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  • Identity Theft County’s Top Property Crime

    Posted on July 10th, 2008 NewSunSEO No comments

    Some victims are hit through online banking or shopping, but most common cause is leaving purse or wallet in car

    Tonia Hall didn’t know the problems she was creating for herself when she logged into her online banking account at the end of her work day last June.

    She was was checking her balance before writing checks for household bills and running a few errands. The $1,000 in her checking account was more than enough to cover what she needed.

    But the next morning, her bank called, wanting to know why she had emptied out her and her son’s accounts. Soon she was getting calls about checks she had written on her errands.

    Her checks had bounced.

    The bank log showed that five minutes after Hall had signed out and left the office, her account was hacked into, the money she was counting on to pay bills, cover checks and buy groceries and gas transferred to an unknown account, leaving Hall with debts and bounced checks.

    Who entered her bank account, or how they did it, was never resolved, Hall said. Her bank refunded the lost money but couldn’t do anything for her reputation.

    “To me, it was a lot of money,” said Hall, a single mother of two. “I still go places where, because of what happened, I can’t write a check. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

    Hall is one of hundreds of Sonoma County residents who are victims of credit card and identity fraud.

    “We get more reports of identity theft every day than traffic accidents,” said Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Mike Lazarini.

    Credit card theft and fraud is the leading property crime in Sonoma County, officials with the Santa Rosa police and Sonoma County sheriff said.

    The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year and 3.7 percent of American’s have had fraudulent purchases made to their credit.

    In May, 36 cases of credit card and identity fraud were reported to the Santa Rosa Police Department. In the same time period, 22 cases were reported to the sheriff’s department.

    “At local, national and international levels, it’s growing,” said Sheriff’s Sgt. Glen Lawrence.

    Some victims, like Hall, had entered credit card and bank information online or used banking Web sites.

    Others had simply lost their wallets.

    Most commonly, Lawrence said, victims left their purses or wallets in their cars while running out for an errand or a walk in the park.

    Many cases cross county or state lines. Some are international, making following the trail of a stolen identity, even through electronic purchases, difficult, Lawrence said.

    But arrests are made.

    Earlier this month, Tina Ryan was sentenced to nine months in Sonoma County Jail for copying credit card data from a Sebastopol company she had worked for and using the information to buy thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts. Investigators said Ryan bought more than 100 items with the stolen credit information.

    In May, two Oakland women were arrested in Windsor on suspicion of using stolen credit identities to make purchases at Wal-Mart, Lawrence said.

    Sheriff’s deputies arrested Lois Ann Fairman and Tyja Wilkins, who reportedly were using 30 stolen credit cards to make purchases. Detectives believe the women transferred information from the stolen cards to gift cards, Lawrence said.

    No charges have been brought against the women in Sonoma County, but investigators are attempting to locate the victims and expect the case to be far-reaching, Lawrence said.

    Credit card and identity fraud is easier to avoid than prosecute, Lawrence said.

    “The most common theft begins when a victim leaves a purse or wallet in their car. It’s the most common and the most preventable,” he said.

    Being cautious with mail, safeguarding personal information, shredding financial documents, credit card offers and receipts, ordering credit reports and using Internet sites carefully are all safeguards against fraud, Lazarini said.

    By Laura Norton – THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

  • Bank Worker Charged With Identity Theft

    Posted on July 10th, 2008 NewSunSEO No comments

    A state grand jury has indicted a former employee of the Commerce Bank branch in Mount Laurel on charges she provided personal information of bank customers to individuals who then stole the customers’ identities.

    Jennifer Mullner, 22, of Hammonton, a former loan services representative at the bank branch; her boyfriend, William Roman, 21, of Galloway; and Anthony Wood, also known as Anthony Bickerstaff, 44, of Philadelphia, were each charged with conspiracy, computer criminal activity and identity theft, which are second-degree offenses.

    The indictment alleges that between March 1 and Oct. 30, 2007, Mullner accessed at least 240 bank documents containing customer information, including loan information and account numbers, and unlawfully provided the information to Wood.

    Mullner is also accused of providing documents to Roman on two occasions, who then forwarded the information to Wood, according to the indictment. Authorities say Roman was paid $250 for his involvement.

    The indictment said the defendants stole the identities of at least five victims and obtained more than $100,000 in merchandise and services.

    New Jersey State Police arrested Wood on Feb. 26. He was released from Burlington County Jail on $100,000 bail.

    By MELISSA HAYES (Burlington County Times)
  • The Identity Theft Resource Center Statistics

    Posted on June 27th, 2008 NewSunSEO No comments

    The Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC) released an important report discussing the impact of identity theft victimization. Since 2003, the Identity Theft Resource Center has conducted annual victimization surveys to study the impact of identity theft crimes on its victims. Now in its fifth year, the report allows us to analyze the data, draw some conclusions, map trends and identify areas for further research. While ITRC reports the data in terms of percentages, it is critical that we remember those numbers represent people. These are people with lives that have been interrupted, altered, torn apart and/or changed.

    Sources of Stolen Information: With a five-year history to study, it
    is clear that, according to the respondents, about one-third of cases
    were started by a person known to the victim. The next highest
    category of identity theft originated from a lost/stolen wallet or PDA.
    Scams have become more of a problem for victims in 2007 than in
    previous years. Identity theft due to mail theft and theft of
    information from a burglary of a car or home has dropped in the past
    few years.

    Victim Hours Repairing Damage: In The Aftermath 2007, victims reported
    spending an average of 116 hours repairing the damage done by identity
    theft to an existing account used or taken over by the thief. Answers
    also included 6,000 hours, 8,640 hours, and 5 years of time (outliers).
    In cases where a new account was created, respondents reported an
    average of 158 hours to clean up the mess with outliers of “endless”
    and “too many to count.”

    Extended involvement: In 2007, 70% of victims indicated that it took
    up to 12 months to clear issues of all misinformation, compared to 50%
    in 2006. A moderate amount of victims (12%) took one to two years.
    Unfortunately, some 19% indicated that it took two or more years to
    resolve their case.

    Unexpected secondary effects: Victims reported a number of additional
    problems including: increases in insurance rates, current credit card
    interest rates and criminal records not being cleared. The inability to
    get credit resonated with the majority of respondents (64%). In
    addition, 53% have collection agencies still calling; 27% had credit
    cards cancelled (even though the accounts were being properly
    maintained); 18% said it affected their ability to get a job; and 14%
    reported tenancy issues.

    Relationship of Imposter to Victim: It is important to note that a
    large percentage of respondents seem to have been victimized by those
    who may have had easy access to personal identifying information
    including friends, family members, ex-spouses/significant other, or
    those in close contact with the victim, such as co-workers.

    Emotional Impact: Few significant positive changes have occurred in
    the feelings of victims and in terms of reported victim symptomology.
    More than 49% of the respondents reported a stressed family life; 22%
    felt betrayed by unsupportive family members and friends; and 23% said
    their family didn’t understand. The strongest feelings expressed were rage
    or anger; betrayal; unprotected by police; personal financial fears; sense of
    powerlessness; sense they were grieving, annoyed, frustrated or exhausted;
    sleep disturbances; an inability to trust people; and the desire to give up and
    stop fighting the system. Long-term emotional responses included suicidal;
    feeling captive; ready to give up; and felt that they have lost everything.

    Before you have to deal with all of this in addition to having your identity stolen,

  • Not Shredding Can Be Costly

    Posted on June 26th, 2008 NewSunSEO No comments
    Texas Insurance Claims Services in Richardson is the latest business to make the news for what is in their dumpster. The company had boxes of customers’ personal information sitting out for anyone to see. They story was reported to WFAA after a man was taking pictures of the dumpsters contents. The man claimed he was just looking for boxes but it is unclear why he was taking pictures. The business owner said the files were five years old and he was no longer required to save them. The cost of the fines will easily exceed the cost of the paper shredding.
  • Identity Theft Suspect Accused Of Stealing More

    Posted on June 24th, 2008 NewSunSEO 2 comments

    Jocelyn S. Kirsch can’t seem to break the habit.

    Already described as a poster child for identity theft by Philadelphia’s top federal prosecutor, a handcuffed Kirsch ended up in court yesterday after prosecutors said she stole another credit card in California last week.

    She wasn’t charged in the theft, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski set federal bail at $50,000 and ordered Kirsch, 22, held under house arrest until another court hearing next week.

    Kirsch is expected to plead guilty June 5 in U.S. District Court in Center City to a six-count complaint charging her and boyfriend Edward K. Anderton with using the good names and credit of others to finance a yearlong, $119,000 spending spree. Anderton, 25, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, has a court date Monday and also is expected to plead guilty.

    U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan has said he would seek five-year terms for both.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen said Kirsch took the credit card of an acquaintance and used it.

    Earlier this month, Meehan called Kirsch and Anderton – dubbed a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde by police – the “poster children for identity theft.”

    No one was immune from their greed, Meehan said. They allegedly preyed on coworkers, neighbors and friends. The list also included another couple from whom the pair took information, first when they were guests and later when they burgled their hosts’ home. Officials said the duo’s elaborate scheme involved at least 16 victims before they were arrested in December.

    Their actions ranged from simply stealing purses at a Center City bar to establishing multiple accounts under different names and wearing disguises to withdraw money from some of those bank accounts, prosecutors said.

  • Identity Theft Through A Lifetime

    Posted on June 23rd, 2008 NewSunSEO No comments

    Identity thieves discriminate to some degree. Anyone — young or old, rich or poor — can be a victim, but fraudsters generally prefer the easiest targets.

    While most Americans are doing more to protect themselves from identity theft, others allow themselves to be more vulnerable. The greatest risk is to the 25- to 34-year-old age group. The good news is that as we get older, we’re less likely to become a victim.

    “What we’re finding is that once somebody gets past the age of 44, the numbers start going down,” says Keith Anderson, a spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission.

    Still, 8.1 million adult Americans last year discovered that ID thieves had breached their personal data and committed one or more crimes against them, according to a February report by Pleasanton, Calif.-based Javelin Strategy & Research.

    Children – In February, the FTC reported about 5 percent of all identity theft complaints involved victims under 18.

    Teens and young adults – Most of the time, parents don’t even think to check their child’s credit report. But by the time the child graduates from high school, it could be too late. To complicate matters, teens and young adults are among the least likely to take steps to prevent identity theft. College students are notorious for leaving doors unlocked, computers unsecured and credit card bills in plain sight of potential thieves — behaviors that invite trouble. If you have roommates, you should always keep paper statements under lock and key. Paper is a risky financial document. Six percent of all ID fraud comes from paper documents.

    Young families – Newlyweds just starting out generally have positive outlooks, believing that the best days are ahead of them. But if their credit card or bank account information were filched somehow, they may face tough times ahead instead. If an ID thief gets a person’s checks or debit card and drains his bank account, he generally has 48 hours to report the fraud. After that brief window, the person’s on the hook for $500. If he doesn’t report fraud within 60 days, his liability is unlimited.

    Seniors – 89 percent of consumers age 50 to 64 said they regularly shred unnecessary documents containing sensitive information. Some 69 percent said they would consider initiating a credit freeze to protect their information. In the 65-plus age category, nearly 79 percent shred documents, and 53 percent would consider initiating a freeze.

    Read the full article here : http://biz.yahoo.com/brn/080527/25449.html?.v=1

  • Two Defendants Sentenced for Identity Theft Conspiracy

    Posted on June 18th, 2008 NewSunSEO No comments
    John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that two defendants were sentenced in federal court Tuesday for participating in an identity theft conspiracy.
    Tarik I. Liwaru, 34, of Kansas City, Kan., and Michelle Rene Williams, 40, of Kansas City, Mo., were sentenced in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith. Liwaru was sentenced to five years in federal prison without parole, which is the statutory maximum penalty. The court also ordered Liwaru to pay $160,272 in restitution. Williams was sentenced to 30 months federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Williams to pay $114,283 in restitution.
    Approximately 116 victims suffered a total loss of more than $400,000 as a result of two separate fraud schemes that were perpetrated using stolen identity information. Among 16 co-defendants charged in an Aug. 10, 2006, federal indictment and a later superseding indictment, four co-defendants have been convicted at trial and 12 co-defendants have pleaded guilty.
    On Oct. 26, 2007, Liwaru, along with co-defendants Carlton Strother, 39, and Arlester E. Scott, Jr., 42, both of Kansas City, and Chandra L. Jenkins, 28, of Plano, Texas, were convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to commit identity theft and access device fraud. The defendants used stolen identity information to open credit accounts and make purchases at stores like Sam’s Club, Target, Old Navy, Home Depot and others. They also used the stolen identity information to finance an automobile purchase and to apply for cellular telephone service.
    Strother and Jenkins were also convicted of participating in a separate conspiracy, a mortgage fraud scheme that involved the use of stolen identity information to obtain more than $2 million in mortgages. Conspirators obtained three separate mortgages to purchase homes in Lee’s Summit and Kansas City, as well as lines of credit and credit cards at a bank in Texas. Strother and Jenkins are scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, May 21, 2008. A sentencing hearing for Scott has not been scheduled.
    Liwaru, Scott and Strother were found guilty of participating in the conspiracy to commit identity theft from March 3, 2005, to Sept. 26, 2005. They obtained personal identification information of persons together with their personal credit information. They used a computer to create counterfeit driver’s licenses in the names of the identity theft victims for the purpose of making unauthorized applications for credit. Personal identity information of the identity theft victims was stolen from two Kansas City-area businesses – Jeremy Franklin Suzuki and Hearthside Lending, a real estate loan brokerage – that kept large volumes of credit information of their customers, including credit bureau reports that reflected the creditworthiness of each identity theft victim.
    Liwaru provided Strother with stolen credit bureau reports from Hearthside Lending. Evidence presented during the trial indicates that 76 victims (who had been customers of Hearthside Lending) suffered a total loss of more than $160,272 as a result of the first conspiracy.
    Scott, a former employee of Jeremy Franklin Suzuki, stole credit bureau reports obtained by the car dealership in connection with the financing of automobile sales, then sold them to Strother. Evidence presented during the trial indicates that 40 victims (who had been customers of Jeremy Franklin Suzuki) suffered a total loss of more than $67,837 as a result of the first conspiracy.
    Conspirators who managed the scheme recruited others to the conspiracy by promising them a share of the proceeds. The identity theft victims’ financial information was used by the conspirators to make computer-generated counterfeit Kansas driver’s licenses, which contained the information of the identity theft victims, but with the photo of one of the recruited conspirators, or shoppers. The shoppers used the stolen identities and counterfeit driver’s licenses to make instant credit applications at retail stores while posing as the identity theft victims. Once the instant credit applications were approved, they made credit purchases at the stores.
    On Oct. 5, 2007, Williams pleaded guilty to her role in the identity theft conspiracy. Williams admitted that she used the stolen identity information of at least eight different victims to make instant credit applications and more than $85,884 in purchases over a period of about five months during the summer of 2005.
    This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Cowles. It was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service Financial Crimes Task Force, including officers from the Independence, Mo., Police Department, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, the Overland Park, Kan., Police Department, the Johnson County, Kan., Sheriff’s Department, the U. S. Postal Inspection Service, and IRS-Criminal Investigation
  • ID Theft Seminar Includes Document Shredding Service

    Posted on June 17th, 2008 NewSunSEO No comments

    Identity theft continues to be an increasing crime, and a free seminar is designed to help you avoid being the next victim.

    The seminar, called “Stop Identity Theft,” will be Thursday morning at the Florence-Lauderdale Coliseum.

    A document shredding service will be available in conjunction with the seminar.

    The seminar is presented by the Better Business Bureau of the Shoals, Listerhill Credit Union and University of North Alabama Small Business Development Center.

    Christy Yeiser, regional vice president over the bureau in the Shoals, said each person can bring up to two bags or boxes of documents, checkbooks and files that have sensitive information. Those will be shredded by a professional shredding company in the area. She said it is not necessary to remove staples and paper clips.

    You can go through the line more than once, if you have additional items.

    Paul Davis, an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission, will conduct a seminar from 9-11 a.m.

    Registration for the seminar begins at 8:30 a.m. Those who register will receive information on detecting and preventing identification theft. Refreshments and door prizes also will be available.

    Yeiser said there were more than 8.1 million cases of ID theft nationwide in 2007. That resulted in some $45 billion in losses.

    “Over half of that was traced to some type of paper trail,” Yeiser said.

    That includes items that could be taken from your mailbox or garbage, or even from your own possession, she said.

    “Only one-third of ID thefts occurred online or through some other electronic means,” Yeiser said.

    “It is extremely important for businesses to safely destroy personal information of their customers and employees and it is equally important for all residents to shred their sensitive documents.”

    She said identity theft can result in a long nightmare of problems, depending on how much damage the thief did with your identification, and how many places he or she purchased items from while using your identification.

  • The Environmental Benefits of Shredding Paper

    Posted on June 13th, 2008 NewSunSEO No comments

    Shredding paper is not only a safe and secure way of preventing valuable information from getting into the hands of the wrong people. It is also a great way to contribute to helping the environment.

    Shredding companies will recycle whatever paper they’ve shredded, allowing your garbage to be used again instead of wasting space in a landfill. Also, by recycling the shredded paper, you help prevent the destruction of more virgin forest normally used to produce more, non-eco-friendly paper.

    And if you don’t use a shredding company, shredded paper can still be put to better use than un-shredded paper. Enough shredded paper can be used as a substitute for Styrofoam peanuts when packing products. Not only is this cost-effective, but the shredded paper is less harmful to the environment than the Styrofoam. Shredded paper can also be composted rather than thrown into a landfill. Composting helps break the paper down naturally.  And, of course, you can always still recycle the paper yourself.

    By shredding paper instead of throwing it out, you open up numerous environmentally healthy alternatives to disposing of it rather than simply throwing it in the dumpster.

  • Northwest Airlines Takes off with LifeLock to Protect WorldPerks Members from Identity Theft

    Posted on June 10th, 2008 NewSunSEO 1 comment

    TEMPE, Ariz.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In a strategic alliance to further safeguard the personal information of consumers, LifeLock® CEO Todd Davis has announced today a partnership with Northwest Airlines (NYSE: NWANews) to offer LifeLock’s industry leading identity theft protection services to the airline’s WorldPerks® members. WorldPerks members will receive a discount on LifeLock’s service as well as 1,500 WorldPerks miles upon an annual enrollment with LifeLock. Members will be required to provide their WorldPerks number upon subscribing to LifeLock to receive the bonus miles.

    “Security plays an integral role in airports throughout America and the security of personal information and individual identities is just as important,” said Davis. “We applaud the efforts that Northwest Airlines is making to protect their WorldPerks members from identity theft.”

    As the industry leader in identity theft protection, LifeLock requests on behalf of its clients that the national credit bureaus place fraud alerts on its members’ credit files, and requests that members’ names be removed from pre-approved credit card offer and junk mail lists. It is backed by a $1 million service guarantee. In addition to the proactive identity theft protection measures provided by LifeLock, members are also entitled to LifeLock’s WalletLock™, eRecon™ and TrueAddress™ services. WalletLock works to cancel and replace all documents and personal identifying information inside a wallet if it is lost or stolen. eRecon is a regular patrol of the Internet in search of social security numbers, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers and email addresses of LifeLock members to protect against the information being illegally traded or sold online. LifeLock’s TrueAddress service searches to see if members have had a change of address form filed and alert them if there are changes made that they may be unaware of.

    In February 2008, the Federal Trade Commission released its annual report continuing with the annual trend that identity theft tops the list of consumer complaints. In 2007, identity theft cost Americans $1.2 billion dollars, the highest amount ever. A multi-billion dollar crime, identity theft is non-discriminatory, hitting Americans in every age range from infants to seniors. Already this year, more than 448 organizations – from financial institutions to healthcare providers – have lost client information affecting more than 127.6 million Americans.

    “We are proud to partner with LifeLock to offer their proven identity theft protection service to our WorldPerks members,” said Bob Soukup, managing director of WorldPerks marketing.

    We believe strongly that it our responsibility to protect the safety of our WorldPerks members to the best of our ability,” said EXECUTIVE NAME, EXECUTIVE TITLE with Northwest Airlines. “Helping to safeguard the identities of our members is paramount and we are proud to partner with LifeLock to offer their simple, proven identity theft protection service to our WorldPerks members.”

    More than 70 different businesses offer WorldPerks members the opportunity to earn WorldPerks miles, just by doing business with companies they do business with every day. Mileage partners encompass car, hotel, financial services, dining and retail and will soon include grocery, energy and dry cleaning businesses. For a complete list of WorldPerks partner business, or to enroll as a WorldPerks member, log on to www.nwa.com/worldperks/.

    About LifeLock®

    Famous for its CEO giving out his Social Security Number in advertising and national press, the company is experiencing strong growth. Located in a secure facility in Tempe, Arizona, LifeLock® (www.lifelock.com) is a private company backed by Goldman Sachs, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, as well as Bessemer Venture Partners. Winner of the 2007 American Business Award for the Best Radio Advertising Campaign, LifeLock was a finalist for 10 other ABA awards, including Best New Company and Best New Product/Service. Recently the company was named recipient of the Red Herring 100 Global Award as one of the Top 100 start-up’s in the world.