017, as The Economist reports, more than 99 percent of the Indian population was enrolled.

India was starting from a much lower technological base than the United States would, as many of its citizens had no reliable way to identify themselves to anyone who did not know them personally. In America, we have the opposite problem: not only can you identify yourself, but anyone with your credentials can, too. Biometric data, which the State Department is already incorporating into passports, could provide security for domestic transactions, as well.

Many Problems, One Solution

The Equifax hack focuses the ID card discussion on consumer purchases and credit, but that is only one of many reasons Americans need a more secure means of identifying ourselves. Issues of personal identification crop up in many areas of domestic policy.

Consider the question of voter ID, for example. The main allegation from the Left is that this policy makes life more difficult for voters who lack the time or money to procure identification documents. A national ID program could have the resources of the federal government to ensure that everyone has access, and could offer fee waivers to people who cannot afford it—if not being free entirely.

India has managed to identify almost their entire population of 1.3 billion in seven years. Is there any doubt that the much richer United States could do the same for our much smaller populace? All at once, the objections to voter identification would vanish.

Better identification documents would also help with illegal immigrants being employed contrary to our laws. Every one of these employment transactions involves either under-the-table cash payments or identity theft to impersonate a taxpayer with a Social Security number. A national ID card cannot stop someone from getting paid in cash for day labor, but it can help prevent longer-term labor law violations.

The existing E-Verify system, which can be used to ascertain workers’ legitimate identities, could easily be folded into a national ID system, cutting off this avenue of identity theft. Incorporating legal immigrants’ alien ID cards could also ensure that immigrants who do have the right to work here can do so without difficulty.

A unified identity document could go even further in reducing costs, increasing convenience, and securing Americans’ identities. It could be incorporated into the passport system, perhaps even replacing passports altogether for travel to countries that once did not require them, like Canada and the Caribbean. States could fold their state driver’s license systems into the national ID. Although they could not be forced to do so, it might make for an attractive way for state governments to save money while increasing citizens’ security. Registering for the military draft, which is probably unnecessary already, would no longer require a separate process.

The federal government should be careful not to take the idea too far. Although it would be to most people’s advantage to have a more functional ID, any new program should not be made mandatory. We are not a nation where internal passports are required, and we should not become one. Just as you do not now have to have a driver’s license or a passport wherever you go, you should never be required to carry a new federal identification card either.

But for the vast majority, those who already carry and use at least one form of government-issued identification, the federal government ought to consider improving and unifying a system that, as the Equifax hack shows, is currently failing its people.

Article source: http://thefederalist.com/2017/10/19/wake-equifax-hack-time-u-s-create-national-id-card/

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McDonough business woman sentenced to federal prison time for identity theft

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

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Article source: http://www.henryherald.com/news/mcdonough-business-woman-sentenced-to-federal-prison-time-for-identity/article_682e361e-fa43-51e1-b102-dd430b3f2f21.html

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