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ID theft

All about how it happens and how you can keep it from happening to you.

January 2010 - Posts

  • Another Conviction in the Bernanke Identity Theft Case

    Finally some good news for the Bernanke family!

    Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke's confirmation as the nation's top banker seemed like a sure thing until recently, when the political fallout from the Republican U.S. Senate victory in Massachusetts on Tuesday cast uncertainty over the result of his impending Senate hearing. But some good news did arrive this past week: one of the leaders of the identity theft ring that swiped his wife's purse, which contained the couple's checkbook. A few days later, someone started cashing checks on the Bernanke family bank account.

    The Federal Reserve Board chairman was one of hundreds of victims of an elaborate identity-fraud ring, headed by a convicted scam artist known as "Big Head," that stole more than $2.1 million from unsuspecting consumers and at least 10 financial institutions around the country. The stolen family checkbook became a part of an ongoing identity-theft investigation by the Secret Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which resulted in a series of arrests and criminal indictments of members of a nationwide ring that used a combination of traditional theft and high-tech electronic fraud to steal from the bank accounts of victims.

    One of the leaders of the ring, Leonardo Darnell Zanders, 49, from Dolton, Illinois, was sentenced this past Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to 16 years and eight months in prison. Zanders was the scam artist known by the name “Big Head.” Zanders pleaded guilty during his trial in September to charges of conspiring to commit bank fraud.

    Since the case was brought, twelve people have been charged, and 10 have pleaded guilty in the case.

    Posted Jan 31 2010, 09:22 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Preventing Identity Theft

    Some simple steps you can use to prevent identity theft.

    Identity theft can occur when someone uses your personal information without your permission. Identity theft is a major problem in today's society and it can affect anyone. In order to prevent identity theft it is crucial that you do everything you can to protect your personal information. Identity theft can cause long-term financial harm to you because, once the thief has enough of your personal information, he or she can commit financial crimes such as applying for and receiving credit cards and loans in your name or making significant purchases on your credit cards or other financial accounts. This can damage your ability to get credit on your own for years afterwards. People whose identities have been stolen can spend years cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record, not to mention a significant amount of money! While your financial good name is damaged, you may miss out on job opportunities, be refused loans for a home or car, or even get arrested for crimes you didn't commit.

    Identity theft is a shockingly simple crime to pull off. According to a survey commissioned by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an estimated 10 million Americans become victims of some form of identity theft each year. The estimated loss in business revenue is estimated at more than $33 billion annually.

    Ideally, prevent identity theft before it happens to you! Keep a eye out for warning signs: a denied credit application notice, collection agency calls, a revoked drivers license, or changes to your bills that you did not initiate. Prevent identity thieves from getting your personal information in the first place. Some of the typical ways that thieves obtain their information are by:

    • stealing your wallet or purse to get your identification and credit cards.
    • "dumpster diving” - digging through your trash.
    • stealing your mail, especially bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new check deliveries, or your tax information.
    • Posing as you and completing a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location.
    • Pretending to be a legitimate business or government official to scam information from you.


    You can get a more complete list of the ways that identity thieves steal information from the Federal Trade Commission web site: http://www.ftc.gov/.

    Some of the steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft are to:

    • Buy a shredder. Shred all communications from doctors and other health care providers, banks and financial institutions and anything else that contains personal information. Be sure to shred any credit offers you get in the mail.
    • Keep track of your credit cards. Always put them back in your wallet or purse immediately after using them. Keep your receipts; when you get your credit card statement, match the receipts to the transactions listed on the statement. Call your credit card company immediately if there are discrepancies.
    • Never put your outgoing mail in your mailbox. Take it directly to the post office instead.
    • Update the firewall, spyware and virus protection software on your home and business computers.
    • Do not carry your Social Security card with you. Give out your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. If you can, only give out the last four digits of you number.
    • Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you've initiated the contact or are sure you know who you're dealing with.
    • At least once a year contact the three major credit bureaus to obtain copies of your credit reports and examine them carefully for any discrepancies.


    If you do have the misfortune to become a victim of identity theft, there are some concrete steps you can take to get your life back on track. Immediately stop all payments on your credit and bank cards. Close your existing bank account and open new ones. Report an identity theft by calling the FTC's ID Theft Hotline-1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or use the FTC's online ID Theft Complaint form (http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/index.html).

    In today's culture identity theft is something that everyone needs to know how to prevent. Make sure that you know the warning signs of identity theft and know what to do if it happens to you.

  • Be Careful Of Identity Thieves At Tax Time!

    Once again, tax season is upon us. The documents and emails we send and receive at this time of the year contain a wealth of information for identity thieves: your name, address, social security number (as well as those of your dependents), bank and investment account information, etc. For an identity thief, tax time is a golden opportunity.

    Its vitally important that you safeguard your personal financial information and not become a victim of identity theft this tax season. There are some concrete steps you can take to keep your personal data out of the wrong hands.

    Understand what the IRS requires. According to the IRS web site, you will never receive an email or telephone communication from them requesting personal information. The IRS does business through the mail. If you receive an email or phone call that purports to be from the IRS, don’t respond to it. If you do receive what you believe to be a fraudulent phone call, call the IRS assistance line at 1-800-829-1040. If you receive an email that appears to be from the IRS, forward it to phishing@irs.gov. Once you file your tax return, the IRS will not ask for additional forms or information in order to process your return.

    Keep your paper documents safe. Always keep your tax paperwork in a safe, locked location. Financial documents don’t belong in a briefcase, handbag, purse or in your car. They can be lost or stolen if left unguarded for even a few minutes. Invest in a document shredder and put papers you no longer need through it. Identity thieves love it when you leave receipts, papers with credit card account and Social Security Numbers (such as health benefit payment and income reporting forms), and loan documents where they can find them, like in your trash! All it takes is a few documents with your personal information on them for a thief to open a new account in your name. Even a seven-year old receipt can often be used by a thief.

    Protect your computer. If your computer is linked to the internet, make sure to have updated firewall, antivirus, and spyware software to protect you from identity theft hackers. e sure to password protect your files. Since many taxpayers file their taxes and store financial information on their computer or online, it is critically important not to let thieves steal your information electronically. Even if you do not file online, identity thieves can still get access to important information through an unprotected computer.

    Watch for email scams. Tax time is an especially fruitful time for email scams. If you receive an email asking for your Social Security Number or other financial information, delete it or send it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at spam@uce.gov for investigation. In some cases, you will receive an email stating that you are being electronically audited or notifying you of a refund and asking for bank account information. Remember – the IRS does not send emails to taxpayers!

    Watch your mail. Uncollected mail sitting in a mailbox is an open invitation for an identity thief. If you plan on being away from home, arrange with the postal service to have your mail held until you return (you can even do this online!). When mailing your tax documents, always take them directly to the Post Office. Don’t ever leave tax documents in an outgoing mail box at work.

    Be careful when hiring a tax preparer. Its always a good idea to check out tax preparation companies before entrusting them with your personal data! Many online tax preparation companies spring up around tax time, some of them nothing more than elaborate scams. Investigate tax preparation companies with the Better Business Bureau, especially new or seasonal offices. Unfortunately, even reputable tax preparation companies can hire an identity thief. Check to see how your information will be stored, what computer security software is used, and if the person working on your taxes has undergone a thorough background screening. Trust your instincts. If you see personal papers displayed on desks or are uncomfortable or doubt the firm’s commitment to protecting your private information, go elsewhere.

    Tax time can be stressful. Don't make it worse by letting your personal financial information fall into the wrong hands. Be careful, and aware of the risks. Avoid identity theft. Protect your personal data - in the real world and online.

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