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Street gangs all over the country have traditionally focused their efforts on drug trafficking and gun running. But now they are expanding into white collar crime.
According to a recently-released report by the FBI, street gangs including the Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords and Latin Kings are branching out into mortgage fraud, making counterfeit checks, bank fraud and identity theft.
Earlier this year, the L.A.-based Armenian Power gang was raided and 74 members were arrested and charged with kidnapping, extortion, illegal gambling and narcotics trafficking, in addition to a $2 million credit card scheme that targeted customers of 99 Cents Only stores in Southern California. The gang had stolen customer information, and then impersonated the victims to cash and deposit checks to deplete victims’ bank accounts.
The Long Beach chapter of the Crips, as well as members of the Mexican mafia, according to the report, have been involved with identity theft in the U.S. The report also stated that the Nine Trey Gangsters, a sub-group of the Bloods in New Jersey, were charged in a counterfeit check scam valued at $654,000.
The increase in street gang activity in identity theft has been aided by technology. In other words, the Internet makes it much easier for gangs to get involved in identity theft, and they even consider it to be a lot less riskier crime, since they don’t have to be out on the street to commit it.
Gang members also consider white collar crimes like identity theft much less risky in terms of punishment if caught. They know that at this point, they’ll get much less time for identity theft than they would if they committed a violent crime.
But experts say this may not be true if the theft involved violence.
Whether or not it’s true, there’s no doubt that gangs have figured out that it’s hard to trap a ghost – which is exactly what an online identity thief is.
Don’t be afraid of ghosts – arm yourself. Go online and sign up with LifeLock today at www.lifelock.com.
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Recent headlines about data breaches and losses of personal information have prompted many companies to advertise products or services to help consumers prevent or minimize their risk of identity theft.
The Federal Trade Commission urges consumers to be sure they understand what they’re getting when they sign up for a product to protect their information. Consumers should also be aware of the rights and protections available to them under federal or state laws – these can help protect your identity, as well as help you recover from identity theft at no cost. Knowing your rights can help you determine what commercial product or service may be appropriate for you.
Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, you may be entitled to two kinds of free fraud alerts: initial and extended. An initial alert can be placed if you suspect you are about to become or have become a victim of identity theft. It’s good for 90 days. An extended alert stays on your credit report for seven years. To place it, you will need to have been victimized and provide a police report stating so.
You can also place a credit freeze on your credit report, which will mean potential creditors and others can’t access it unless you lift the freeze either permanently or temporarily. A freeze is different from a fraud alert in that it stops all access to your credit report, while an alert allows creditors to get your report after verifying your identity.
Identity theft protection companies offer a range of products and services. Some of them only offer to lock, flag or freeze your credit report, something you can do yourself.
Other services will monitor your credit report, and notify you of the activity. Again, this is something you can do yourself. Still other services offer to help you rebuild your identity in the event of an identity theft. These require a power of attorney, so that they can act on your behalf when dealing with credit bureaus or creditors.
Many companies offer additional services, including removing your name from mailing lists or pre-screened offers of credit, while others offer reimbursement if you experience a financial loss due to ID theft. There are also those that monitor your personal information online, and notify you if your identity has been exposed to possible theft.
Before you sign up for any of these services, compare what they offer, read the fine print, and determine what will work best for you.
But do something. Statistics show that millions of Americans became victims of identity theft last year, and the numbers are growing. Be a smart consumer and get proactive when it comes to your personal information.
It really ruins your day to find out your identity has been stolen – understatement of the century. You’ll be angry, and maybe even embarrassed that the situation has happened to you. Even worse will be the frustration you’ll face as you try to clean up the mess.
Since the crime begins as a financial one, it’s important to fix credit report errors or unauthorized charges and accounts opened in your name. The key to cleaning up your credit report is to move quickly and be patient. The faster you catch and dispute errors, the easier it will be to clean them up. Just understand that even though you caught them early, it still takes time to dispute a credit report entry.
But you do have rights. The Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970 made it a law for credit reporting agencies to investigate disputes about the information contained on your credit report. You have the right to dispute inaccurate and unauthorized entries on your credit report. You’re also entitled to a written explanation of the results of any investigation resulting from such a dispute. You are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report once the changes have been made as well.
Once corrections have been made, you have a right to request that a copy of your updated report be delivered to every creditor that has pulled your credit report in the past six months, and every employer that has requested it in the past two years. You have to request this, however, in writing.
Even though you must understand that these things take time, you should know that an investigation should be complete within 20 business days of the date that the credit reporting agency receives your dispute letter. That means you should see results of the investigation within 30-45 days after submitting the dispute. If this doesn’t happen, you may have the right to have the disputed entry removed from your credit report, regardless of the investigation’s results. But you should consult legal counsel in this circumstance.
Whatever your situation, be aware that you do have rights and that you can, and should, stand up for yourself. It’s your credit report, after all.
The Better Business Bureau warns online car buyers to beware: the market is becoming flooded with fraudulent Web sites that are designed to trick customers into buying used cars at great prices.
The sites offer repossessed cars at cheap prices, and ask buyers to wire the money. Once the buyer sends the money, it’s gone and the buyer gets no car. This scam is incredibly widespread, since nearly 75 percent of all consumers use the Internet as an aid to help them find the best deal on an automobile.
Some of the sites have adopted monikers from real and reliable car dealerships, who have good ratings with the BBB. The sites are often “flashy” and bear a “Carfax-certified dealership” logo. Carfax does not certify dealerships. Once a consumer realizes he or she has been duped, the real dealership is inundated with complaints, but is powerless to do anything, since the actual dealership had nothing to do with the Web site or the phony sale.
Last year, the FBI received almost 6,900 consumer complaints about Internet auto fraud, and 4,300 complaints have already been registered this year.
One such site is www.americaautosales.com. Buyers wired money in for their purchases, and received a confirmation. They were directed to the actual, legitimate dealership that operates under the same name, to pick up their newly-purchased cars. Once the dealership began receiving calls and complaints, dealership owners contacted the authorities. The Web site was taken down in a matter of days, but has popped back up. This scam alone hoodwinked buyers all over the country.
“Because scammers essentially steal the identity and good name of real auto dealers, car shoppers will think they’re buying a car from a reputable business,” said Stephen A. Cox, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “The truth is, they’re being sold a bill of goods by a coordinated, agile and, in all likelihood, overseas outfit of scammers.”
Bogus sites posing as legitimate dealers have popped up in Tennessee, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico and Texas.
The BBB says that consumers can protect themselves from this type of scam if they steer clear of Web sites that advertise prices that are too good to be true, dealers who only communicate through chat or e-mail or dealers who only accept payment through wire transfer.
For more information on how you can protect your personal information, go online at www.LifeLock.com. Receive 30 days free and get a 10 percent discount on enrollment with the LifeLock Promo Code “Defense.”
Authorities arrested 10 people in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in Florida for operating a mortgage fraud and identity theft ring that brought in about $8 million.
The arrests bring the total of those indicted in the case to 20. Arrestees face charges that include racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, grand theft and title insurance fraud.
Arrested were Michelle Minikus of Hollywood, Donald Lee and Lise Bessette of Deerfield Beach, Stephanie Jean of Hialeah, Judith Clemow and Magaly Rosa of Miami, Brandi Brown and Wesley Grant of Miramar, Wonder Ragin Knowles of Coconut Creek and Ofelia Torres of Hialeah Gardens.
Although the names of the victims in this case will not be released, it’s a safe bet there are lots of them, and they now face the difficult task of restoring their credit. If any of them are LifeLock customers, they can breathe a lot easier, knowing LifeLock representatives are there 24/7 to assist them by answering questions, providing support and taking care of all the little details.
With LifeLock’s Identity Alert™ System, customers are alerted immediately via e-mail, postal mail or by telephone if their personal information is being used to apply for credit or services. And as a LifeLock customer, they can rest assured knowing that thanks to LifeLock’s $1 Million Total Service Guarantee, if they ever fall victim to identity theft, LifeLock will spend up to $1 million set things right.
Very often in large cases of identity theft such as this one, thieves not only use the stolen information they’ve obtained, they also sell it. Personal information can fetch a high price on the black market. But if you’re a LifeLock customer, you can rest assured in eRecon™, a service that searches the Web for the illegal selling and trading of your personal information.
If any such activity is detected, you’ll get help from LifeLock to resolve the problem.
If you don’t want to become a victim of identity theft, there are 10 states you don’t want to live in – and Arizona ranks at the top for the second year in a row.
Ranked by the Federal Trade Commission, Arizona topped the list with the most identity theft complaints, with 142.5 victims per 100,000 people. Nevada, with 125.7, and California, with 122.1, followed close behind.
The numbers aren’t an accurate indicator, since the FTC’s database relies on reports from victims, but it’s interesting to note that the same states make the top 10 each year, while those at the bottom also remain stable.
The rest of the top 10 includes Texas (117.6), Colorado (95.8), Florida (92.3), New York (92.0), Washington (91.1), Oregon (87.8) and Illinois (87.6) North and South Dakota round out the complete list by coming in at the bottom.
While identity theft can target consumers in any location, thanks to the mobility of computers, many thieves favor high population areas, due to the ready availability of mail and trash to go through in order to obtain personal information. Lots of people who steal personal information no longer use it themselves – it’s much more profitable to sell it on the black market.
But thanks to LifeLock’s Command Center™, you can be sure your information is protected. Not only will LifeLock monitor the Internet and file-sharing networks to be sure your information is safe, but they’ll also check for payday loan, sex offender, public records, court records and change of address activity. If anyone tries to buy or sell your information, or use it illegally, you’ll be notified immediately.
One part of the Center’s services is eRecon™, which specifically searches for the illegal selling or trading of your personal information. LifeLock will monitor for any activity, notify you immediately if any is found, and will take whatever steps are necessary to be sure the situation is resolved.
Investigators called him cunning and smooth – and now they’re calling him a thief and a scam artist.
Louis Farra Khan Reed, 23, was arrested in Venice, Fla., for posing as a police investigator pretending to be conducting an identity theft investigation so he could obtain personal information to be used for his own criminal activity.
According to police reports, Reed victimized elderly Venice residents by tricking them into giving him their information, which he used to apply for and obtain credit cards in their names. According to investigators, it wasn’t Reed’s first time around the block – he has been involved in identity theft in other unrelated cases.
In this case, Reed’s scam was simple: he called elderly residents and claimed to be a police officer investigating identity theft in the area. He even masqueraded as an FBI agent in one case, telling an elderly man that someone had used his Social Security number to obtain a credit card.
He would then tell the victims that he needed their personal information to verify fraudulent cards and documents, and to track down those responsible. Victims supplied Reed with Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and places of birth, and some even gave him the maiden names of their mothers.
Reed has been charged in this case with three counts of criminal use of personal identification, two counts of impersonating a police officer and a misdemeanor count of theft. He also faces 14 more counts related to identity theft, as well as five felony counts, in other cases in Venice.
It is important to remember that when someone calls your home for any reason and requests your personal information, if you have any doubt as to their purpose or identity, it’s best to just not surrender the information. Being cautious is your right and you should always remember: when in doubt, don’t.
For most of us, our passports are a ticket to a much-needed getaway. Our passports can help us see things we’ve never seen, meet people we wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to meet, and see places we’ve only previously dreamed of.
But a passport can do the same thing for a thief.
Considering how important a passport is as an identifying document, legally allowing a traveler to cross borders throughout the world, it’s easy to understand why thieves would target them.
In his book, “The Jackel,” author Frederick Forsyth wrote about an assassin who seeks out the identity information of a child who died; a child who would have been his age, had he lived. After obtaining that information, the assassin travels the world using a phony passport. The book was written long before the technology of today, and many of the ways Forsyth’s character used to obtain the stolen identity have been fixed. But creative criminals will always find a way to steal the identities of their targets.
Identity thieves often steal information and create passports, selling them on the Black Market to those wishing to commit crime or enter the country illegally.
To protect your passport while traveling, be sure to keep your passport on you at all times. Keep the document concealed properly, rather than in a bag that can be easily snatched. Many people use a special passport wallet with a neck strap. These can be carried around the neck and tucked into a shirt. You could also place your passport in the safe at the hotel in which you are staying.
Another step you can take to prevent passport theft is to sign up for LifeLock Command Center, which will provide you with active monitoring of the Internet and file-sharing networks, alerting you of any personal information breaches. As part of the Command Center, eRecon™ will search the Internet for the illegal selling or trading of your personal information. If any such activity is detected, you will be immediately alerted, and you can contact the proper authorities to protect your passport.