Identity Theft Articles & News

Neiman Marcus Is Latest Victim of Security Breach

January 11, 2014

Luxury merchant Neiman Marcus confirmed Saturday that thieves stole some of its customers' payment card information and made unauthorized charges over the holiday season, becoming the second retailer in recent weeks to announce it had fallen victim to a cyber-security attack.

The hacking, coming weeks after Target Corp. revealed its own breach, underscores the increasing challenges that merchants have in thwarting security threats. Neiman Marcus didn't say whether the breach was related to the massive data theft at Target, but some security experts believe they could be part of the same scam. Nevertheless, the recent security breaches at two major retailers threaten to scare shoppers who worry about the safety of their personal data.

Ginger Reeder, spokeswoman for Dallas-based Neiman Marcus Group Ltd., said in an email Saturday that the retailer had been notified in mid-December by its credit card processor about potentially unauthorized payment activity following customer purchases at stores. On Jan. 1, a forensics firm confirmed evidence that the upscale retailer was a victim of a criminal cyber-security intrusion and that some customers' credit and debit cards were possibly compromised as a result.


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4 Risky Places to Swipe Your Debit Card

January 11, 2014

Would you give a thief direct access to your checking account?

No? Unfortunately, you may be doing just that by regularly using your debit card. Debit cards may look identical to credit cards, but there's one key difference: With credit cards, users who spot fraudulent charges on their bill can simply decline the charges and not pay the bill.

On the other hand, debit cards draw money directly from your checking account rather than from an intermediary such as a credit card company.


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Massive Target Breach Could Have Lasting Effects

January 10, 2014

Fallout from Target's pre-Christmas security breach is likely to affect the company's sales and profits well into 2014.

The company disclosed on Friday that the massive data theft was significantly more extensive and affected millions more shoppers than the company reported in December. As a result of the breach, millions of Target customers have become vulnerable to identity theft, experts say.

The nation's second largest discounter said hackers stole personal information — including names, phone numbers as well as email and mailing addresses — from as many as 70 million customers as part of a data breach it discovered last month.

Target announced on Dec. 19 that some 40 million credit and debit card accounts had been affected by a data breach that happened between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 — just as the holiday shopping season was getting into gear.


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4 Things To Do After Your Credit Card Has Been Hacked

December 19, 2013

As many as 40 million Target shoppers who hit stores in the three weeks after Thanksgiving had their credit and debit card information stolen.  If you've visited a Target (TGT, Fortune 500) over the past several weeks, there are four steps you should take immediately to protect yourself.

1) Check your statement. It may seem obvious, but the first step you should take is looking for any charges you don't recognize on your statement.

Don't just look for large charges, either. Hackers often ping an account with micropayments of only a few cents to check the viability of the account. So if you see purchases of 6 cents or 11 cents, that could be a sign your information has been compromised.


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Target Cyber Breach Hits 40 Million Customers' Payment Cards

December 19, 2013

BOSTON (Reuters) - Target Corp said hackers have stolen data from up to 40 million credit and debit cards of shoppers who visited its stores during the first three weeks of the holiday season in the second-largest such breach reported by a U.S. retailer.

The hackers worked at unprecedented speed, carrying out their operation from the day before Thanksgiving to this past Sunday, 19 days that are the heart of the crucial Christmas holiday sales season.

Target, the third-largest U.S. retailer, said on Thursday that it was working with federal law enforcement and outside experts to prevent similar attacks in the future. It did not disclose how its systems were compromised.

Target did not detect the attack on its own, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

The retailer was alerted its systems might have been compromised by credit card processors who had noticed a surge in fraudulent transactions involving credit cards that had been used at Target, according to the source, who was not authorized to discuss the matter.


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5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Identity Theft

December 18, 2013

We're all experts on identity theft.

Not by choice – but live your life, and it's hard not to pick up something on the topic. And odds are, you or a friend or family member has been a victim. According to a 2012 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of 70,000 people, 1 out of every 14 Americans ages 16 or older has been a target or a victim of identity theft. Last year, 16.6 million people fell victim to the crime, which resulted in financial losses of $24.7 billion, paid by consumers, companies and credit card companies.

So in the interest of protecting yourself and learning even more about identity theft, here are some things you probably didn't know.

Military members are particularly at risk. Military veterans file more complaints about identity theft than any other group, according to Scott Higgins, CEO and founder of Veterans Advantage, a national program that partners with corporations, offering discounts on various goods and services. The Federal Trade Commission even designated July 17 Military Consumer Protection Day to help educate the military about the dangers of identity theft.

What is it about being in the military that makes members such prime targets? Higgins says servicemen and women are conditioned to provide whatever personal information is asked of them throughout their service. "Unfortunately, this 'conditioning' often stays with them beyond their careers, leaving them susceptible to both ID theft and data grabbers who bird-dog veterans – offering a small perk and then selling their personal data wherever they can make the biggest buck."


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How Not To Get Hacked

December 05, 2013

Cybercriminals are experts at duping people into downloading malicious software that can give them access to your personal information and passwords.

But there are commonsense steps you can take to avoid getting hacked:

Avoid bad links: Check where a link is taking you before you click it. Rest your mouse cursor on the link (don't click!) and examine the address. If it is supposed to take you to "Music.com" but will take you instead to "x78vyt.net," it's suspect.

Don't visit questionable websites: The dark corners of the Internet are real-life slums. Porn sites are notorious malware havens.

Don't fall for phishing scams: We all know to ignore emails from our distant Nigerian uncle prince in need of a wire transfer. But more modern scams use all sorts of bait. They pose as your bank, email provider or social media sites. But banks won't ask to reset your password via email. And threats to "shut down your account" are highly questionable.

Don't download from unknown sources: Only pull files from websites you trust. You're literally accepting an unopened box from someone else.


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6 Most Dangerous Cyber Attacks Against Small Businesses

November 21, 2013

CryptoLocker

The CryptoLocker virus can be a lethal one-two punch: It seizes control of your computer files and threatens to erase them unless you pay a ransom.

Cybercriminals email you a PDF attachment. If you open the attachment, it installs malware on your hard drive that lets hackers access your computer files. The files are then encrypted and you're unable to access them.

"What happens next is the scary part," said Alex Watson, lead researcher at Websense Security Labs. Within two days, the hackers will email saying if you don't pay up, your documents will be deleted. Watson said attackers typically demand payment via hard-to-trace Bitcoin -- a virtual currency -- and not in cash or credit card.

Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to this attack because many haven't adequately protected file-sharing between employees, said Watson. "So if one employee's computer is compromised, then every document that the company owns can be locked," he said.


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South Carolinians: Your Identity Theft Protection Options

September 26, 2013

The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs is advising the public of their identity theft protection options as many people's Protect MY ID subscriptions expire.

Last year, the records of almost 4 million South Carolinians were compromised when a hacker broke into the South Carolina Department of Revenue records. In the wake of the breach, the state entered into an agreement with Experian to offer free credit protection for those affected.

Experian decided not to bid on a contract with the state to continuing monitoring, although they are offering to continue coverage for a fee. 

Budget and Control Board Director Marcia Adams announced this week that South Carolina will contract with CSIdentity Corporation to continue coverage. People and businesses can sign up beginning October 24th. The new coverage will monitor additional records, and will be free.

People can also choose their own protection service, and will be eligible for a tax deduction of the service's actual cost up to $300 for individuals and $1,000 for those who file jointly or claim independents.

People can also get a fraud alert or a security freeze, both of which are free.


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Inquiry Unearths Card-Skimming Fraud, Identity Theft at Gas Station Pumps

September 20, 2013

Investigation unearths a series of fraud and identity theft in a secret card-reading device hidden in gas station pumps in Oklahoma and Arkansas.  A federal case involving two men accused of skimming credit and debit card account numbers from gas station pumps offers a glimpse into the world of high-tech fraud and identity theft on an international level.

The two men, Kevin Konstantinov, 51, and Elvin Alisuretove, 36, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court here Thursday to one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  They live in Seattle, but they also have ties to Russia.  In July, a federal indictment accused Konstantinov and Alisuretove of defrauding five Oklahoma banks, four in Durant and one in Oklahoma City, out of about $400,000 in a scheme that involved stealing credit and debit card account numbers.

To do so, between April 2012 and January 2013, they placed card readers, or “skimmers,” inside the gas pumps at Murphy USA stations in Little Rock and Conway, Ark., and Durant, the indictment stated.  Murphy USA stations are pay-at-the-pump and located in Walmart parking lots nationwide.  These skimmers would collect account numbers, card numbers and PINs as customers placed credit cards in the slots to pay for gas.  The devices operated in place for one to two months before the men retrieved them and the account numbers to use on counterfeit cards.

A skimmer like the men used “captures all the card information, and the cardholder would have no way of knowing,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Roberts said.  They gained access through a universal key that opens the type of pumps common to all Murphy USA stations, he said.
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Data Broker Giants Hacked by ID Theft Service

September 13, 2013

An identity theft service that sells Social Security numbers, birth records, credit and background reports on millions of Americans has infiltrated computers at some of America’s largest consumer and business data aggregators, according to a seven-month investigation by KrebsOnSecurity.

According to Krebs, SSNDOB (apparently based in Russia) has been harvesting much of its information through compromised servers inside three major data aggregators: LexisNexis, Dun & Bradstreet, and Kroll Background America. All three companies had their servers compromised around or before June 2013; Dun & Bradstreet's servers were hijacked in March. The bots planted by SSNDOB were designed not to trigger any anti-malware scans.

The Web site ssndob[dot]ms (hereafter referred to simply as SSNDOB) has for the past two years marketed itself on underground cybercrime forums as a reliable and affordable service that customers can use to look up SSNs, birthdays and other personal data on any U.S. resident. Prices range from 50 cents to $2.50 per record, and from $5 to $15 for credit and background checks. Customers pay for their subscriptions using largely unregulated and anonymous virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin and WebMoney.

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Medical Identity Theft Is Up, Affecting 1.84 Million U.S. Victims

September 11, 2013

Medical identity fraud has increased nearly 20 percent compared to the year before in the U.S., affecting an estimated 1.84 victims and having a total out-of-pocket medical costs incurred by medical identity theft victims of $12.3 billion.   Medical identity theft is having serious consequences, not only in monetary damages, but in compromised personal medical records that can result in misdiagnoses, wrong treatments or wrong prescriptions.

Inaccuracies in a person’s medical record resulting from identity theft are difficult to correct. “Once it’s in your medical record that you are a certain blood type or have an allergy, it’s hard to correct in one place. It’s not like a credit report; it’s complex and for the rest of your life you will have to inspect your medical records.  According to a survey conducted by Ponemon Institute, LLC, resolution of this type of crime is time-consuming.  Of those who did try to resolve an incident, 35 percent worked with their health plan or insurer and 31 percent worked with their healthcare provider. Such activities consumed almost a year or more, according to 36 percent of respondents, and 48 percent said the crime is still not resolved.

Ponemon says that half of the respondents are not aware of risk of life-threatening inaccuracies in their medical records, and do not take steps to protect themselves. Victims comprise people on Medicare and Medicaid, as well those with premium health insurance plans, he says. Half of the respondents said they do not take any steps to protect themselves from future medical identity theft. Fifty-four percent do not check their health records, because they don’t know how and they trust their healthcare provider to be accurate. Also, 54 percent of respondents do not check their explanation of benefits document, and of those who found unfamiliar claims, 52 percent did not report them.

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Smartphone Authorities Urge Users To Be Proactive Against Theft

August 04, 2013

An average of at least one cellphone a day is stolen in Columbia, and criminals could be gaining access to a raft of personal data that could compromise victims’ security.  With more adults owning smartphones than ever before, wireless communication authorities are encouraging consumers to be conscientious of their devices, which often store information such as personal accounts and family pictures.

“We want consumers in South Carolina and across this nation to outsmart smartphone thieves,” said Mignon Clyburn, chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commissions.  In 2012, about 455 cellphones were reported stolen, according to Columbia Police Department records. In 2013, as of mid-July, about 232 cellphones had been reported stolen.


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5 Charged with Hacking 160 million Cards Over 7 years

July 25, 2013

Four Russian nationals and a Ukrainian have been charged with running a massive scheme that involved hacking more than 160 million credit and debit cards from 2005 to 2012.

The five men hacked into computer networks of more than a dozen major American and international companies, including J.C. Penney (JCPFortune 500), Wet Seal (WTSL), 7-Eleven, Nasdaq (BANK), JetBlue (JBLU) and Dow Jones, to steal valuable personal identifying information and sell them, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for New Jersey. 

The defendants allegedly targeted retailers and other corporations engaged in financial transactions, or transmitting financial data. They took user names and passwords, means of identification, credit and debit card numbers and other corresponding personal identification information of cardholders, according to the indictment.


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4 Big Problems With Social Security Numbers

May 05, 2013

A Social Security number is like a skeleton key, able to unlock a kingdom of untold riches for identity thieves. It is the central piece of data needed to hijack our credit, steal our health insurance, use us as human shields and generally wreak havoc in our lives.

And every day, two branches of the U.S. government -- the executive and the legislative -- put our identities and sometimes even our lives at risk because of their mismanagement of Social Security numbers.

There have been efforts in Congress to reform Social Security numbers but, unsurprisingly, gridlock has prevented that from happening. And while congressional inaction around Social Security number reform jeopardizes our future financial well-being, federal agencies' needless exposure of our Social Security numbers practically guarantees financial insecurity now.

Here are four ways congressional and federal foot-dragging around the issue of Social Security numbers puts our identities at risk.


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Medical Identity Theft To Be Explored at FTC Hearing

May 03, 2013

According to a Ponemon Institute-ProtectMyID study conducted last June, an average of two million Americans, many of them seniors, fall victim to medical ID theft each year, costing each person about $22,346, up from $20,663 in 2011.

Fraudsters are finding increasing value in targeting and then selling medical information, as opposed to credit card and Social Security numbers, which increasingly have become commoditized.

Harry Rhodes, director of health information management practice excellence at the American Health Information Management Association in Chicago, said a Social Security number is worth about $1 in the black market, as opposed to the $25 to $50 that criminals can fetch for a stolen health insurance ID number.


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Five Groups At Greater Risk Of Identity Theft

April 17, 2013

Identity thieves are eager to make you one of the nearly 9 million people in the U.S. whose identities are stolen each year, as estimated by the Federal Trade Commission. Not everyone is at the same risk of becoming part of that statistic; some of us fall victim more easily, often because we put more of ourselves out there.  "We have a society that is so conditioned to share information that it can get in the wrong hands and wreak havoc on our identities," says Joe Mason, senior vice president of Intersections Inc., a Chantilly, Va.-based provider of identity protection services.


How you interact on social networks, use your mobile device and pay for things can make you more susceptible to identity theft. "Some individuals are simply at a much higher risk based on what they do," says Jim Van Dyke, founder and president of Javelin Strategy & Research, a Pleasanton, Calif., market research firm.

From social media users to CEOs, here are some of ID thieves' favorite targets and tips on how to stay out of their sights:


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Identity Theft Growing, Costly to Victims

April 14, 2013

Identify theft, defined as the successful or attempted misuse of credit-card, bank-account or other personal information to commit fraud, is expected to surpass traditional theft as the leading form of property crime. Security analysts say everyone should prepare to become a victim at some point.

Most merchants are content to clean up the damage from an attack, rather than pay for better preventive measures, said Mark Rasch, a cybersecurity specialist and a former federal cybercrime prosecutor in Bethesda, Md.  Financial institutions have become savvy about spotting potentially fraudulent activity and quashing questionable transactions. Thus far, banks have made identity theft relatively painless for consumers by covering their immediate losses.  Most local law enforcement lacks the personnel and expertise to investigate smaller identity crimes, and the FBI is only interested in massive cases involving hundreds of victims or more, Rasch said.
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ATM Viruses Are Out to Steal Your Cash

April 01, 2013

A new type of malware that targets point-of-sale systems and ATM card readers known as "Dump Memory Grabber" scans those devices for payment card data and is beginning to infect a large number of the nation's largest banks, according to a report from SecurityWeek. The list of victims of this new software already includes Chase, Capital One, and Citibank, as well as Union Bank of California. In addition, it seems possible that store-branded credit cards may have also been compromised, because a video of the malware in action, which was posted to a Russian hacker forum, showed a number of Nordstrom's cards potentially having been exposed.

The malware itself collects data stored in a card reader's log files, filters the data quickly for credit card information, and then compiles all of it to a simple text file, the report said. That file can in turn be set to download straight to a hacker's server, or even be sent via email.

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Time running out for free SC credit monitoring: Here’s how to enroll

March 28, 2013

More than one-third of the 3.8 million consumers whose S.C. tax return information was stolen by hackers in September have enrolled for a free year of Experian credit monitoring offered by the state.  Registration ends Sunday.

Here are some questions and answers on credit-monitoring enrollment and identity-theft protection in the wake of the nation’s largest hacking of a state agency:

How do I know if I am eligible to enroll for credit monitoring?


Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2013/03/28/2698135/enrollment-for-sc-hacking-credit.html#storylink=promo#storylink=cpy

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How to Protect Your Identity During Tax Season

March 26, 2013

Identity theft has become a growing problem in the U.S., and tax season is prime season for Americans to have their information and finances compromised.


During the first nine months of 2012, the IRS identified 641,690 incidents of tax-related identity theft, a significant increase from the 47,730 reported claims in 2008. There are two basic ways that tax fraud occurs: scammers use your personal information to redirect your tax return to them, or they use your Social Security number to get jobs or loans.


Someone can commit either of these crimes just knowing a Social Security number, says Joe Reynolds, identity fraud product manager at Travelers. Scammers get their hands on personal data through a variety of ways, including breaking and entering a home or car and stealing mail or a W2 form. “The biggest way you can become a victim of fraud is by not protecting your physical info,” says Reynolds.






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Cyber Thieves Nab Billions in Tax Returns

March 22, 2013

As more people take advantage of the convenience of filing taxes online, organized criminals are snatching identities and stealing billions of dollars in tax refunds.


IRS tax fraud and identity theft has been occurring over the last decade, but the problem has been intensifying despite the government's efforts to thwart attacks and has been a “significant problem” over the past five years, said Robert Siciliano, an online security expert at McAfee.  Florida has become a hub for tax cyber crime and the Mexican Mafia is involved, he said.  


The IRS has cracked down in recent years, but with sophisticated cyber criminals working against a dilapidated federal filing system, cyber security experts warn filers can and will fall victim unless they take all possible precautions. 





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Higher Ed Data Breaches at Near-Record High in 2012

March 21, 2013

Nearly 2 million college students had their personal data compromised in a data breach last year, according to a study by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. The organization reviewed publically recorded information of universities affected by data breaches in 2012, and found that breaches last year were the second highest since tracking of breaches began, topped only in 2006, when universities reported 2.3 million cases. Many of the breaches involved employees improperly accessing records, but there were instances of hackers breaking into systems as well.

The University of Nebraska, with 654,000 records compromised, and the University of North Carolina, claiming 350,000 data breaches, reported the most data breaches in 2012. Arizona State, at 300,000 and Northwest Florida State College with 279,000, rounded out the top four schools. Three of these Universities rank in the top 10 for the most recorded data breaches in university history.

The Ponemon Institute researches the average cost a data breach has on a university. In Nebraska's case, the institute found it would cost the university $142 per compromised record, totaling $92 million for data breaches recorded in 2012. Researchers also believe hackers are getting smarter at stealing data, as they found stolen data was reported at three times the rate compared to data breaches in 2011.


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Software Glitch Exposed Federal Contractors' Financial Data

March 20, 2013

If you've registered lately to do work for the federal government, check your bank accounts: A software bug may have put you at risk. 


What Happened?  The GSA reported that a software problem found in early March allowed some users of the System for Award Management (SAM), a main software application for contractors, to see others' public or private data. The exposed information included tax payer IDs as well as bank account numbers for direct deposit of payments when they came due.  

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IRS policies help fuel tax refund fraud

March 20, 2013

Criminals across the country are raking in billions of dollars in tax refunds through a new and brazen form of fraud that takes advantage of the IRS's fast online returns, law enforcement officials say.  Using laptops and free Wi-Fi connections, criminals are stealing identities and using the names of legitimate taxpayers to file fraudulent online tax returns.

They've raked in billions, buying luxury cars, expensive jewelry and plastic surgery, police said.  "It's like the federal government is putting crack cocaine in candy machines," said Detective Craig Catlin of the North Miami Beach, Florida, Police Department. "It's that easy."

First, thieves obtain Social Security numbers and other personal information from insiders at hospitals, doctor's offices, car dealerships or anywhere the information is stored. Then, they file an online tax return using the real taxpayer's name and a fictitious income. In most cases, the criminals buy a debit card so the IRS can issue the refund on that card, although some thieves have also gotten their returns on actual Treasury checks.


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Has Your Credit Report Been Viewed Illegally?

March 08, 2013

Though most credit report inquiries are legitimate, there are several scenarios that can easily lead to it being read by someone who shouldn't. The information contained there can be used to steal your identity, damage your credit or, at the very least, invade your privacy.


A limited number of entities can legally view your report, under provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Those include a company planning to offer you insurance or credit (this includes landlords and utilities), a company with which you have an existing debt, an employer or prospective employer, or a court, state or law enforcement agency. You do have the option to voluntarily give permission to anyone you choose to see your report and, of course, you can see it yourself. That's it.


But there are a surprising number of ways your credit report could wind up in the wrong hands.




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How Well Do You Know Your Tax Preparer?

February 25, 2013

If the stock market tripled over the course of one year and then doubled again in the following 12 months, we’d all be dancing in the streets.  Unfortunately, that record belongs to something far less positive: the increase in fraudulent tax returns involving identity theft. This trend is transcending that Acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Steven Miller calls it “one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS today.”


The number of fraudulent tax returns has exploded in the past two years. In fiscal year 2011, the IRS launched 276 criminal investigations related to identity theft, a crime which involves someone filing for a tax refund using the Social Security number or tax ID number of another individual.(1) The next year, there were 898 probes. A third of the way into the 2013 fiscal year, we’re on track for that number to double.


Miller has pledged to aggressively pursue and prevent refund fraud and identity theft and the agency has established an “Identity Theft Clearinghouse” within its criminal investigations unit and assigned 3,000 employees the task of identifying, pursuing and resolving these cases. 





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More Than 12 Million Identity Fraud Victims in 2012 According to Latest Javelin Strategy & Research Report

February 20, 2013

The 2013 Identity Fraud Report released by Javelin Strategy & Research, reports that in 2012 identity fraud incidents increased by more than one million victims and fraudsters stole more than $21 billion, the highest amount since 2009. The study found 12.6 million victims of identity fraud in the United States in the past year, which equates to 1 victim every 3 seconds. The report also found that nearly 1 in 4 data breach letter recipients became a victim of identity fraud, with breaches involving Social Security numbers to be the most damaging. 
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Identity Theft: Why Your Child May Be in Danger

February 05, 2013

"Don't go anywhere with a stranger." It's a phrase almost every parent tells their children once they're old enough to go places by themselves. Many parents, however, don't think to tell their kids what to do if a stranger asks them for their personal information.

Your child's full name and date of birth are all someone needs to steal their identity. To shed light on this form of identity theft, law enforcement professional and former fraud supervisor Robert Chappell, Jr., explores the crime in his new book, Child Identity Theft: What Every Parent Needs to Know. Although more than 500,000 children become victims of identity theft each year—half of them under age 6—Chappell says the threat is one that parents must educate themselves about so they can teach their children how to protect their identity.


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ID Theft Scam Run from Prison

December 03, 2012

Customers of Bank of America, Citibank and the former Washington Mutual Bank were taken for $8 million, after their accounts were compromised as part of an intricate identity theft and bank fraud scheme that was run for nearly six years from a California prison.

Federal authorities say members of the Armenian Power gang worked from behind bars with street gangs and bribed bank employees to steal personally identifiable information - including signatures, telephone numbers, prior addresses and property documents - about elderly accountholders to impersonate them and take over their accounts. Defendants used the stolen information to change accountholder phone numbers and addresses in an effort to conceal their crime. Those changes put control of accounts into the hands of criminals.


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Smart Meters Not So Clever About Privacy

November 05, 2012

Researchers at the University of South Carolina have discovered that some types of electricity meter are broadcasting unencrypted information that, with the right software, would enable eavesdroppers to determine whether you're at home.

The meters, called AMR (automatic meter reading) in the utility industry, are a first-generation smart meter technology and they are installed in one third of American homes and businesses. They are intended to make it easy for utilities to collect meter readings. Instead of requiring access to your home, workers need simply drive or walk by a house with a handheld terminal and the current meter reading can be received.

While many gas and water AMR meters continuously listen for a query signal from a meter reading terminal and only transmit a reading when requested, the researchers found at least one type of electricity meter works on the opposite principle. It continuously sends a meter reading every 30 seconds around the clock.


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South Carolinians Victimized by Tax Records Breach Can Protect Themselves

October 27, 2012

South Carolina taxpayers whose confidential personal information has been breached have a few options for self-protection – but the most effective one carries a large dose of inconvenience.

Placing a freeze on credit reports is the most thorough way to block someone from illicitly using your Social Security and credit card data to get credit under their name, according to consumer and financial privacy advocates interviewed Friday.

Though credit card numbers can be changed, Social Security numbers last a lifetime and can make consumers more vulnerable.


Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2012/10/27/2496758/south-carolina-consumers-victimized.html#storylink=omni_popular#storylink=cpy

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3.6 Million Social Security Numbers Hacked in S.C.

October 26, 2012

The U.S. Secret Service detected a security breach at the S.C. Department of Revenue on Oct. 10, but it took state officials 10 days to close the attacker’s access and another six days to inform the public that 3.6 million Social Security numbers had been compromised.

The attack also exposed 387,000 credit and debit card numbers. The stolen data included other information people file with their tax returns such as names and addresses. Businesses’ taxpayer identification numbers also potentially have been comprised in the attack that is being described as one of the nation’s largest against a state agency.

The attack affects tax returns as far back as 1998, the Revenue Department said. But not all of the department’s data – so not every taxpayer – was affected, it said.


Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2012/10/26/2496396/south-carolina-taxpayers-privacy.html#storylink=omni_popular#storylink=cpy

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Your Smartphone Will (eventually) Be Hacked

September 17, 2012

Like PCs back in the early days -- the 1990s -- mobile phones are largely unprotected by antivirus software, and they're a treasure trove of valuable information.  Most people still do their online banking and shopping on their PCs, but those transactions are happening on mobile phones more frequently. Where money goes, cybercrooks follow.  


Here are the scary numbers: Cyberattacks on mobile phones rose by a factor of six this year, according to Intel (INTCFortune 500) subsidiary McAfee. Four in 10 mobile users will click an unsafe link on a smartphone this year, according to Lookout Security.

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Identity Theft Scam Targets Utility Customers

July 04, 2012

South Carolina Electric and Gas is warning utility customers of a scam that has already victimized “dozens of local customers.”

While the scam is old, the scammers have adapted to the new world of social media by reaching out to utility customers through social media sites and texting as well as the more traditional methods of fliers, telephone calls and word-of-mouth.



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Facebook is Trying to Hijack Your Email Address

June 25, 2012

If you're a Facebook user, you have a @facebook.com email address, whether you use it or not.  Facebook is now automatically posting those addresses to users' profiles and displaying them as the default email address.


How to fix it: Users who want to stop the @facebook.com address from showing up on their profiles can do so by editing their "Contact Info" sections.  See link below for further instructions.

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Elder Fraud: One Couple's Losses and Hard Lessons

June 25, 2012

Older Americans lose $2.9 billion a year to fraud, according to a study conducted last year by the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Tech.  Most victims are between 80 and 89, and most are women.

"Elder financial abuse is becoming the crime of the 21st century," Denise Voigt Crawford, past president of the North American Securities Administrators Association, said when the report was released.

Using the latest technologies, "these criminals need not defraud their victims face-to-face," David Kirkman and Virginia H. Templeton wrote in an article for the journal Alzheimer's Care Today.  From far away, "they can identify vulnerable seniors, contact them, and induce them to part with their savings."


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Hackers Claim to Steal 110,000 SSNs From Tennessee School System

June 13, 2012

A hitherto unknown hacking group claimed responsibility for a hacking attack on a county school system in Tennessee that may have exposed the names, Social Security numbers and other personal data belonging to about 110,000 people.


The group, which called itself Spex Security, later posted 14,500 of the compromised records online and has threatened to post more. Those affected by the breach include an unknown number of former and current students and employees of the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System (CMCSS).

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A New Crime Wave of Identity Theft: Is Your Child in Danger?

June 13, 2012

Olivia McNamara was starting her freshman year at Vanderbilt University when she applied for her first credit card.  “I was applying to get a student credit card the summer before I came to college, and I was denied from the first credit card company that I applied to,” said McNamara.  After being rejected twice, she did some digging and found that someone had stolen her identity and had run up massive debt – to the tune of $1.5 million.


“I can’t even describe it,” she told ABC News. “It’s just really shocking and we just had no idea.”  What was even more shocking to McNamara and her family was that the crime had started when she was 9.   Someone had stolen her Social Security number and set up false identities and more than 42 accounts.   All of them had defaulted.

“They took loans out on boats and houses and everything,” McNamara said.

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Phony ID Cards Made by Overseas Forgers Can Fool Latest Systems

June 10, 2012

Overseas forgers from as far away as China are shipping fake driver's licenses and other IDs to the United States that can bypass even the newest electronic digital security systems, according to document security experts and the Secret Service.
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LinkedIn Works with FBI on Password Theft

June 08, 2012

LinkedIn Corp is working with the FBI as the social network for job seekers and professionals investigates the theft of 6.4 million member passwords, the company said on Thursday.

The company does not know of any accounts that were taken over as a result of the security violations, according to LinkedIn spokesman Hani Durzy.

A spokeswoman with the FBI declined to comment.

LinkedIn is still in the early stages of the investigation. Durzy said it was not yet determined whether the email addresses that corresponded to the hacked passwords were also stolen.

On Wednesday, LinkedIn confirmed that millions of passwords were stolen.


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Tips on Preventing Tax-Refund Identity Theft

May 30, 2012

The New York Times recently wrote about increasing tax refund identity fraud.  That’s when a thief uses your name, Social Security number and birth date to file a fake tax return with fabricated income and tax-withholding data to collect an improper refund — often, on an easy-to-use prepaid debit card, sent to a specially chosen address.

Then, when you come along and file your (real) tax return, the Internal Revenue Service flags it because one with the same Social Security number has already been submitted.  The agency then processes your return manually and scrutinizes everything in it, to authenticate your identity and determine which return is legitimate.  The result is months of delays in processing your return and any refund you may rightly be owed.


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9 Lessons From Utah Data Breach

May 21, 2012

How bad was the data breach involving Utah residents?  


By current counts, 500,000 (18%) of the state's 2.8 million residents, including children, had their health data compromised. In addition, another 280,000 residents (10%) had their Social Security numbers breached.  This incident suggest that many government agencies--not to mention businesses--are still learning data breach prevention basics only after sensitive information gets exposed.

How can other organizations prevent a breach of Utah-like proportions? Start here:

  


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