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ID theft

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

March 2010 - Posts

  • You've Won The Lottery! … Wait, Maybe Not ...

    Online lottery scam tells Florida lottery “winners” to send personal information

    It sounds like a dream come true. You receive an e-mail from the Florida lottery informing you that you have won a prize – and all you have to do to collect is to fill out an online form. Sounds good, right?

    Except its an elaborate fraud.

    The sender, whose e-mail address is disguised to look like a legitimate Florida lottery organization address, instructs lottery “winners” to fill out an online form and submit the information. The form, which asks for personal data such as Social Security numbers, birth dates and other personal data which is then used for identity theft.

    Florida Lottery officials advise the public that winners are never asked for their Social Security numbers. “Unfortunately, there are a number of scams out there using the Florida Lottery name as the lure to swindle people out of their savings or personal information, which can result in loss of income or identity theft, as we suspect to be the case with this most recent scam,” said Doug Pitts, Director of Security at the Florida Lottery.

    To avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, the Florida Lottery advises players to only buy tickets from authorized retailers, never pay money to collect a prize, and never give out credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or personal information from anyone claiming to be a Florida Lottery representative over the telephone or by e-mail.

    The agency also advises players to never accept collect telephone calls from anyone claiming to be a lottery official and never respond to any communication that guarantees a prize. The Florida Lottery does not guarantee prizes. For more information or to report a scam, contact the Florida Lottery’s Customer Service Division at (850) 487-7787 or its Security Division at (850) 487-7730.
    Posted Mar 31 2010, 10:12 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Be Careful of Census Scams

    The 2010 Census is “Prime Time” for identity theft!

    Its time for the 2010 Census. Government officials, census workers and volunteers are busy collecting information that can affect the funding available for many state and local programs, as well as determine the electoral makeup of the country, The Better Business Bureau has warned that census time is a prime time for identity thieves who try to trick people into giving out sensitive personal information.

    If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a census worker, be aware that:

    The Census Bureau does not conduct the Census via the Internet or send e-mails to individual Americans about participating in the Census. The Census Bureau does not collect your full Social Security number, credit card, bank, or other financial account information (including PIN codes and passwords), money or donations or make requests on behalf of a political party or candidate.

    Legitimate census data collection takes place by mail, telephone or in-person by a census worker carrying identification as a U.S. Census worker. Mailed requests from the Census Bureau are marked as having come from the U.S. Census Bureau and as OFFICIAL BUSINESS of the United States If a “census” form asks for financial account information, passwords, or a Social Security number, it’s a phony.

    In some areas, Census workers will start going door-to-door in May to visit households that didn’t return questionnaires. Legitimate representatives will always carry a valid Census Bureau ID badge featuring their name. The BBB suggests that you ask for a picture identification (such as a driver's license) to confirm the census worker’s identity.
    Posted Mar 30 2010, 07:38 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Data Breach Puts 3.3 Million Student-Loan Borrowers At Risk

    A company that guarantees federal student loans said Friday that personal data on about 3.3 million people nationwide has been stolen from its headquarters in Minnesota.

    Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC), a student-loan guarantee agency in Minnesota, acknowledged on Friday that a data breach in which the personal information of 3.3 million borrowers, including their Social Security numbers, was compromised. The theft involved burglars who apparently broke in and walked away with an electronic storage device containing the personal data of borrowers. The theft was discovered by the company this past Sunday.

    Company spokesman Paul Kelash wouldn't specify what was taken, citing the ongoing investigation, but said there were no indications of any misuse of the data. ECMC told reporters that it discovered the theft last Sunday and immediately contacted law enforcement, and made the theft public when it received permission from authorities. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is leading the investigation.

    The company stated that the stolen data included names, addresses, Social Security numbers and dates of birth of borrowers, but no financial or bank account information. A written statement by the company indicated that student loan borrowers affected by the theft would be notified and given free credit protection and monitoring services. "We deeply regret that this incident occurred and the stress it has caused our borrowers," ECMC's president and chief executive, Richard J. Boyle, said in a statement released to the media.

    ECMC's admission of the data theft came one day after Congress voted to shut down the bank-based system of student lending in favor of direct lending by the Education Department, partly due to the cost and complexity of the bank-based system, as well as its potential for identity fraud.

    Posted Mar 28 2010, 05:37 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • ID Theft at Northwestern University

    Identity theft thieves profit from stolen medical files at a Northwestern University medical practice

    Seven suspects have been arrested in an identity theft case at Chicago's Northwestern University. Three other individuals are wanted on felony arrest warrants, according to a statement released by the Cook County Sheriff's office on Tuesday.

    In what is described as a "sophisticated identity-theft ring," a janitor stole data from as many as 250 patient files at a Northwestern University medical practice and, with the help of her two sisters and friends, used the personal information to charge more than $300,000 in jewelry, furniture, appliances and electronics. The thieves then sold the illegally obtained merchandise.

    According to the Cook County Sheriff's office, the theft began with a janitor at Millard Cleaning Service, working the night shift, who  stole personal information from patient files at the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation's offices and passed it to others, who then used the information illegally.

    In some cases, the identity thieves opened credit accounts in the victim's name – both in person and at online retailers. In other cases, they simply added their names to victims' accounts. They then often went on an immediate shopping spree -- sometimes charging in excess of $5,000 at a time.

    The ring was busted as a result of "Operation Quick Charge," a five-month investigation headed by the sheriff's financial crimes unit with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Chicago and multiple suburban police departments. The break in the case came when investigators noticed that the majority of the victims saw doctors on the same two floors of the facility and narrowed the search down to the janitor assigned to those floors.
    Posted Mar 27 2010, 08:22 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Beware Ringtone Scams

    The market online and electronic market for ringtones is full of scams.

    Leave it to resourceful identity thieves to find a way to take advantage of our need for the latest  ringtones and applications for our cellphones. Thieves have found a way to steal identities using ringtone web sites.

    Kids make especially good targets.

    Teenagers with cellphones invariably have to have the latest and coolest ringtones and, even worse, will almost always download “free” items without a second thought. Often, sites that advertise free ringtones will attach viruses to your download in order to steal personal information. or kids are enticed to text free ringtone sites to get free downloads.

    The following tips can help keep you safe:

    Teach your kids about identity theft and how thieves use the information they collect.

    Use the ring tone that came with your phone. This isn't fun and it definitely isn't cool, but it's the only sure-fire way to avoid identity theft with ringtones.

    Don't download ringtones from free sites. Too often, these sites attach viruses to your download, which can then steal personal information.

    Don't send text messages to to sites in order to receive free ringtones. A common scam is to charge a fee or subscription that will appear monthly on your cellphone bill.

    Don't keep sensitive personal or financial information on your cellphone (bank info, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or dates of birth). The less personal information there is on your phone, the less thieves have to work with if you do get a virus on your phone.

    Only buy your ringtones from established cell phone service providers.

    If you do find yourself the target of ringtone thieves, file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – click on this link.
    Posted Mar 16 2010, 04:13 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Laptop Audit of British Spy Agency Reveals 35 Missing Laptops

    Audit highlights missing laptops.

    An audit of laptops used by operatives at one of Britain's main intelligence agencies revealed that the agency “lost track” of 35 laptop computers, including three that were certified to hold Top Secret information; a parliamentary intelligence and security committee reported this past Thursday. The rest of the laptops were not approved for unclassified information. According to the report, the agency's process for logging the allocation and subsequent location of laptops at GCHQ had been "haphazard" and that the agency showed a "cavalier" attitude to tracking equipment – an attitude that generated sharp criticism from the government last week.

    "The Committee considers that this formerly cavalier attitude towards valuable and sensitive assets was unacceptable. GCHQ must ensure that it controls, tracks and monitors its equipment effectively. Now that proper processes have been introduced, we trust that this problem will not arise again."

    In response to the report, a government statement said it accepted the committee's criticism and conceded that GCHQ had been unable to account fully for all of its laptops at that time. The government statement pointed out that although the missing laptop documentation was troubling, there was “no evidence of any loss of laptops or classified information." "The most likely explanation in most cases is that the laptops were destroyed but without the destruction being fully recorded. GCHQ has now tightened up its controls." Over the past several years, the British government has been repeatedly embarrassed by lapses over missing laptops and storage devices involving losses of information, such as when tax authorities lost data on 25 million people exposing them to the risk of identity theft and fraud.

    GCHQ is the responsibility of the UK Secretary of State. The agency carries out intelligence functions similar in many ways to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Based in Cheltenham, the agency operates under the guidance of the Joint Intelligence Committee, and falls under the direct supervision of the British Secretary of State. GCHQ was originally established after World War I as the Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS or GC&CS), by which name it was known until 1946. During the Second World War, GCCS was based largely at Bletchley Park, and is most famous for cracking the German Enigma code.
    Posted Mar 15 2010, 07:52 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Identity Thieves Steal Credit Card Data At The Gasoline Pump

    More Bad News At The Gasoline Station – identity thieves who install hard-to-detect electronic devices at stations to steal credit and debit card data.

    If you drive a car – and that means almost everyone in the U.S. - an unthought-of source of identity theft worries has become a problem in many states. Incidents in many states have law-enforcement personnel scrambling to deal with a new identity theft threat - “skimmers” attached to gasoline pumps that store credit card data. These devices look so much like the actual card-swipe hardware used by gas stations that they’re hard to detect. Thieves attach these devices for a month or more and then retrieve them – as well as the data from thousands of credit cards.

    Just yesterday, three men were arraigned in a Los Angeles courtroom for stealing over $2 million by installing devices on gas station pumps that recorded credit card numbers. They were each charged with conspiracy, identity theft, grand theft and computer access fraud, and each man faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. According to prosecutors, they installed skimmers on computerized gas pumps, which recorded credit card, debit card and PIN numbers that later were used to withdraw cash from ATMs. When arrested on February 25th, they were in possession of more than 10,000 stolen credit card numbers. Police also seized $40,000 in cash and several cars, including a Ferrari.

    In February, Rocklin California police stated that that at least 57 people had their debit card information stolen by devices hidden in two gas pumps at one gas station. So far, at least $43,000 was taken from ATM accounts by cards created by the thieves using stolen numbers. It is likely that the total theft is much higher, as only two of the 16 financial institutions whose cards were affected have so far reported customers' losses to police. Police have obtained security camera footage of eight suspects using ATMs with the stolen PINs and homemade cards related to this skimming case.

    Because using your credit or ATM card at the gas pump doesn’t involve a cashier, identity thieves find them to be an easy (and lucrative) target – in one estimate, between $1 million and $3.5 million was stolen from victims of gas pump identity theft in five states over four months in 2008!
    Posted Mar 09 2010, 05:29 AM by IdentityTheft with 1 comment(s)
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