Tag Archives: fraud

Sony Offers Directors and Writers Guilds Identity Theft Protection

Sony Pictures Entertainment is attempting to recover from a mass hacking that took place earlier this month. The hackers, reportedly from North Korea, sent threatening messages to the studio and to movie fans who were hoping to see the film “The Interview” on Christmas Day. The hackers leaked sensitive personal data, embarrassing emails, and subjected numerous employees to identity theft through the release of Social Security numbers along with a list of high-ranking officials within Sony.

In an attempt to try and make matters right within Sony, the company has offered identity theft protection to directors and writers who work for the studio. Identity theft protection will be offered through AllClear ID. The service was offered to Sony’s 3,803 employees when the massive leaks began. Sony is now offering it to the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America West.

“The DGA supports Sony in its efforts to combat any ill effects of the attack on DGA members,” the DGA told Variety. “We do not know whether or whose personal information may have been compromised, but Sony is offering one year of identity protection at no charge to any present or former employee who requests it.”

Sony is offering the identity theft protection service for one year, at no charge, to present or former employees who request it and who fit certain criteria.

The three largest movie chains in the nation canceled the Christmas screening of “The Interview” and there are currently no plans for when the film will be released. There is no reports about whether it will get to the big screen or if it will go direct to video.

 

U.S. Secret Service Investigating Possible Data Breach at Sears?

Sears Holdings Corp. is launching an investigation in the wake of cyber attacks on other retail stores.  Sears, the retailer run by Edward Lampert, has not revealed any details of an actual attack or security breach.

Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said in a press statement, “There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach.”

Riefs added that there has been no information to indicate a breach so far which completely contradicts a report made by Bloomberg News.  Bloomberg News, using an un-indentified source, reported that the U.S. Secret Service was involved in investigating a secret breach at Sears.  The U.S. Secret Service is remaining quiet on whether or not it is actually investigating a breach at the retailer.

What is known is that the U.S. Secret Service is leading the investigation into last year’s cyber attack on Target and last year’s attack on Neiman Marcus.  The Target breach lead to the theft of approximately 40 million credit/debit card numbers and over 70 million pieces of personal data.  Neiman Marcus has also faced the harm of a data breach.  The luxury retailer had 1.1 million credit and debit cards hacked by malware that infiltrated terminals point of sale systems.

Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers who have experienced data breaches are attempting to gain back customer support by doing a lot of damage control. Target has offered free credit monitoring  and identity theft protection to customers for free for one year as part of its damage control efforts.

The rumor that Sears is investigating a possible security breach may still harm the retailer.  Lampert has struggled to make Sears profitable after 28 straight quarters of declining sales. A tarnished image from a potential data breach isn’t going to make shoppers rush out to buy anything from the retailer.

Original reports of the Target and Neiman Marcus breaches made clear that it could take months to confirm that breaches were made, how many victims were affected, and account for what data was stolen.

Stolen Identity Refund Fraud: Who, What and Why

Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) is a category that falls under identity theft. It involves the theft of the “tax” identity of the victim. As the tax filing season descends upon us we need to be aware of the very real threats of having an identity stolen.

Victims of stolen identity refund fraud have had their lives ruined. The criminal steals the “tax” identity of an individual for the purpose of filing a tax return. The criminal will obtain information about the victim and use it to obtain his or her social security number. The thief will then submit a false tax return in the name of the victim claiming a tax return. Forbes report claims that “unfortunately, in many instances the refunds are issued.”

The victims are left to discover the fraud when they go to file their tax returns. The IRS refuses to send out a refund because a return was already filed under the name of the individual.  The burden of proof rests on the individual to prove that their identity was actually stolen and that they did not file a return in the first place. It can be a very lengthy process for an individual to get straightened out with the IRS and it can be an even lengthier amount of time for any resolution to happen.

Sadly, stolen identity refund fraud victims are the elderly and individuals who are not required to file tax returns. Criminals who steal this information often get away with it for a long time before being caught. Often the victim finds out when they apply for state or federal benefits and cannot receive them due to information found on the fraudulent returns.

The IRS and the Justice Department have begun cracking down on identity theft and have been active in fighting identity fraud. The IRS makes it clear that the agency is devoted to preventing identity fraud. The website has information on how to report suspected identity theft and the precautionary measures that people can so they don’t become a victim.

Legitimate debt collector or fraudulent data colletor?

Data collection scams and debt collection scams have risen dramatically in the last few years.  Mal-ware at point of sale terminals has been used to steal customer data. Emails that phish for information have been used to steal consumer information and fake debt collectors who threaten victims with lawsuits and arrests have used information gained to exploit consumers.

“Unscrupulous scams hurt consumers and unnecessarily impedes legitimate debt collection efforts,” said ACA International CEO Pat Morris. “The recovery of consumer debt is vitally important to our local, state, and national economies. Those who purposely violate the law to exploit consumers should be held fully accountable for their actions.”

Consumers need to protect personal data and they need to know the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a fake scam being conducted to steal personal information.

ACA International recommends several important items in discerning a legitimate attempt to recover a debt. The first item is that a debt collector may not contact a consumer at times known to be inconvenient. Generally, a legitimate debt collector may not contact a consumer before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in the consumers’ time zone.

Another item is that a debt collector must disclose its identity to the consumer and notify the consumer that the communication is from a debt collector, and (in the initial communication) that any information obtained will be used to effect collection of the debt. Debt collectors are not allowed to make false representations and may not threaten to take action against a consumer if it doesn’t actually intend to seek such action. Consumers also need to be aware that they can dispute the validity of the debt and during the time the debt is being dispute the debt collector must cease collection activity until verification of the debt has been provided. More guidelines can be found at ACA International.

Consumers can protect their personal data by checking credit and debit cards vigilantly and reporting any charges that appear questionable, even small amounts. Consumers can also monitor their credit profiles along with their card activity and consumers need to keep in mind that phishing scams for information don’t just happen via email and the phone. Phishing scams can come through snail mail also.  Shred paper with personal information before throwing it away, make online passwords stronger by using a mix of capital and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers, and take great care when giving out credit or debit card numbers, Social Security numbers or other personal information online and offline.

Credit Card Processors Stealing from Business Clients

credit card scamsConsumers already worry about businesses storing and possibly stealing financial information. Now consumers have to worry about the credit card processors stealing the information from businesses. Recently, several proprietors of a credit card processing company  have been indicted on several charges in Phoenix, Arizona.

The various charges include money laundering, wire fraud charges, and changing contract terms among other charges. Sean Clinton Mecham, 36, Ashley Brisbin Mecham, 27, Jonathon L. Cannon, 31, and Jake Brisbin, 26, were all indicted by a federal grand jury.

According to court documents, the accused were executives and employees at Icon Payment Solutions, Axiom Merchant Services and Oracle Payment Services. These companies are all the same company just under different names and they processed credit card payments for retailers.  Prosecutors allege that the quartet were misleading customers, forging the signatures of business owners and deposited $2.9 million of the ill-gotten gains into personal accounts. The money was then used to buy a luxury boat, Maserati cars and off-road trucks for racing.

There were multiple complaints against the quartet and the companies that they owned to the Better Business Bureau.  The accused Continue reading Credit Card Processors Stealing from Business Clients

5 Credit Card Safety Tips for Travel during the Holidays

credit card scamsTraveling during the holidays should be fun. It shouldn’t be filled with worry and stress. Using a credit card instead of cash or a debit card can make travel during the holidays less stressful and less risky. Use these five tips to keep from becoming a victim of credit card fraud.

Pick One Card

Pick one credit card to take with you. Make sure you have a copy of it, but store this copy in a safe place. Carrying multiple cards can lead to the loss of one or more of them.  When you pack for traveling remember to remove all other cards and store them in a secure location.  If your wallet or purse get stolen while you are traveling it is much easier to deal with one stolen card instead of six.

Separate Your Credit Card from Purse or Wallet

Don’t keep your credit card in your purse or wallet. Purses and wallets, particularly  Continue reading 5 Credit Card Safety Tips for Travel during the Holidays

U.S. Senate Launches Anti-Fraud Hotline

Victims of fraud are increasing on a daily basis. Everyone is a target, but some people are more at risk than others. Elderly people, lonely people, and immigrants are often targets of fraudulent activity. Scams to get credit card and other financial information include email scams for moving large amounts of money, phone calls asking for financial information because a loved one is in trouble, and online matchmaking gone horribly wrong.

People have lost their livelihoods by falling victim to these scams and schemes. The United States Senate wants to put a stop to them and wants to help victims of fraud, especially elderly victims.  A new anti-fraud hotline has been unveiled to make it easier for senior citizens to report suspected fraud and to receive assistance.

“If you Continue reading U.S. Senate Launches Anti-Fraud Hotline

College, credit and identity theft

credit card scams

Disclosure: This post may include affiliate links, which help to support this site. However, all opinions expressed are 100% my own.

This post will be a little more personal in nature.  Recently I went shopping with my 25 year old son, who is getting ready to embark on the grand adventure of marriage.  Together we visited the jewelry stores.  He was hoping to find the perfect engagement ring to give to his soon to be fiance (we were pretty sure she would say yes) and I was there to negotiate the best price.  Finding the perfect ring we discuss the price.  Once we get the price the store was ready to accept we now have to find out the best way to pay for this item.

Like many college students (he graduates this December as he worked full time his way through college) he didn’t have the amount saved because every penny counts.  Having never had any credit since his car was paid for (thank you grandma and grandpa), as was his housing and other expenses we thought now would be a good time to begin to build it.  After all the cost of the ring was not that bad and it would be a good way to get started on the way to responsible credit use. Getting his bonuses over the next six months and each of them could pay for the expense, he decided to fill out the application.  After all, who knows a few years from now the next thing I hope to help him find is a new house (somewhere closer than 1900 miles away).

“I’m sorry, you weren’t approved,” the salesperson tells us.  Crushed, he quickly becomes curious, and asked to see the denial.

Lesson no. 1 If denied credit always ask to see the written response, you may be surprised.

The denial says he has unpaid credit card bills and outstanding credit (not outstanding as in really good either!).  But how can this be he asks.  Other than his monthly cell phone bill he has not had any credit cards, no monthly payments.  Not even student loans, because although he took one out his first year they are deferral because he is in school.   “Mom! What do I do?”

Lesson no. 2 Run your credit report immediately.  He can start with his free credit report, but considering these circumstances he may want to use a service like CreditSesame because they also offer additional services to help him stay on top of his credit rating.

We ran his credit report and now the work really begins.   It’s time to clean it up.  There are a number of different problems with it, from fraudulent use of his name, Social Security Number, creation of a new identity using his old address and of course the big problem, unpaid items of credit, whether it was a fast cash item or credit card.   “How did this happen?” he wonders.

Lesson no. 3 It can happen a number of ways from old mail, credit card offers in the mail, his Social Security Number used at the college or even a so called friend or roommate which had access to his information.  Stolen wallets, filled out forms, responding to spam messages, there are a whole number of different ways that this happens.  Maybe he was just unlucky.  Most identity theft takes bits and pieces of the true to create a “new you.”  That’s where this gets messy.

What can you do?  Now it’s time to take action.  Either file a dispute through the credit monitoring service that you are using or grab some pen and paper and do it the old fashioned way.   Either way you need to contact the credit reporting agencies with the information that is incorrect, correct it and include any proof that you may be able to provide.

Lesson. no 4 Some say you can file with just one agency and that all the information will be sent to all three.  However, to be safe I recommended that my son send the information to each of them if he didn’t want to file it online.

Here are some sample letters to use when filing your dispute.

Should you take the snail mail route here are the mailing addresses for each of the three reporting agencies.

TransUnion
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834

Experian
P.O. Box 9530
Allen, TX 75013

Equifax
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374

Remember mistakes can be made on anyone’s credit report but it has been reported that identity theft is on the rise for college students, so pass this information on to them so that they know what to do.

 

Credit Card Fraud Getting Smarter With Security Code Calls

credit card scamsGenerally speaking, credit card fraud is a pretty straightforward crime. Information is stolen and the card is used fraudulently. These days, however, scam artists are getting smarter. Now, they need only get part of your information. The rest they are getting right out of our own mouths. A recent credit card scheme in Boulder, Colorado is actually using the victims themselves to get the final piece of the puzzle.

Criminals are obtaining partial credit card information and then calling the victims posing as members of the Security and Fraud Department of your credit card. After giving you the information they have for your card, they then ask you about a suspicious purchase that never happened. When you say you did not make that purchase, they then promise you a credit to your account to make up for the fraud.

They confirm your address and then they claim they are starting a fraud investigation. They advise you to call the 1-800 number if you have questions and give you a fake control number. Finally, they have you “verify” that you have the card and ask for your security code on the back of the card. For the exact wording the criminals use, you can go here.

Most victims that have followed up with the real credit card companies quickly realize that they were had. Almost immediately, fraudulent purchases will show up and the gig is up. What folks don’t realize is that real security would never need information off your card. They were the ones that produced the card and gave it to you. They would have no reason to ask you for it.

What this particular scheme tells me is that people need to realize that phone calls from companies are not to be trusted. The bottom line is this. If you get an unsolicited phone call from a bank, credit card company or solicitor of any kind, hang up and call the company directly. Nothing good can come from a phone call that is instigated by someone other than you for business.

Of course, the scary part of this scam is how they got the information off your card in the first place. Perhaps they used a slider, skimmer or simply saw it when you were paying for something. The ways in which information can get stolen these days is amazing, so keep your information close to the vest. Doing so will ensure that you don’t have to worry about this in the future. This is only the newest thing that is happening but they will continue to evolve and change. Keep on top of things and protect your information like gold.

Octomom Nadya Suleman Facing Probe Into Possible Welfare Fraud

It appears that the story of Octomom Nadya Suleman has not yet run out of steam thanks to some apparent bad choices by the former porn star. Nadya Suleman is now in potential hot water with the Los Angeles County Department of Welfare Fraud Prevention and Investigation. According to several sources including The Huffington Post, Radar Online and TMZ, Suleman is being accused of welfare fraud and finds herself in even more hot water than she has seen in the past.

The report says that Octomom got food stamps and welfare benefits of $60,000 dollars even though her income was reportedly over $200,000. That amount is way more than the cap of $119,000 that is mentioned in the report. Surely she is deserving of the help if she qualifies for it properly, but otherwise she is taking food and help from the mouths of others that truly do need it.

This accusation is only the latest dramatic episode over the past several years with Octomom. From her time as a porn star to her rehab stint in 2012, Suleman has had her share of problems in the public eye. Unfortunately, it is not the type of spotlight that most people want to be in.

According to the TMZ report, Suleman is being investigated and bank records are being seized Continue reading Octomom Nadya Suleman Facing Probe Into Possible Welfare Fraud