Identity Theft

Identity Theft Explained

Identity Theft Explained

What is IdentityTheft?
Identity Theft is definedcriminal act of fraudulentlyobtaining the personal information belonging to another individual, and subsequently assuming that person’sidentity without the expressed consent – this type of fraudulent representation can be facilitated in order to achieve a variety of outcomes. Typically, an individual committing identity theft will utilize deceptive means in order to gain access to the personal and private information belonging to another individual; this can be done through wire fraud or the illegal entry into an individual’s personal records – once this information is obtained, the individual committing identity theft will typically pose as that individual, unlawfully acting in that person’s place in order to achieve economic gain.

Types of Identity Theft
Although the criminal means of Identity Theft can vary in nature and setting, a vast array of negative outcome – in the form of damage, theft, and loss – exist; due to the expansiveness of Identity Theft, the severity of the crime is oftentimes corollary to the severity of the latent consequence(s) – loss sustained as a result of Identity Theft can range from the misappropriation of monies to the unlawful attainment of documentation.
Identity Theft and Cyber Law
Many consider the most common form of Identity Theft to be facilitated through the useof virtual networks. In many cases, virtual networks – akin to a large majority of electronic communicative devices – reside within the jurisdiction of Cyber Law; additional means of electronic identity theft can include information technology networks, telecommunications, and the Internet:
•    Online Identity theft can result in the illegal attainment of stolen property and goods acquired through an online commercial marketplace; this is also known as E-Commerce (electronic commerce)
•    Purchase orders can be placed by individuals in possession of unlawful personal and financial information, while the victim will discover charges incurred for products and goods delivered elsewhere; in order to reduce the risk of capture, individuals well-versed in Identity Theft will request that the goods be shipped to anonymous, remote locations
•    The attainment of passwords
Identity Theft and Immigration Law
The facilitation of Identity Theft as a means to unlawfully attain illegal – albeit official – documentation is not uncommon. In lieu of engaging in the legal procedure of the adjustment of individual immigration status, criminal operations have taken to the illegal attainment of personal information under the ownership of a victim in order to submit fraudulent documentation. As a result, official – and oftentimes governmental – documentation can be acquired in such deceptive means; in a majority of cases, the victims will be unaware as to document and form requests unlawfully conducted in their name:
•    Through the use of stolen – or immigration documentation attained by illicit means – individuals can fraudulently assume the identity of others in order to claim immigration status, adjust employment status, and gain access to unlawful financial accounts
•    Stolen – or fraudulently attained immigration documentation – can pose a security threat, as well; without reputable identification, tabs and records cannot be adequately kept with regard to individuals leaving and entering the United States

7 Ways to Stop Identity Theft

7 Ways to Stop Identity Theft

 

Identity theft statistics show that this crime is growing at a staggering rate and your privacy, as well as quality of life is in danger. When you realize your identity has been stolen, contact an identity theft lawyer to acquire legal advice and assistance.

STEP 1 Secure your Business or Home with Locks and Alarms:

Although a simple set, the installment of locks and alarms on your premises will deter criminals from breaking into your business or place of residence. The installment of these security measures will impede criminals from accessing your personal records or information stored on your computer. The installment of deadbolts on your external doors, alarm systems (monitored by a security company) and the installment of security films, screens, or bars on exposed windows will prevent thieves from accessing your personal information.

STEP 2 Keep your Personal Records in a Safe:

By storing your tangible records (including customer records and other financial data on paper) in safes or secured areas, you are limiting their exposure and impeding identity thieves from accessing the information. If you do not feel comfortable purchasing safe or have trouble finding storage for a bulky unit, you should store your personal information in a security deposit box at your local bank.

STEP 3 Shred your Documents:

All business records personal information containing financial numbers should never be tossed into the trash without being shredded first. If the documents aren’t shredded, a plethora of criminals and identity thieves can access the information copied on bills, financial statements, or personal documents. Numerous cases of identity theft result from mail services; anything that contains your name, address, or financial information must be shredded before they are discarded.

STEP 4 Limit Access to your Personal Computers:

All websites and online information must be protected through a unique and preferably lengthy personal password. Common passwords, such as birthdays or names, are susceptible to compromise; limit an identity thief’s ability to access your personal and financial information by utilizing a unique password.

STEP 5 Protect your Computer from Hackers:

Identity thieves, to access personal and financial information, hack into company databases and networks to usurp identities. All computers that contain financial or personal information should be protected by firewalls. These systems will help impede intruders by shutting out unauthorized users. Firewalls may be purchased at any computer store, online or in person. Additionally, a business owner may install a small router, which will contain numerous ports all blocked by firewalls to supply the user with another mechanism to dissuade identity thieves.

STEP 6 Be cautious of the Internet:

Purchasing items on the Internet through a credit card or checking account must be placed with caution; a consumer must ensure that the site they are accessing and utilizing is a secured site. Aside from various dangers, such as Spyware and viruses, unsecured sites may deliver your personal information to third parties, who in turn may usurp your information to commit egregious crimes.

STEP 7 Avoid Broadcasting Personal Information

When making purchases at retail stores or online, your personal information is often broadcasted or made tangible to various agents or other customers in the store. Although sometimes this is unavoidable, be sure to limit your personal information from exposure by developing an acute awareness. For instance, when using ATMs be sure to end your session after you have completed your transaction and close your windows or log-off after you have mad an online purchase.

What Are The Federal Laws Concerning Lost or Stolen Debit

What Are The Federal Laws Concerning Lost or Stolen Debit

Federal Laws Concerning Lost or Stolen Debit/Credit Cards
The ease and convenience offered by a credit or debit card enable consumers to make seamless and hassle-free purchases. That being said, when a credit or debit card is lost or stolen, there are potential consequences that an individual must be made aware of. The Fair Credit Billing Act and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act affirmed various procedures that must be followed in the event of a lost or stolen card.

Limiting your Financial Loss after the Card is Lost or Stolen:
After you have noticed that your card has gone missing, you must immediately report your credit or debit cards as lost or stolen to the issuing agency. The majority of issuers offer toll-free numbers and 24-hour customer service departments to deal with such emergencies. Additionally, it’s also a prudent move to follow up calls with a letter or email to affirm that the card has been lost or stolen. Be sure to include your account number and the date of the expected loss, when you report that your card is missing.
The maximum liability under federal law for unauthorized use of a credit card is $50. If you report the loss before your credit card is accessed, the Federal Credit Billing Act states that the card issuer cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized charges. If a thief accesses and uses your card before they are reported missing, the most you will owe for the unauthorized charges is $50 per card. Additionally, if the loss involves just your credit card number (and not the card itself) you possess no liability for unauthorized use.
Liability under federal law for the unauthorized use of your debit card is dependent on the timeframe in which you report the card missing. If you report an ATM or debit card missing before it used without authorization, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act states that the card issues cannot hold you responsible for unauthorized transfers.
If unauthorized use is present before you report the card missing, your liability under law is dependent on how quickly you report the loss. For example, if you report the unauthorized use within two business days after you realize the card was missing, you will not be responsible for more than $50 of unauthorized use. However, if you do not report the loss within two business days after you realize the card as lost, you could lose up $500 of the unauthorized use or transfer.
Additionally, you will risk unlimited loss if you fail to report an unauthorized transfer within 60 days after your bank statement containing the unauthorized use is mailed to you. This unfortunate situation means that you could lose all the money in your bank account and the unused portion of your line of credit established for overdrafts. For unauthorized transfers involving your debit card number (and not the card) you are liable for only the transfers that take place following 60 days from the mailing of your bank statement that contains the unauthorized use.

Understanding Credit Card Fraud

Understanding Credit Card Fraud

What is Credit Card Fraud?
Credit Card Fraud is a type of purposeful misrepresentation involving the misuse credit cards – or similar credit-based monetary systems.  Credit Card Fraud can take place within a variety of settings, which include computer networks, the internet, E-Commerce and the online marketplace, and virtual-communicative activity; any or all of these methods may be undertaken in order to illicitly attain credit card information belonging to a victim of credit card fraud.
Due to the advent of technology, credit card fraud is not uncommon within a virtual setting, which can include the illegal and unlawful electronic access of personal financial information, the illicit attainment of personal electronic records or financial information, and the unethical and fraudulent misuse of credit cards belonging to other individuals.

Damage Caused by Credit Card Fraud
Although various means of Identity Theft exist, the multitude of results of this crime that span the severity of consequence are fairly uniform; victims of identity fraud my experience the loss of privacy, safety, security, and finances. Identity Theft undertaken by individuals engaging in credit card fraud may be committed over the computer with regard to the reception of stolen property purchased as a result of illegally obtaining another individual’s financial data and credit card information.
Due to the fact that the ability to purchase items and services through the internet creates a virtual marketplace in which credit card numbers – as well as other pertinent financial information – must be entered into a websites, the risk for hijacked information and subsequent Identity Theft is increased. The following are some measures taken by online marketplaces in order to avoid Identity Theft suffered by their customers and clients.

Credit Card Fraud Litigation

While the chance exists in which credit card fraud was committed without malicious or criminal intent, a prosecuting attorney engaging in criminal litigation must prove that criminal intent existed within an allegation of Credit Card Fraud. 
In certain cases, commercial retailers – both physical and virtual – may require the production of accompanying identification in the midst of a credit card purchase. Furthermore, relatives and family members using credit cards belonging to other family members may be liable for credit card fraud charges.


How to Prevent Electronic Identity Theft

Methods undertaken in order to prevent Credit Card Fraud may include the implementation of Secured websites, required Passwords and heightened profile-based security measures, Telephone or email-based confirmation methods with regard to online purchases, the investigation of purchases or activities that do not follow specific – and individual – trends of behavior, and contractual compensatory means and financial restitution sponsored by the commercial operation in question. 
Companies providing methods of Identity theft prevention – including Lifelock, which is one of the most widely-acclaimed and recognized – have employed protective measures ranging from securing online perimeters to communicative transmission inquiring about the validity of unsubstantiated activity; these types of companies have found their respective niche within the prevention of identity fraud upon providing protection in lieu of infringing on personal privacy.
 

What You Need To Know About Hacking

What You Need To Know About Hacking

What is Hacking?
Hacking crime is committed through the usage of computers, the Internet, or virtual networks, which is defined as the unlawful access of – or entry into – the computer terminal, database, or digital record system belonging to another individual; typically, hacking is conducted with the intent to commit a computer-based, electronic criminal act. Unlawfully, illegally, and harmfully collecting or amassing an individual’s private information with regards to the internet, a computer, or alternative electronic network may result the in the illicit possession and misuse of personal data without the consent of the victim.
Hacking into a computer – which can also be defined as virtual trespassing by means of collecting personal data in an intrusive manner – is one of the foremost means facilitated by individuals attempting to commit identity theft.

How is Hacking used for Identity Theft?
‘Hackers’ – the colloquial classification of individuals undertaking exploitative, manipulative, unethical, and illegal behavior or actions with the expressed intention to intrude on computer systems belonging to other individuals – may vary in experience, classification, and tactical maneuvering. While certain individuals undertaking hacking measures in order to commit identity theft may do so in obtrusive and purposeful means, other hackers may act in clandestine, illicit, and secretive manners.
However, the victim of identity theft may be impressionable, impressionable, and oftentimes vulnerable individuals unfamiliar with computational systems.  Upon this unlawful access of a computer terminal belonging to the victim, the perpetrator may facilitate methodology that includes the commandeering or illicit removal of personal, private, or financial information.

What is an Online Predator?
Financial Online Predators typically target unsuspecting or impressionable victims commonly unfamiliar with the Internet or computational systems; Financial Online Predators may attempt to extract personal and private information from their victims in order to commit fraud, cause destruction, or facilitate means of extortion.
Upon unlawfully accessing data stored in its electronic form, a victim may be unaware that any or all information has been repossessed – and subsequently misused within an identity fraud operation. Hackers acting as online predators may target a wide range of electronic networks, including commercial and residential computer systems.

How to Prevent Electronic Identity Theft
Due to technological innovation, electronic identity theft is considered by many to be one of the most recently-developed crimes, credited – in part – to the ongoing advent of computer-based technology.
This type of technology relies heavily on the Internet and online activity, and as a result, regulations and oversight of this type of activity has been expressed in the spectrum of preventative measures involving the cessation of electronic identity theft.
Companies providing methods of Identity theft prevention – including Lifelock, which is one of the most widely-acclaimed and recognized – have employed protective measures ranging from securing online perimeters to communicative transmission inquiring about the validity of unsubstantiated activity; these types of companies have found their respective niche within the prevention of identity fraud upon providing protection in lieu of infringing on personal privacy. 

Barbados National Claimed $120M in False Tax Refunds

Barbados National Claimed $120M in False Tax Refunds


On November 7, 2012, the Department of Justice reported that Andrew J Watts was sentenced to 114 months in prison by US District Judge Joan Gottschall in Chicago.  He was also ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution for stealing identities and engaging in a federal income tax refund fraud scheme.  Watts is a Barbados national.  


Court documents show that Watts filed the fraudulent federal income tax returns from 2007 to 2011.  He used the names of deceased taxpayers and forged their signatures to obtain the fraudulent refunds, and he even claimed himself as the deceased person’s representative in some cases.  


In total, Watts filed more than 470 fraudulent federal income tax returns.  He is believed to have claimed about $120 million, and the Internal Revenue Service issued over $10 million in refunds.  In order to conceal the fraud, Watts instructed the IRS to send the refund checks to an electronic deposit or an address he controlled.  


Kathryn Keneally, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division, stated: “While all taxpayers are victims when criminals file false tax returns using stolen identities, those who falsely use the names of deceased individuals add to the grief and burdens of their families.”


Watts pleaded guilty on July 10, 2012, and he pleaded to one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of mail fraud.


IRS-Criminal Investigation Chief Richard Weber noted: “IRS-Criminal Investigation has made investigating refund fraud and identity theft a top priority and we will vigorously pursue those who undermine the integrity of the U.S. tax system.  Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft of this magnitude deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”


Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick J. King, Jr. with the Northern District of Illinois and Trial Attorney Michelle Petersen with the Department of Justice’s Tax Division were in charge of prosecution.


Source: U.S. Department of Justice
 

Police Get Lucky Catching Repeat Identity Theft Offender

Police Get Lucky Catching Repeat Identity Theft Offender


On October 16, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon announced that Tigran Khachatrian of Glendale, California, was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison for a huge identity theft scheme as well as for the possession of counterfeit devices.  The sentencing stems from a routine traffic stop that occurred in December of 2010.  


During the traffic stop, an Oregon State Trooper stopped Khachatrian and the co-defendant, Arsen Dabaghyan, on Interstate 5 around the Medford area.  They state trooper asked to search the car, and the two defendants consented to the search.  The state trooper found a total of 139 credit cards, 123 gift cards, and false forms of identification.  Additionally, the state trooper found three laptop computers, four cell phones, an MSP digital card reader, a GPS device, a digital camera, and instructions for keypad configurations at gas stations in California and Washington.  


After an investigation by the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force, it was determined that one of the laptops had software to create credit cards and debits cards.  Another program had the ability to pull information from skimmed bank cards.  


The FBI led a further investigation and found that the defendants placed skimming devices at multiple gas stations in the state of Washington in order to steal account information from the victims.  The defendants were able to obtain the credit card numbers and card holder information and then create duplicate credit cards with their computer.  


Khachatrian had multiple theft convictions in 1986.  He also had charges for identity theft, forgery and more in 2003.  After he serves his 70 months in federal prison, Khachatrian will receive three years of supervised release.  He is also ordered to pay restitution and forfeit all of the equipment that was used during the crimes.  


Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

40 Defendants, 20 Cases: Florida Identity Theft Widespread

40 Defendants, 20 Cases: Florida Identity Theft Widespread

 

On October 10, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida announced that 40 defendants were charged in 20 different cases for identity theft that resulted in millions of dollars of fraudulent tax filings.  
 
The Federal Trade Commission declares that Florida had the highest identity theft rate in 2011.  The FTC reports that Miami is where most of the identity thefts occur in Florida.  For every 100,000 residents in the United States, about 178 complaints are filed for identity theft.  Miami makes this figure look small.  For every 100,000 residents in Miami, there are about 324.1 complaints.  
 
The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) also announces that Florida has the highest rate of tax refund fraud in the United States.  TIGTA estimates that about 74,496 fraudulent returns were filed in Miami alone and caused about $280 million in fake refunds.  The per capita of false returns in Miami is 46 times higher than the national average, and the epidemic is growing.  According to TIGTA, the IRS is projected to issue about $21 billion in fraudulent tax refunds in the next five years.  
 
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida recently created the Identity Theft Tax Fraud Strike Force to combat the epidemic.  The Strike Force is made up of multiple agencies and police departments around the Miami area.  
 
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “So far this year, we have charged a total of 79 individuals responsible for almost $40 million in fraudulent tax refunds obtained through identity theft.  The cases being investigated and prosecuted include victims from all walks of life, including police officers, potential U.S. Marine recruits, members of the Armed Forces, holocaust survivors, school children, hospital patients, the elderly and infirm, incarcerated prisoners, and even the dead.”  
 
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Maryland Man Stole Identities of Mental Health Patients

Maryland Man Stole Identities of Mental Health Patients


On November 8, 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported the Christopher Andre Devine from Philadelphia pleaded guilty to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.  The stolen identities were used to open fake bank accounts.  


During the plea agreement, Devine and co-defendants admitted that they opened bank accounts in order to get check cards.  The co-conspirators would then deposit fraudulent checks into the accounts and withdraw cash from ATM machines.  The co-defendants are Quanishia Williamson-Ross and Lenee E. Williamson.  


Devine admitted that he stole identities from 21 people in an adult residential program for mental needs after he purchased the information from an employee with the program.  Devine used this information to open checking accounts over the telephone and internet.  


Devine and the co-defendants bought items from restaurants, drug stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, and numerous other businesses with the check cards.  They also used the check card to pay for utilities like cable and cell phones.  


Devine was caught in December of 2011 when authorities searched a van and two different residences occupied by the defendants.  They found hundreds of credit cards, debit cards, social security cards, driver’s licenses, and personal information like names, addresses, credit information, and social security numbers.  


About 300 people had their identities stolen in all, and 21 were from the mental health program.  There were a total of 73 fraudulent bank accounts opened.  


Each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for the bank fraud and two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft.  


The investigation was led by ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Baltimore, the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office, the IRS’s Criminal Investigations, and the Social Security Administration in Philadelphia.  The enforcement was part of President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.


Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement