Archive for February, 2011

Tax Season is Here Don’t Let Identity Theft Make it Worse!

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Well it’s tax season again and people are gearing up to prepare their tax returns in hope of getting just a little bit back from old Uncle Sam.  Every year however people are scammed into giving away important information that ultimately leads to an identity theft. Tax time can be a confusing and hectic time for some and leaves them open to scammers impersonating the IRS and other government agencies.

What the Scam looks like.

These tax related scams often times manifest themselves in the form of an email. The sender will often times impersonate the IRS or the treasury and include attention grabbing titles like “Tax Refund”  or “IRS Notice.” The email will then inform you that you need to provide information to them in order to receive your refund or to prevent from paying a penalty or fee. Also scammers use fake or phony websites to try and steal information from their victims. These websites might look identical to the IRS but are used by the criminals to trick users into entering data into them.

What you should know.

You should know that the IRS does not send unsolicited e-mails to tax pays. So if you do not contact them via email then it’s not really the IRS. Also many of these emails are sent by individuals who’s first language isn’t English. So look out for unusual grammar and sentence structure because these are dead giveaways. When presented with a IRS website make sure the URL starts with http://www.irs.gov/. If it does not it’s not the real IRS website and you should leave.

Every year new scams come out and scammers find new and interesting ways to take advantage of unsuspecting people. So keep your eyes open and your information safe this tax season.

Good News Concerning Bank and Credit Fraud

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Clairmail, a mobile banking and payment solutions company, that has added a new fraud management system to their offerings. What does this mean for you? Well if your bank or credit card company uses Clairmail you can expect to see a fraud alert system that not only alerts you to potential fraudulent situations, but also allows you to reply and resolve the situations on the fly.

This in my opinion is huge because it not only increases the communication between the company and customer, but also speeds it up. Not to mention you won’t have to call a 1-800 numbers and try to get the automated system to understand what you are trying to say.

The system might work something like this. You leave you credit card at the local bar by accident. Someone finds it and starts using it, charging several large ticket items. You credit card company recognizes the unusual behavior and sends you an alert asking if a specific dollar amount charged to your account is really you spending the money. All you have to do is reply to the SMS alert with “notme”  and it lets your credit card company know a fraudulent charge has taken place. Problem solved!

Keep an eye out for bank and credit card alert systems like this and take advantage of them where you can. Systems like this are going to make dealing with bank and credit fraud a lot faster and easier. It could save you a lot of heartache in the future.

Identity Theft the Good News and the Bad!

Friday, February 11th, 2011

According to a recent Washington Post article there is some good news and some bad news concerning identity theft in America. The good news is that identity theft actually dropped last year by 28% to 8.1 Million. Even though 8.1 million is still a large number it is 3 Million less than last year. Also identity fraud has gone down from 56 Billion in in 2009 to 37 Billion.

Javelin has been tracking identity theft for the last eight years, ever since 2003, and this is the largest decrease they have seen. The Washington Posts believes the decrease is due to “a significant drop in data breaches, or situations in which batches of personal information have become vulnerable to identity thieves.” I also believe that the successfulness and popularity of services like Lifelock also have had an effect on the decrease in the crime.

Now it’s time for the bad news. The price out-of-pocket per incident actually when up by 63% from $387 in 2009 to $631 in 2010. Also friendly fraud, referring to identity theft by someone you know, went up by 7% as well. Many people aren’t held liable for damages done by identity theft, but often times end up paying for things out of pocket to clear their name.

All in all identity theft isn’t something to take lightly and should be take seriously. Service like Lifelock go a long way to prevent and alerting you to potential  identity theft threats. It’s good news that identity theft it down for the moment, but we have a long way to go before it’s a thing of the past.

Florida Man Gets His Identity Back After 17 Years

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Larry Smith on the Left Joseph Kidd on the right

Identity theft is a serious matter and has ruined people’s lives. The amazing thing is it doesn’t take a brilliant criminal to pull off a long term identity theft and ruin someone’s life. No one knows this better than a Florida man named Larry Smith.

17 years ago a homeless man named Joseph Kidd stole Larry’s identity. Joseph Kidd was a simple drifter and used the identity as an alias passing all his medical bills, tickets and warrants on to the real Larry Smith. The identity theft has prevented Larry from gaining access to his medical benefits as well as almost getting his license suspended for unpaid tickets Kidd was racking up in California.

Things were about to get worse when Joseph Kidd violated his parole after completing time for non-violent crimes. The problem was Joseph was booked using his alias Larry Smith. Because of this the real Larry was arrested in Florida and put into prison in Orlando. His wife and family or course were shocked and didn’t sleep until they convinced the police their Larry wasn’t the Larry they were after. They were also concerned that their Larry would be extradited to California because Kidd had violated his parole. Larry was eventually released and the Joseph Kidd was found and sent back to California where he served more time.

The kicker to this story is that when Joseph was booked for violating his parole he was booked as Larry again and even given a parole Id with Larry’s name on it. Instead of just fixing the matter it seemed it was easier to just let Joseph keep tormenting the real Larry Smith. Well it seems the real Larry is going to get his life back after Det. Jim Hudson of California’s Placer County Sheriff’s Department has taken his case and arrest Joseph Kidd for multiple counts that include identity theft and welfare fraud. The detective says “Undoing 17 years of damage to this guy will take years to fix, but I’m committed to making sure Mr. Smith is no longer considered a felon and I want to give him back his medical benefits.” I applaud the detective and I think that’s a great place to start.