Posts

Understanding and Stopping Criminal Identity Theft

The definition of criminal identity theft is a crime where the criminal impersonates the victim in order to protect their innocence. This can lead to victims getting fines or even getting arrested and charged for crimes they did not commit.

How Does This Happen?

There are a number of ways that a criminal can pull this off, and it generally occurs when the thief steals someone’s identity. This is true and pure identity theft, often involving a drivers license with the thieves picture and the victims information. Once they have that, they are pretty much free to commit crimes in their victim’s name.

Stopping Criminal Identity Thieves

If you think that you are a victim of this crime, you should first get in touch with the police department where the charges are coming from. You should offer proof of your identity, and then fill out an impersonation report. The police will often take a photo, get your fingerprints, and run your ID info through their database. When they prove your innocence, warrants will be released. If you feel like this is a complicated situation, however, it is in your best interest to get a lawyer.

Did Someone Use Your Driver’s License?

If someone has stolen or used your driver’s license, take the following steps:

  1. Get your driver’s license record. You can get this from the DMV.
  2. Identify any inaccurate information from the report.
  3. Report any discrepancies.
  4. Discuss facial recognition with the DMV and if others photos are tied with your information.
  5. Clear all of the discrepancies. The DMV will do this for you after an investigation.

Signs That You Might be a Victim of Criminal Identity Theft

Sometimes you might not realize that you are a victim of criminal identity theft, but here are some signs:

  • Your Social Security Statement may have errors.
  • There will most likely be errors on background checks.
  • You might get fired and told your criminal record is the reason.
  • You might not get a job or apartment due to your false criminal record.

Preventing Criminal Identity Theft

There are some things you can do to make the chances lower that you will become a victim of criminal identity theft:

  • Keep your Social Security number and driver’s license safe and hidden when possible.
  • If you have to get a new credit card and/or driver’s license, make sure the numbers are different. You don’t just want the same number as the thief can still use it.
  • Get a credit freeze and consider identity theft protection.
  • Frankly, be as digitally secure as possible and manage paper records the best you can. But this is a hard crime to stop on your own.
  • Criminal identity theft happens when the victim has done nothing at all to secure their identity

Should You Be Worried About Criminal Identity Theft?

All of this sounds pretty scary, but there is only a very small chance that you would be held liable for any of these crimes. The bigger issue is that someone could victimize you for years, and you would never realize it. It could become a big headache, and it could also create a domino effect that could ultimately tarnish your good name. Preventing identity theft of all kinds is a start, and as long as you know how to fix it if it happens, you should be okay in the end. Don’t worry about it, but do something about it.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Do You Really Need Identity Theft Protection or is it a Waste of Money?

I see a ton of articles that say identity theft protection is not something you really need. These articles have titles like “ID Theft Protection Does Not Work,” or “The Poor Man’s Guide to ID Theft Protection.” Though some of these articles have a bit of merit, they totally miss the point.

Here’s the deal – You can’t protect yourself from every type of ID theft out there, and the types you can protect yourself against require a ton of focus. One way or the other, it will cost you money, time, and probably a bit of anxiety too.

Those who have elected not to invest in ID theft protection say they don’t need to pay for a service that they can take care of on their own. Why? Because they do the following:

Dispose of Their Mail, Securely – One thing that people do to protect their identity is to shred all of their mail. This is especially the case when it contains account information. However, this isn’t enough. Though you might do your part, there is no guarantee that your bank, mortgage company, or even electrical provider won’t toss paperwork with your information into a dumpster. At that point, it’s free for the taking.

Opt Out of Preapproved Credit Card Offers and Junk Mail – Yes, this is good advice. You can do it online at OptOutPrescreen.com. However, keep in mind that even if you do this, you will still get some offers.

Get a P.O. Box – I’m not sure why people think that getting and using a P.O. box will help to protect them from identity theft, but they do. Yes, this is a more secure way of getting your mail and in some cases will protect sensitive data. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help much.

Check Their Credit Report – Yes, you should always check your credit report. But, people who believe that checking their credit report can stop ID theft are mistaken. You can get a free credit report each year at AnnualCreditReport.com, but you really need to check more often than once every 12 months. Checking a credit report does not proactively protect your identity.

Set Up Fraud Alerts – People also set up fraud alerts and think they are fully protected from ID theft. Again, fraud alerts are great, but they expire after 90 days, and most people forget to renew the service. Additionally, these are only a guideline for your creditors, and they are not required to contact you if they issue credit.

Freeze Their Credit – These people also freeze their credit. This is a good thing to do, and I think it is fundamental to protecting your identity, but again, it doesn’t help to protect your ID from tax-related identity theft, criminal identity theft, account takeover or medical identity theft.

All of these things help, and are necessary in addition to a Protection Service, but people who stick with these and don’t get full service identity theft protection are putting themselves in a precarious position. Instead, it’s best to get a professional product, which offers better protection.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Man raises a Family on Dead Man’s Stolen Identity

Imagine you learn your husband (or wife) of 25 years is really a different person. That’s what happened to Mary Hickman—25 years after she married a man who had identified himself all those years back as Terry Jude Symansky. The Florida couple had a son and lead an uneventful life, with Symansky working different jobs and even acquiring a pilot’s license.

11DIn actuality, Symansky was really Richard Hoagland, who’d been married twice before, who had lived in Indiana and then mysteriously disappeared and was eventually presumed dead. He had stolen the real Terry Jude Symansky’s identity and got away with this for 25 years—until he was busted by Symansky’s nephew.

The nephew learned of the identity theft, something he never even suspected, via Ancestry.com. He reported this to the police, who then alerted Hickman.

Hickman subsequently came upon documents in the attic proving that her husband was an imposter of a man who had died in 1991 in a drowning accident. Hoagland, 63, was arrested.

So why had he vanished from Indiana? There, he’d had four kids with two wives. He had wanted to get away from one of the wives, so he up and left, though he told her it was because the FBI wanted him for the theft of millions of dollars—a claim that has yet to be substantiated.

How did Hoagland steal Symansky’s identity in the first place? It certainly helped that he had once been living with the dead man’s father, where he had found a copy of Symansky’s death certificate. He had used this document to get a birth certificate, and armed with that, he was on his way to assuming the identify of a man who had never even been married nor had any kids—which had made it even easier for Hoagland to pull off his caper.

We can probably thank those Ancestry.com commercials for causing the chain of events that led up to the crook’s arrest.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Are You Part of the 70 Percent Who Are Clueless About Identity Theft?

You’d think with all the media attention regarding data breaches, hackers and identity theft, that consumers would be more focused on their privacy and how to protect their information from prying eyes. Surprisingly, almost 70% of the people are clueless about how a criminal might have got a hold of their personal information.

We all have a lot going on in our lives, and this is exactly how identity thieves like us. Ever lurking, these criminals are counting on us being too busy to give any thought to who we are sharing our information to. These people are always there, and just waiting for us to make mistakes.

The startling truth is that most victims of an identity theft crime, about 68 percent, don’t know how their information was obtained, and 92 percent of victims have no idea who stole their information. A further 45 percent of identity theft victims don’t realize they are a victim until they hear from their financial institution. There are more than 16 million victims of identity theft each year.

IdentityForce created a very informative info-graphic (nice job IdentityForce!) that shows the public are essentially sitting ducks, just waiting to be picked off by identity thieves.

identity_info

What did you do to expose your information? Consider the following:

  • Got married
  • Gave too much info away on social media
  • Responded to a fraudulent text, message, or email

Additionally, major life events put you at greater risk of becoming a victim, such as having a baby or getting a new job.

When most of us consider identity theft, we usually think immediately of credit card fraud, but there is much more to it than that. Though credit card fraud is a common type of identity theft, these thieves can use the information they have obtained to do the following:

  • Open up a new bank account or credit card…and make changes to your billing address, leaving you none the wiser
  • Take out a large loan, such as a mortgage or vehicle loan, and never pay the loan off
  • File a fraudulent tax return, and taking the money that comes from it

If you find yourself to be a victim of identity theft, you could be dealing with the aftermath for years to come, and could struggle to clear your name and repair your credit score.

Fortunately, there are several ways that you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft. Some of this includes:

  • Only give out your Social Security number when it is absolutely necessary
  • Do not allow mail to sit in a mailbox
  • Don’t respond to suspicious requests for personal information
  • Only create complex passwords for online accounts

Here’s how to be part of the 30% of informed, alert, aware and cyber smart consumers: Take the “Identity Theft Risk Quiz” here: https://www.identityforce.com/resources/quiz To further protect yourself, sign up for an identity theft service, today.

Robert Siciliano CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Identity Theft getting even worse

In 2015, depending on the kind and type of identity theft we are talking about, identity thieves impacted 1.5 million people or more, says the Javelin Strategy & Research report. That’s more than double than for 2014.

The move from stripe cards to chip cards has motivated crooks to fasten their seatbelts and really take off with an accelerated mode of operation. For them, your Social Security Number is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Thieves will use it to set up new accounts in the victims’ names, then go on spending sprees. This kind of identity theft is called new-account fraud.

  • This can go on for months or years before the victim realizes it.
  • Sometimes the victim never finds out.
  • These cases can also slip by the victim’s bank.

A favorite scam is for the thief to create a fake (partially stolen, partially faked) identity morphed from multiple pieces of real—and stolen—data. So we have not only a stolen identity but a fictitious identity—which could be created using your Social Security number and someone else’s home address and name. This is called synthetic ID, and banks see right past it.

Synthetic ID Crimes

  • ID manipulation: The criminal uses a stolen core identity but integrates false pieces of data to avert detection.
  • Quick synthetics: Data pieces from multiple, real victims are compiled into a single identity.

What can banks do?

  • Analyze cellphone account data to see if there’s a predictable pattern of billing details, since many thieves may use a prepaid, discardable VoIP phone.
  • E-mail history is also important to look at; a new e-mail for an old account should be suspicious for fraud.
  • Another red flag is if the e-mail address doesn’t correlate to the mobile device.

What can be done by credit card issuers?

  • Checking a person’s identity needs to be more thorough.
  • For instance, a red flag would be spotting the same address for several different names.
  • Repeat scoring of the applicant’s risk score, one to three days later, to see if there’s a change. A change is a red flag.

What can you do?

No identity theft is OK. But if synthetic identity theft happens you to, meaning some sleaze uses your SSN, but not your name, you may never know about it. And that means it may not actually affect you. But:

  • Check your credit reports at least annually
  • Consider investing in identity theft protection. Identity theft protection monitors your SSN for activity on the dark web and on most new lines of credit.
  • Get a credit freeze. A credit freeze locks down your credit and prevents new account fraud.

The bottom line is that banks and credit card issuers need to employ a multi-layer approach to screening and approving applicants. The more layers, the harder it will be for a fraudster to penetrate. Four layers are significantly better than two layers.

Robert Siciliano CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

IRS Identity Theft Prevention Tool hacked

The Identity Protection PIN tool on the IRS.gov site has been temporarily suspended—because it was recently hacked into. The tool provides retrieval of forgotten or lost IP PINs to users who want an extra layer of protection against identity theft.

9DBut some users who received the IP PINs recently via the online tool learned that a thief had used their IP PIN to file tax returns in their name.

So now, for the moment, you cannot use the IRS’s online function to retrieve your IP PIN; meanwhile, the IRS is investigating the hack.

The online tool attracts taxpayers who lost or forgot the six-digit IP PIN they were issued via snail mail. Despite the suspension of the tool, taxpayers are encouraged to file their returns without any qualms. The IP PINs purpose is to add additional protection to the user, but is not required to process a tax return.

Lesson learned: If you ever receive an IP PIN in the future…memorize it or write it down in hardcopy and keep in a safe place.

Tips from the IRS

  • There will always be someone who misplaces or accidentally throws out the letter containing the IP PIN, or who intentionally discards the document but then can’t remember the number and never wrote it down. They should call the IRS in the wake of this suspension.
  • Over the phone, they will need to verify their identity, after which they will receive a letter with the IP PIN.
  • If since the first of this year the taxpayer has moved, they will need to file a paper return, and this will take longer to process if it doesn’t contain an IP PIN.
  • The IP PIN is given out to those at risk or who feel at risk for tax identity theft. But again, it’s not necessary to use it if it’s been lost or forgotten. But for those who managed to retrieve their number, they should include it on their tax return.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

Prevent Child Identity Theft

Here’s one for the know-it-alls: Kids are 35 percent more likely to become victims of identity theft than are adults. Betcha didn’t know that! This startling news comes from a 2015 Javelin Strategy & Release study.

2DNeedless to say, the bulk of parents aren’t on top of this problem, unaware that thieves go after children’s SSNs like two-year-olds grabbing at candy. Thieves know that kids (and their parents) don’t monitor their credit reports. Thieves know that they can get away with their crime all throughout the victim’s childhood until they start applying for college, credit cards, etc., at age 18 or so. That’s a long time to get away with a crime.

Let’s talk about how to prevent child identity theft.

ID Theft Protection

  • Sign on with an ID theft protection company; many such companies protect the entire family including kids.
  • Get an ID theft protection service. This is not the same as antivirus software. For example, ID theft protection services will monitor your credit report. It will also alert you when an account is opened in your name.

Credit Freeze

  • Put a freeze on your kids’ credit reports; 19 states allow this for the three main credit reporting agencies. Equifax allows a freeze no matter what state you live in.
  • A frozen credit will prevent a crook from opening lines of credit in your child’s name.

Who needs your child’s Social Security number?

  • Put your children’s sensitive documents (birth certificate, SSN card, etc.) in a lockable safe and/or keep it hidden.
  • THINK, before you hand out your child’s SSN. Just because it’s requested doesn’t mean you must blindly give it up. Ask yourself: Why on earth do they need my child’s Social Security number? The gruff coach of your child’s new soccer team may be requesting the number. The child beauty pageant director may be asking for it. Don’t be intimidated.
  • Come on, really. WHY would a sports team, karate tournament entry form or any other child-centered activity need this information?
  • Minimize putting your child’s name and address “out there.” Even if you decide to get a magazine subscription for your tween, put your name on the subscription.
  • Meet with your child’s principal to keep your child’s information from getting out. Schools often share personal information of students with third parties.
  • It’s not cute that your five-year-old can rattle off her Social Security number. Kids don’t need to know this number. They need to know your phone number, how to dial 9-1-1 and their home address. But not their SSN. Geez, if they know their SSN, you just never know when they might leak it out to the wrong ears. When kids are in high school, they may need it, but still, be very cautious about when you decide it’s time to give them this information.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention

Identity Theft on the rise affecting over 13 Million

13.1 million people were stricken by identity theft last year in America, reports a study by Javelin Strategy & Research which reveals:

  • Many people who don’t trust their banks are unwittingly doing things that make crime easier for crooks. This includes not using the bank’s protection services such as e-mail alerts.
  • Oddly, there are more victims than ever, but the total amount stolen is less. But that hardly matters when you consider that in the past six years, $112 billion have been stolen.
  • 18 percent of U.S. identity fraud involving cards was carried out beyond the U.S.
  • New-account fraud is being driven by EMV.

Javelin Strategy & Research’s Recommendations

  • Every account should have a different password. Every password should be long and strong, not containing keyboard sequences or actual words or proper nouns (sorry, this means no Metallica1), and including a mix of characters.
  • Consider using a password manager.
  • Smartphone protection is a must. This means being vigilant about updates and using all security features offered by the device like passcodes or fingerprint access.
  • Sign up for account alerts. Alerts come in different flavors. For instance, you’ll be alerted for purchases exceeding a specified limit or occurring outside your state. See if your bank or credit card issuer provides alerts for international transactions.
  • Put a freeze on your credit. This will prevent anyone but you from opening an account in your name, and it’s cheap to do. But if you unexpectedly find you must open a new line of credit, the freeze can be lifted.
  • If you suspect any suspicious activity, jump on it immediately. Any delay in notifying the credit card company or bank can make it harder for them to resolve the problem.

In addition, inspect your credit card statements every month. Do not dismiss tiny charges that you’re not familiar with just because they’re tiny. Sometimes, crooks will “test the waters” and make miniscule charges to see if they can get away with it. Their intention is to then escalate and ultimately max out the card.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention

Bank Tellers stealing Identities

Ever consider the possibility that a person gets a job as a bank teller…for the sole purpose of stealing a patron’s identity?

Do you realize how easy this would be?

  • No techy hacking skills required.
  • No gun required.

So we’ve all been instilled with fear of our bank getting data breached by Russian hacking rings, while that mousy looking teller with the sweet smile could be your greatest threat.

A nytimes.com article points out that a teller from Capital One had gained access to seven accounts and gave information to a co-thief who drew checks on these accounts.

Tellers can fake debit cards and wire unauthorized funds. They can also sell personal data to other thieves.

The nytimes.com article says that a teller was part of an ID theft ring that stole $850,000. The idea of tellers committing these thefts is very real. One teller even took photos with a cell phone of account data to cash phony checks. Another thief, who worked at a credit union, took loans out in customer’s names.

There are many ways that tellers can steal, including creating credit cards in customer’s names. Tellers may also be easily bribed by thieves to sell them customer information, as the tellers’ income isn’t that great, averaging about $25,000 a year.

The thieves, who bribe the tellers, don’t necessarily pay them with money. They may offer them luxuries that the teller can only dream of, such as flying in private jets and meeting famous athletes, says the nytimes.com report.

And if you think that banks require rigorous background checks for new teller  hires…think again. Furthermore, continues the article, savvy thief-tellers will keep their fraudulent withdrawals under $10,000, to keep below the detection radar. These sneaks can get away with this for years.

The general rule of thumb is that tellers have way too much access to customers’ data, and banks are lax at correcting this problem beyond simply reimbursing customers with their stolen money. The banks don’t want to invest the money and time in straightening out this problem, though a small number of banks have implemented tighter controls on tellers.

But what can we, the customer, do? We just have to keep our fingers crossed? The most effective way to prevent fraud is to do two things:

  1. Go over your accounts security controls with a bank advisor. Set up limits on transactions, require second signatures for large dollar amounts, and restrict money flow in any way that will cause financial harm.
  2. Set up alerts and notifications, so you, the account holder can become fully aware of every transaction of any kind.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

Busted!: Large Identity Fraud Rings Fall Apart

A group of people who are actively collaborating to commit identity fraud is known as an identity fraud ring. These rings are generally made up of two or more career criminals, often including family members or close friends. These rings work by members either stealing a victim’s identity or sharing personal information such as a date-of-birth or Social Security number. Though many fraud rings occur in large cities, there are a surprisingly high number of rings found in rural areas.

According to Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli, recently, twenty people from Pennsylvania and New Jersey were charged as part of a highly sophisticated identity theft ring. The group used several stolen ID’s to open new bank accounts and then negotiate counterfeit and fraudulent checks.

These new arrests were based on information obtained through an ongoing investigation, which began after a previous arrest of a member of the ring, Miokar B. Wehye. This arrest occurred after a nearly year-long investigation after accusations of fraud and identity theft began coming in from Bergen County business owners.

According to Molinelli, the investigation showed that Wehye created a scheme that allowed his group to steal more than $100,000 from their victim’s bank accounts. The prosecution team alleged that Wehye and his group changed their victim’s addresses, opened new bank accounts in their names, and by using counterfeit checks, made illegal withdrawals from these accounts. The group also applied for business loans in the names of their victims.

Though you may think this will never happen to you, the truth is, it can. Anytime you apply for any type of personal or business loan online, it makes you more susceptible to becoming a victim of identity theft. The system of identification that is currently used has flaws, and the Internet makes it quite easy for criminals to get approval when they are not conducting a face-to-face transaction.

Identity thieves can easily change a mailing address and begin diverting documents away from you and directly to themselves. All it takes is a Change of Address request to the US Postal Service, and your mail can be forwarded to a new destination address, and this change may be permanent or temporary. Currently, anyone can change anyone else’s address simply by filling out a form online or even in person at a local post office.

Fortunately, arrests like Wehye’s help police to breakup these rings, and in this case, it led to fraud charges against almost two dozen people, which means there are 20 people who are off the streets and unable to steal your personal identity, for now. Each of these people have been charged with conspiracy to traffic in the personal identifying information of another, which is a second-degree crime. Wehye, and his accomplice Rachel Horace, were charged with receiving a stolen vehicle, too, as at the time of their arrests they had a 2015 Range Rover which was stolen at gunpoint from its owner in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Though these people are off the streets, there are still dangerous people out there, so make sure you remain vigilant about your identity.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.