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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Known Victims of Georgia Identity Theft Ring Total Nearly 9,000!

A Georgia identity theft ring has nearly 9,000 victims!  The current number of victims of the alleged identity theft ring centered in Suwanee, Georgia stands at 8,965 and includes people from Georgia to California.

Apparently, the identity theft ring ran a bogus tax preparation service that was submitting false tax returns for unknowing victims.  The scheme caused one victim, Jeanette Adams of Georgia, to get stuck with a $2400 tax bill.  A retired nurse, Adams struggled to keep a roof over her head and pay for her medicines while paying back the IRS for taxes she did not owe.  Unfortunately, no one would help her.  Only later did she find out she was a victim of identity theft.

Authorities discovered the identity theft ring when they served a search warrant on the home of Annette Ford of Suwanee, Georgia.  During their search, which was triggered by an investigation of some stolen checks, police found stacks of fraudulent tax returns, stolen checks and a legal pad containing handwritten notes of names, birth dates and Social Security numbers.

Ford has plead guilty in federal court.  Three others have also been charged.

I have seen more and more tax return identity theft over the last few years.  Unfortunately, there is usually no one to sue, since the debt rarely show up on the victim's credit reports.  The FCRA therefore is no help to those victims.  And the actual criminals usually are either never located or are judgment proof, making a civil suit against the criminals a waste of time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Operation Swiper busts largest identity theft scheme in U.S. history

Who says the economy is struggling?  One identity theft ring that involved more than 100 criminals spent more than $13 million on iPads, iPhones, computers, watches and even swanky handbags from Gucci and Louis Vuitton.  The only problem - they used their victims' credit to make the purchases.

A sixteen month investigation, dubbed "Operation Swiper", led to charges against 111 suspects, 86 of whom have been arrested thus far.  The identity theft ring was run out of Queens, New York but stretched all over the globe, including China, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Employees at banks, restaurants and retail stores would start the identity theft by "skimming" the credit card data of customers (i.e. steal the information when they swiped the card, often by using a special machine to do so).  Members of the ring would also steal credit card information online. 

The information was then used to forge credit cards, which were placed in the hands of criminal shoppers, who would make the high end purchases identified above.  The items bought (but never paid for) would then be sold overseas for pure profit.

The credit card companies in the U.S. could have prevented a lot of this by installing anti-skimming micro chips in their cards.  Credit card companies overseas already install these chips so it must be feasible.  The untold number of identity theft victims I am sure would have appreciated this extra protection, had the credit card companies been wise enough to have implemented it.  Maybe losing out on over $13 million just from one ring will get their attention.

As always, any victims of this identity theft ring that need help can contact me through this blog or via e-mail to ckittell@merkel-cocke.com.  I have represented identity theft victims in NY before and thus know some good FCRA attorneys in NY that may be willing to help.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Horrible - TriCare refuses to provide credit monitoring to the victims of its data breach

TriCare is a healthcare program that provides healthcare coverage to uniformed service members, retirees and their families.  Last month, a number of TriCare's computer backup tapes were stolen from the vehicle of an employee of Science Applications International Corp.  The tapes contained the personal information (including Social Security numbers) and health information of 4.9 million beneficiaries.

Typically, companies that allow such massive data breaches to occur will offer free credit monitoring services to the victims of its negligence.  But not TriCare.  Its refusing to do the right thing.

According to TriCare, it was not offering credit monitoring services because "retrieving the data on the tapes would require knowledge of and access to specific hardware and software and knowledge of the system and data structure."  Hog wash.  Does TriCare not realize what the technologically savvy can do with computers these days?  It wouldn't take a moderately skilled hacker any time at all to successfully access the information on those tapes.

TriCare, get your head out of the sand and offer the credit monitoring service to your victims.  Its not much, but its at least something.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

New scam involving Equifax

The Better Business Bureau serving eastern North Carolina is warning consumers on its website about a new scam involving Equifax.  Business are apparently receiving faxes that appear to be from Equifax, one of the three major consumer reporting agencies, but are actually from scammers.  The faxes seek sensitive financial information and asks the businesses to fax the information back to "Equifax" - but its not Equifax who is sending the faxes.  The faxes are fraudulent and should be ignored.

Just an FYI - before you ever respond to any solicitation for personal or private information, confirm with the alleged source that the request is legitimate.