Archive for the ‘Identity Protection’ Category

IRS Swinging

The IRS has taken many hits over the years (we’ll reserve judgment on what’s deserved and what’s not), but for once the tax agency is earning praise. The Associated Press that the White House has included in its proposed 2014 budget several items to assist the IRS in its fight against identity theft and tax fraud. Foremost among them, the IRS would be able to slap criminals who file fraudulent returns with a $5,000 civil penalty per incidence and “[increase] criminal sentences for those convicted of tax-related identity theft.”

This can only be good news. According to the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS)—a division that is within the IRS but independent of the agency—it’s about time for an IRS smackdown. According to the , tax-related identity theft shot up 78 percent in 2012 and 650 percent since 2008, and the IRS has nearly 650,000 unresolved cases in its pipeline. Any new weapon in the government’s arsenal is going to help, and these measures tell criminals that the fight is about to get serious. (For the other tax-fraud nerds out there: The TAS’s   is a great source of information—and a healthy dose of IRS hand-slapping, which is always good for a midday pick-me-up.)

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can have massive negative effects on millions of people nationwide every year, but today, even many victims who are no longer living may be susceptible to being ripped off by criminals.

These days, there are a number of websites frequented by criminals that . Criminals then can in turn exploit the information to file falsified documents for the purposes of identity theft, according to a report from Tampa, Fla., television station WFTS. These sites sell information on dead people, culled from the Social Security Administration’s “Death Master File,” which contains information including the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers for some 89 million people.

Ostensibly, this file can provide a legitimate amount of protection to the recently deceased, as it will alert lenders, insurers and other companies that a person with the information being used is no longer living, and therefore the request should be denied, the report said. However, this doesn’t always work, and some requests for credit or coverage in a dead person’s name will occasionally slip through the cracks, and cause significant difficulties for their families as a result.

However, federal agencies are aware of the problems these sites can cause and are now trying to do more to keep close tabs on them, the report said. Some lawmakers’ efforts have led to the closure of many of these sites, most of which operate as legitimate businesses.

“The IRS is taking active steps to identify those websites, and we’re working with our external stakeholders to try and create more of an alertness about this,” assistant special agent Ismael Nevarez, Jr., told the station.

In general, consumers who are wary of how identity theft might affect them or their family members should keep a few things in mind, including that they need to do more personally to protect the information crooks looking to perpetrate these crimes might want. That includes personal data such as names and Social Security numbers, as well as financial information like numbers, bank account details, PIN codes, and more. Identity theft can unfortunately take many forms, and affect consumers in ways that they may not anticipate, and for this reason it’s also vital to keep close tabs on all financial documents throughout the year, including credit card bills, bank statements and .

This blog post originally appeared on .

4_April Fools

This is one best-of list you don’t want to be on.

In honor of April Fool’s Day, here are our top five April fools—the people, criminals, and organizations responsible for the dumbest data breach and identity theft incidents on record. We couldn’t make this stuff up.

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2_ATM Skimmers

Consumers who use credit and debit cards for everything—even $3 purchases—enjoy a quick and easy shopping experience, rewards points and greater accounting of their spending.

But convenience has its risks: Point-of-sale purchases, as well as ATM transactions, put shoppers and their financial accounts at risk for skimming—a pervasive form of identity theft that costs U.S. banks nearly .

Most Americans aren’t aware of the skimming dangers we face every day. Skimming happens when criminals attach a hidden device to capture account information and PINs. Your identity and accounts are in jeopardy any time you use your credit or debit card to:

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1_Tax infographic

Everything you need to know about tax-time fraud is in this primer. Learn how the fastest growing form of identity theft occurs, what puts you at risk and how to protect yourself.

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2_Small Biz Javelin

Identity theft is on the rise again, hitting a three-year high and producing one new victim every three seconds in 2012, according to a by Javelin Strategy & Research. Data breaches are responsible for much of the stolen personal information. One in four people who received a breach notification letter fell victim to identity theft, the study found, compared with one in five people in 2011.

Fallout from the upswing in identity theft is hurting small businesses. Fraud victims are more selective of where they shop after an incident, the study said. About 15 percent of all fraud victims actively changed their shopping behavior, avoiding smaller online merchants in favor of larger retail sites.

More than 12.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2012, up by one million from 2011. All told criminals rung up $21 billion in stolen funds, goods and damages in 2012.

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Blog_FTC Studey Credit Score

The Federal Trade Commission recently released . The results are unsettling: As many as 40 million Americans may have mistakes on their credit reports; 20 million of those errors may be significant.

The big three credit reporting agencies—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—collect consumer data from credit cards, banks and loan agencies we do business with, then profit by selling that information to new banks, merchants, insurance companies and even our employers. Consumer credit worthiness often is reduced to a number—your credit score—which can have dramatic effect on insurance and loan rates.

“This study highlights once again the need for consumers to be vigilant when it comes to checking their credit reports and adopting a culture of monitoring,” said Adam Levin, chairman and founder of IDentity Theft 911. “Consumers need to discover negative information, whether it is due to error or identity theft, as quickly as possible.”

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3_Fraud Files_Loans

In a new form of identity theft, fraud rings are stealing personal information then applying to low-cost, online colleges to milk money from federal student loan programs. But Uncle Sam is hardly the only victim here. Trapped in red tape, one San Francisco Bay area woman has spent more than a year trying to clear her name and repair her damaged credit report.

In October 2011, Christina Benson*, 71, a teaching coordinator, first received a phone call from a U.S. Department of Education investigator, which handles fraudulent federal loan claims. The inspector wanted to verify some of Benson’s information, but Benson knew better than to divulge that data over the phone since her purse had been stolen and her mail raided by identity thieves. “If you don’t cooperate,” the inspector told her, “we’ll assume you’re the ringleader.”

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Infographic

We put together this handy guide to protect your family from identity theft. Our experts know firsthand that consumers are susceptible to different forms of the crime depending on their stage in life. Preserve your credit and good name with this simple primer.

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4_Movie

The movie “Identity Thief” opens nationwide in early February, and while we love a good laugh, this flick comes at a cost: the truth.

While the topic deserves the national attention the movie, starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, will generate, the devil is in the details. And many of the details in “Identity Thief” are wrong.

Here are five major plot points that do a disservice to an often-misunderstood crime: