Archive for the ‘Internet Identity Theft’ Category

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.”

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Huntington supervisor candidate blames tax problems on ID theft

Friday, October 20th, 2017


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.

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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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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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McDonough business woman sentenced to federal prison time for identity theft

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Whenever Chelsea Prince posts new content, you’ll get an email delivered to your inbox with a link.

Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.

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3 arrested in connection with a stolen vehicle, identity theft investigation

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

The Odessa Jackalopes are pairing up with E.C.I.S.D. and the Education Foundation to kick off Red Ribbon week.Otherwise known as, the say no to drugs week across the nation.

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To Protect Children From Identity Theft, Parents Must Be Proactive

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

The Federal Trade Commission advises parents to take precautions in order to protect children’s personal information, which can be a target for theft. Identity thieves can use stolen information to open fraudulent credit card accounts and apply for government benefits, among other uses.

Martin Meissner/AP

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Martin Meissner/AP

The Federal Trade Commission advises parents to take precautions in order to protect children’s personal information, which can be a target for theft. Identity thieves can use stolen information to open fraudulent credit card accounts and apply for government benefits, among other uses.

Martin Meissner/AP

Picture a 5-year-old’s Social Security card. For identity thieves who get their hands on it, that number could be used to apply for credit cards, rent a home or get government benefits, among other uses, according to the Federal Trade Commission. And it could be years before parents discover their children’s information has been misused.

“That child is not going to enter the credit world for 13 years,” said John Krebs, the Identity Theft Program manager at the FTC. “That is a very clean Social Security number. [A thief] can keep that Social Security number going for a number of years before somebody is going to look at it.”

After Equifax Hack, Calls For Big Changes In Credit Reporting Industry

After Equifax Hack, Consumers Are On Their Own. Here Are 6 Tips To Protect Your Data

In the wake of the Equifax breach, in which an estimated 145.5 million people’s private data could have been exposed, securing personal information is a growing priority. The consumer credit reporting company didn’t say how many of those records involved children and it didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Taking precautions and being proactive, especially when it comes to children’s information, is key to protecting against identity theft, Krebs said.

It’s difficult for experts to gauge how widespread identity theft is among children because of a lack of data, and surveys tend to undercount the number of cases, but officials know it’s a problem, Krebs said.

A 2011 report on child identity theft from Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab found that of the participants surveyed, the rate of identity theft for children was 51 times higher than that of adults. Social Security numbers are of special interest because they can be associated with any name and birthdate, the report showed. They also offer thieves a clean financial canvas.

In order to protect that information, parents should be skeptical about handing over private documents, like a child’s Social Security number, without knowing how they will be used, Krebs said. He suggests getting into the habit of asking why organizations — like doctor’s offices — need the information and how they will protect it.

Identity Theft: 'Kids Don't Know They're Victims'

“There are a lot of instances where parents have control of the information. That is something parents can and should be doing — they should be focused on that and trying to minimize their risk portfolio,” Krebs said.

Parents should also be on alert for warning signs of child identity theft. If credit collectors are calling when children haven’t applied for credit or bills arrive in children’s names, that should raise red flags. Parents should then check to see if a credit report has been opened using their child’s name, Krebs says. (As a general rule, the FTC recommends parents check if their children have credit reports in their name when they turn 16. You can check for credit reports here.)

“If there is a credit report in your child’s name, you should freeze it,” Krebs said. “You want to clean it up, and make sure that profile can’t be used.”

In that case, all three major credit bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian — allow security freezes on minors’ credit reports, but parents should still be cautious.

“Parents and guardians should always remain vigilant for signs of their child’s information being used fraudulently, regardless of whether or not their child’s credit is frozen,” TransUnion spokesman David Blumberg said.

Parents can also ask a credit bureau to place a fraud alert on the credit report and file an identity theft report online with the FTC. Initial fraud alerts last for 90 days; once an identity theft report is created, an extended fraud alert lasts for seven years.

Krebs said most people talk about freezing their children’s credit as a precautionary measure, but security freezes aren’t available in all states, their durations vary and some charge fees to freeze. In 29 states, legislation allows credit reporting agencies to freeze minors’ credit reports at the request of a parent or legal guardian; but even then, parents should watch for warning signs of child identity theft.

“There is a tendency of people to think that ‘OK, I’ll just do this,’ ” Krebs said. “It is a great tool, but use it with the understanding that you still have to remain diligent. A lot of this comes back to you can’t control breaches.”

Isabel Dobrin is an NPR Digital News intern.

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