Credit Freeze and Security Freeze

Regarding credit freezes, one must do so with each of the three. The below information is from each bureau to assist in understanding and also has on-line freeze request.

Experian
If you are 65 years of age or older the fee will be waived. To request a security freeze, log on to www.experian.com/freeze or send all of the following via certified mail to:
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

Include full name, with middle initial and generation, such as JR, SR, II, III, etc.; current mailing address and previous addresses for the past two years; Social Security number; and date of birth (month, day and year). In addition, enclose one copy of a government issued identification card, such as a driver’s license, state ID card, etc., and one copy of a utility bill, bank or insurance statement, etc. Make sure that each copy is legible (enlarge if necessary), displays your name and current mailing address, and the date of issue (statement dates must be recent). We are unable to accept credit card statements, voided checks, lease agreements, magazine subscriptions or postal service forwarding orders as proof. To protect your personal identification information, Experian does not return correspondence sent to us.

TransUnion
If you believe you qualify for a free Security Freeze due to your age, please send us verification of your date of birth with your Security Freeze request. Acceptable forms of verification include one of the following documents that show your date of birth: a birth certificate, driver’s license, state identification, or some other legal document indicating date of birth.

Mail:
TransUnion LLC
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

Equifax
The easiest and fastest way to place a security freeze on your Equifax credit file is via our online process found at the following link.
https://www.freeze.equifax.com

If you choose, you may also request a security freeze by calling our automated line at 1-800-685-1111 (NY residents please call 1-800-349-9960) or submitted your request in writing to:
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348

Please be sure to include the following:
– Your complete name including any suffix (e.g. JR., Sr., etc)
– Complete address
– Social Security Number
– Date of Birth

For your protection, please also send some proof of identification. See “Acceptable Forms of Identification for Verification”.

NEW MEXICO RESIDENTS 65 AND OLDER DO NOT HAVE TO PAY THE FEE TO FREEZE CREDIT.

Below is the relevant site for each of the three: Experian, Transunion and Equifax, as well as an FTC site with facts regarding freezing credit reports. In some instances you can freeze your information through on-line access. Or, you can send a letter requesting same.

https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze
https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

You’re Never Too Safe from Identity Theft!

Recent data breaches underscore the importance of protecting yourself.

MoneySmart
By Grace S. Yung

It would be difficult not to notice the growing number of data breaches affecting seemingly “secure” entities, including Anthem, Yahoo, JP Morgan Chase, and even the IRS.

While all data breaches are alarming, the recent Equifax hack—with almost half of the U.S. population affected—means the chances are good that criminals have at least some of your sensitive information.

When it comes to identity theft, one of the first questions people ask is whether they’ll be responsible for fraudulent charges.

Federal law caps your liability at $50 for unauthorized credit-card charges—and, depending on your card issuer, you may not be responsible for anything.

For debit/ATM cards, the amount of liability depends on how quickly you report the theft. If you report the card being lost or stolen within the first two days, you may only be responsible for $50. However, if you wait up to 60 days, you could find yourself responsible for $500—and if you wait more than 60 days, there is no limit to your liability. With that in mind, be sure to check your credit- and debit-card statements and report any evidence of fraud immediately.

After reporting suspected fraud, it is also important to place a fraud alert on your credit reports by contacting one of the three major bureaus—Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. This is basically a “red flag” notifying creditors and lenders that they need to take additional steps to verify your identity before extending any credit. An initial fraud alert is free, and will remain in place for 90 days.

If your Social Security number has been compromised, be sure to contact the Social Security Administration. Even if the perpetrators haven’t moved forward with any activity, they could be planning to file a fraudulent tax return in the future.

Finally, if you become a victim of identity theft, you should file a report at your local police station.

In terms of proactive measures, identity-theft insurance can be a good way to monitor your credit and accounts, as well to restore your identity and mitigate financial damage if you become a victim. With most plans, the legal fees and other expenses directly associated with reclaiming your identity will be covered. Other common coverage includes lost wages due to time taken off from work to deal with identity theft.

The main carriers of identity-theft coverage include LifeLock, Privacy Guard, ID Shield (an affiliate of Legal Shield), ProtectMyID, and ironically, Equifax. Because coverage varies greatly, it’s recommended that you look at several options.

Although there is no way to guarantee protection from identity theft, there are several other steps you can take to prevent it, including:

• Changing your email and account passwords frequently;

• Having a two-step login/authentication on your email and other online accounts;

• Creating passcodes and adding emergency contact info to your mobile devices;

• Having a special email account for banking and other financial information;

• Changing the default settings on your Internet router;

• Installing a virtual private network (VPN) on your tablet, laptop, and/or other devices that you use in public places;

• Running anti-virus software on all devices;

• Not opening emails or clicking on links unless you recognize the sender;

• Having email and/or text alerts set up for your financial and credit-card transactions;

• Maintaining strong privacy settings on social-media accounts, and not posting your home address or information about when you are on vacation;

• Making sure that you back up all data on your devices in two places—a physical, external hard drive, and in the cloud;

• Putting a security freeze on your credit files with the three major credit bureaus;

• Regularly checking your children’s Social Security numbers to ensure no one is using them;

• Setting up automatic updates for your online programs and apps.

To learn more about protecting yourself from the growing threat of identity theft, talk with a professional who can provide you with guidance and resources. It can be well worth it to put protective measures in place, because when it comes to your personal information, you can never be “too safe.”

This article appears in the November 2017 edition of OutSmart Magazine.

A Warning About Your Boarding Pass!

WARNING
You should be very careful with your boarding passes for flights. The bar code on the pass can be used by identity thieves to obtain your personal and frequent flyer account information. You should retain these boarding passes until you are in a position to shred or otherwise destroy in a complete manner.

What Do You Know About Wire Fraud?

What Do You Know About Wire Fraud?

What Do You Know About Wire Fraud?What is wire fraud?

Wire fraud is an act of fraud that uses electronic communications, such as making false representations on the telephone or via email, to obtain money.

How does wire fraud work?

Wire fraud occurs when a fraudster obtains money based on false representation or promises.

For example, you may receive wire instructions which appear to be from the settlement agent or attorney, when in fact they are from a fraudster.

Recommended precautions to protect yourself from WIRE/ACH Fraud:

 Do not share your online banking logon credentials (user ID and password) with anyone.

 Do not share your account number with anyone who does not need it.

 Never access your bank account using a public computer (e.g., at the library or a hotel business office)

 Monitor your accounts regularly for unauthorized transactions.  Report any unauthorized transactions to your bank immediately.

 Be suspicious of emails from free, public email account domains as they are often a source of risk.

⇒  Watch out for phishing emails with embedded links, even when they appear to come from a trusted source.

⇒  Install a firewall on your computer to prevent unauthorized access.

⇒  Be skeptical of any change in wiring instructions.

⇒  Confirm wire and other disbursement instructions received by email via confirmed telephone at a known or independently-confirmed number, not the telephone number at the bottom of the email.

GAO Finds Identity Theft Services Limited in Fraud Prevention!

ID Theft Resolutions,Ltd
Call: 1-888-484-9118

Limited in Fraud Prevention

Following the 2015 OPM data breaches, GAO found that identity theft services offer certain benefits but are also limited in what they can prevent.

April 03, 2017 – Identity theft services offer several benefits to organizations and individuals, but there are limitations in fraud prevention and other identity protection services, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

Medical identity theft and tax refund fraud are also not always specifically addressed in identity theft services, GAO explained.

With regard to the two Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breaches from 2015, GAO stated that the level of insurance coverage provided was “likely unnecessary because claims paid rarely exceed a few thousand dollars.”

OPM announced on June 4, 2015 that it had been the victim of a cyber attack. The agency then reported one month later that a significantly greater number of individuals were affected by a “separate but related” cybersecurity breach.

Approximately 21.5 million individuals were affected, with some of the compromised information including “identification details such as Social Security Numbers, residency and educational history, employment history, information about immediate family and other personal acquaintances, health, criminal and financial history.”

“Millions of individuals, through no fault of their own, had their personal information stolen and we’re committed to standing by them, supporting them, and protecting them against further victimization,” Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management Beth Cobert said in a statement.  And as someone whose own information was stolen, I completely understand the concern and frustration people are feeling.”

GAO stated in its report that OPM provided duplicative identity theft services for about 3.6 million people affected by both of its 2015 breaches.

“Contrary to key operational practices previously identified by GAO, OPM’s data-breach-response policy does not include criteria or procedures for determining when to offer identity theft services, and OPM has not always documented how it chose to offer them in response to past breaches, which could hinder informed decision making in the future,” GAO wrote.

“In the private sector, companies often offer consumers affected by a data breach complimentary identity theft services for reasons other than mitigating the risk of identity theft, such as avoiding liability or complying with state law.”

Identity theft services typically include one or more areas of assistance, such as credit monitoring, identity monitoring, and identity restoration, GAO explained. Medical identity theft, identity theft refund fraud, and certain other threats involving stolen personal information are generally not included.

“Evaluation and analysis of these services by both federal and private-sector entities is limited and tends to focus on outputs (such as contractor performance) rather than outcomes (such as reduction of harm from identity theft),” the report noted.

Out of the 26 identity theft services that GAO reviewed, the agency stated that only one “expressly addressed” medical identity theft.

“That product works with the explanation-of-benefits delivery system of the user’s health insurer to alert the user every time a claim is made against the user’s health plan benefits,” the report said. “Users can flag a claim as suspicious if, for example, they do not recognize the procedure or health care provider, and the company then will investigate the claim.”

Additionally, the service is offered as a benefit by health insurers to their members instead of offered directly to consumers.

OPM did not provide many details to GAO in what type of services it offered following the 2015 breaches.

“The current officials told us that they could not find any formal documentation related to the decision to offer identity theft services or the process leading up to this decision,” GAO wrote. “The agency was able to identify a document comparing past public- and private-sector entities’ responses to breaches that may have been considered when determining which services OPM should offer after the second data breach (of background investigation records).”

OPM has previously been investigated for its large data breaches, with reports finding that certain preventative measures could have helped to potentially prevent the incidents.

Toward the end of 2016, an OIG report found that a failure to prioritize cybersecurity and adequately secure high value data helped contribute to the data breaches taking place.

Additionally, the OPM Inspector General (IG) warned the agency as early as 2005 that the information it maintained was potentially vulnerable to hackers.

OPM had an “absence of an effective managerial structure to implement reliable IT security policies,” and also “failed to implement the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) longstanding requirement to use multi-factor authentication for employees and contractors who log on to the network.”

 

Former IRS agent in ABQ admits ID theft

ID Theft Resolutions,Ltd
Call: 1-800-484-9118

By ABQJournal News Staff

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 at 10:31am

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former IRS agent Joan D. Mobley, 54, of Socorro pled guilty this week in Albuquerque to a false statement charge and two aggravated identity theft charges in connection with faking the completion of taxpayer audits and falsely signing documents of taxpayers claiming they agreed to pay additional taxes.

Mobley faces up to five years in prison on the false statements charge and a mandatory two-year term on each aggravated identity theft charge that must be served consecutive to any sentence on the false statements charge, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

Under the terms of her plea deal, Mobley is required to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $39,738.32. The release did not specify how Mobley benefited from her acts.

Mobley began working for the IRS in 1986 and was a revenue agent at the IRS office in Albuquerque at the time she committed the crimes to which she pleaded guilty.

A federal grand jury filed a 28-count indictment in 2014 charging Mobley with 14 counts of making false statements and 14 counts of aggravated identity theft.

Mobley falsely stated and represented to the IRS that certain taxpayers either had consented to extending the time for assessing employment taxes or agreed to the collection and assessment of additional taxes, according to the indictment.

Mobley acknowledged in court that, instead of completing an audit as required, she falsified records to show it completed. Mobley also acknowledged signing the name of the business’s president on the records.

The guilty plea was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney and Cordale Lamb of Denver Field Division of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

IRS’ Most Wanted: 5 Tax Scams to Watch Out For This Year

ID Theft Resolutions,Ltd
1-888-484-9118

The IRS released its annual list of most wanted tax scams. Being educated on these will help keep you from getting ripped off.

Danny Vena (TMFLifeIsGood) Mar 4, 2017 at 6:07PM
Each year in early February, to coincide with the beginning of tax season, the IRS compiles a list of the most common scams that taxpayers may fall victim to. While you may encounter these at any time during the year, occurrences tend to spike during filing season.

There are many fraudsters out there who would rather take your hard-earned money than make their own. A little caution and skepticism will go a long way toward ensuring they don’t. Read on to learn the scams the IRS wants you to look out for this tax season.

Tax return 1040 and refund check.
DON’T BECOME A STATISTIC! EDUCATE YOURSELF ON THESE DIRTY DOZEN TAX SCAMS. IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

1. Phishing schemes
Phishing schemes typically involve an email you receive that appears to be from a bank, credit card provider, or other company that you do business with. Be on your guard, as it may be from a scammer. These emails often look all too real, and they ask you to go to some website and update your personal information. The scammers will then use that information — whether it’s your Social Security number, your online passwords, or your bank account information — to defraud you. Be especially wary of any email that claims to be from the IRS, as the agency typically communicates with taxpayers by mail. Never provide your personal information unless you are absolutely sure who you’re dealing with.

2. Phone scams
A variation on phishing schemes, these scams involve a phone call that you receive from someone posing as an IRS agent. They may be aggressive or threatening, demanding that you pay some fictitious tax bill by sending cash, making a wire transfer, or providing a credit card number. They will try to intimidate you, threatening you with arrest, deportation, or the loss of your driver’s license. The IRS almost always communicates with taxpayers by mail, and it will never, ever ask for payment over the phone. If you receive one of these calls, hang up!

3. Identity theft
Identity theft involves an unauthorized person using your information for their own financial gain. Around tax filing season, crooks will try to obtain your Social Security number and other information using some other scam or hack. They will then file a phony tax return in your name in order to steal your refund. The IRS has partnered with state tax agencies and those in the tax preparation industry to enact safeguards to prevent this fraud. There are signs of progress, as the number of complaints involving stolen identities on tax returns fell by 50% compared to the prior year. Guarding your Social Security number from unauthorized use is the most effective prevention. The IRS provides these recommendations to protect your personal data: “Don’t routinely carry a Social Security card, and make sure tax records are secure. Treat personal information like cash; don’t leave it lying around.” .

4. Return preparer fraud
This is the tax preparer equivalent of offering to sell you a discounted Rolex in an alley. The majority of CPAs and other tax preparers are honest, hard-working folks just trying to make a living. However, there are perpetrators out there who hang out a phony shingle every tax season to prey on unsuspecting tax filers. Additionally, there those tax preparers who mean well but aren’t qualified.

There are a few ways to protect yourself. Always ask the preparer if they have an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), which they are required to obtain from the IRS. You can also check their credentials using the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. Be sure to ask to e-file and never sign a blank return — this is the tax return equivalent of signing a blank check. Once your signature is on the document, a dishonest preparer could divert your refund to their own account, and you’d never know. Review your return thoroughly, ask questions about anything that is unclear, and be sure to sign it when you are done.

5. Fake charities
Americans love to support worthy causes they believe in. The problem is that some aren’t so worthy. There are fake charities out there that prey on human kindness by taking in donations but never doing a bit of charitable work. They sometimes have names remarkably similar to those of real charities, and they frequently set up shop immediately after natural disasters and solicit donations from unsuspecting people who are trying to help. They may also call you or show up at your front door. You wouldn’t hand your wallet to a stranger on the street, so never make donations in person or over the phone to someone you don’t know. Don’t give your credit card number or bank information unless you initiate the call, and never give out passwords. Reputable charities can be confirmed by using the IRS Select Check search tool of tax-exempt charities.

Taxpayer takeaway
Be on the lookout, not only when filing your tax return, but throughout the year. As scammers get more and more creative, educating yourself is one way to be sure you don’t become a victim. It has been said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. You can be equally sure that scammers will be happy to relieve you of some of your hard-earned cash if you let them. Being vigilant and playing by the rules is key to preventing financial insecurity.

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SSA Putting Millions of Americans at Risk

By: Elizabeth Harrington
The Washington Free Beacon

The Social Security Administration puts millions of Americans at risk for identity theft by putting their full Social Security Numbers on letters sent in the mail.

The agency’s inspector general released an audit this week warning the government that by sending hundreds of millions of letters containing individual’s Social Security Numbers it puts them at risk for identity theft.

“According to [the Social Security Administration] SSA, in 2015, it mailed about 233 million notices that included individuals’ full SSN,” the inspector general said. “We recognize SSA’s efforts can never eliminate the potential that dishonest individuals may inappropriately acquire and misuse SSNs. However, our audit and investigative work have shown that the more SSNs are unnecessarily used, the higher the probability that they could be used inappropriately.”

“The security of beneficiaries’ [Personally Identifiable Information] PII should be foremost, and as a Federal agency and public servant, we believe SSA should be in the forefront of establishing policy and practice by limiting SSN use and disclosure,” the audit said.

Sixty-six percent of the 352 million notices the agency sent out last year contained Americans’ full Social Security Numbers, and the government said it has no idea how many never made it to the correct address.“While it is unknown how many of the intended addressees received these notices, our audit work has shown that the addresses in SSA’s records can be inaccurate,” the inspector general said
“We asked SSA whether it maintained any estimates on the number of mailings that were returned as undeliverable. SSA stated that it did not have any Agency-level number on undeliverable mail,” they said. “SSA could not provide us an estimate of the number of notices with SSNs it mails annually that do not reach the intended recipients and are not returned to SSA.”

The inspector general warned that notices sent to the wrong address can increase identify theft, as it can give strangers access to vital personal information. “Notices intercepted by unintended recipients could provide SSA beneficiaries’ names, addresses, and SSNs to individuals other than the numberholders,” they said.

Auditors said they do not currently have documented proof of identity theft that has occurred as a result of agency letters going to the wrong address, though the agency acknowledged “there is a risk of identity theft anytime it sends correspondence that contains PII.”

The inspector general said identity theft is “one of the fastest-growing crimes” in the country.”

“With a stolen SSN, identity thieves can commit any number of financial crimes in the victim’s name or steal money from the victim,” the audit said. “If the victim is a senior citizen, the thief could even target their Social Security benefits.”

“SSA acknowledges that identity thieves may obtain another’s personal information by stealing their mail or rummaging through their trash,” the inspector general concluded. “It is, therefore, troubling that SSA continues including the full SSN on the majority of its mailings.”

How To Avoid Identity Theft.

By Stewart Welch
on August 03, 2016 at 4:21 PM, updated August 03, 2016 at 4:33 PM
New Stewart Welch.jpgStewart Welch Founder of The Welch Group, which specializes in fee-only investment advice to families throughout the country. Contact welchgroup.com

AL.com recently reported on the arrest of a two-man Detroit theft ring who were in possession of 177 stolen identities.  Identity theft continues to be a growing multi-billion-dollar problem. I feel like the wildebeest crossing the crocodile infested Mara River.  I’m only protected by the law of large numbers.  What are your best moves to protect yourself from identity theft?  First, understand that attacks come from primarily two fronts:

Unauthorized charges against your existing bank or credit accounts.  I’ve personally had my credit card stolen on a Saturday night and by the time I discovered it on Sunday, there were over $1,000 of unauthorized charges.  I’ve also had my information used to make internet charges for several thousand dollars.  In both cases the credit card company did not hold me responsible.  Your best defense is to closely monitor all of your banking and credit card accounts.  For my credit cards I set up text alerts anytime a charge of over $25 is made.  For bank accounts I log in every couple of days and scan recent activity.  Easy, quick, effective.

Tip:  Fraudulent credit card charges are typically easy to handle with little or no losses to you.  Debit cards are an entirely different story.  If a thief uses your debit card information to purchase something or access your ATM, that money is gone from your checking account and won’t be restored until your bank goes through an investigative process.  This can take weeks and you’ll be out the money until it’s resolved.  If you have and use a debit card, guard it and your information very closely and I recommend monitoring your account activity on a daily basis.  If there is a problem, you’ll want to catch it early.

Use your information to open new credit in your name.  While this has never happened to me, it can be devastating to your personal finances.  If this happens the burden shifts to you to prove you didn’t open the account.  Your first line of defense should be to order your credit reports from each of Experian.com,Transunion.com and Equifax.com.   Look for any unfamiliar accounts.  These reports are free once every twelve months so a good idea is to order from one of the services every four months.  You may also want to consider hiring a monitoring service which will alert you immediately if new credit is requested in your name.  Each of these credit bureaus offer a monitoring service as do independent companies such as LifeLock.com.  Fees range from around $15 to $30 per month.  For quick access to your free annual credit reports, visitAnnualCreditReport.com.

Tip: If someone has stolen your credit information or you suspect you are vulnerable to theft, you can place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your account. Fraud alerts are good for ninety days and then are automatically removed unless you re-establish them.  This alerts any company seeking your credit file that you may be a victim of fraud and they should take extra precautions to verify that new or additional credit requests are valid.  A credit freeze is designed to prevent your credit file from being released without your expressed permission.  Credit freezes are ‘good until cancelled’ and you have the option to ‘temporarily’ remove the freeze if, for example, you are applying for a loan or additional credit.  If you have been a victim of credit fraud, there is generally no charge for these services; otherwise a small charge may apply.

For more tips on avoiding identity theft visit www.usa.gov/identity-theft.

Man charged with identity theft has history of breaking and entering

Published 9:55 am Tuesday, May 31, 2016

SALISBURY — A man who was charged in April with stealing items from a house under construction has now been charged with identity theft.

Kevin Shawn Hurley, 28, of the 200 block of Bee Lake Drive, was arrested May 25 during a traffic stop at Providence Church Road and Poole Road by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office for a variety of charges.

Charged again

Kevin Shawn Hurley

Hurley was charged with possession and use of a North Carolina driver’s license in the name of Joshua Hurst for the purpose of getting pseudoephedrine from area pharmacies.

He was also charged with trafficking in stolen identities for transferring Kenneth Boone Jr. the driver’s license for Hurst, with the intent to assist them in getting pseudoephedrine from area pharmacies.

Pseudoephedrine is a primary component in making methamphetamine. People buying pseudoephedrine are required to show identification during such purchases. Due to state laws regulating the frequency of buying pseudoephedrine, people use stolen identities to disguise their purchases.

When the Sheriff’s Office issued arrest warrants on Hurley on May 17, Hurley avoided capture for multiple days. On May 24, with the Sheriff’s Office in pursuit, Hurley broke into a residence in the 300 block of Bee Lake Drive to avoid apprehension.

A homeowner discovered Hurley inside and Hurley then fled the residence. For this event, Hurley was charged with breaking and entering and possession of drug paraphernalia. Hurley left behind syringes, spoons and smoking pipes at the location.

At the time of Hurley’s arrest in the traffic stop he was found in possession of a small amount of cocaine and charged with felony possession of cocaine.

Bond was set at $52,500 on these initial charges.

On May 26, Hurley was charged with two counts of failure to appear/comply and given an additional $18,000 bond.

Hurley was convicted of felony breaking and entering in Stanly County in 2007 and in Rowan County in 2013, and was charged again in October 2015 with larceny. In March, he was charged with felony breaking and entering. In April, he and Shannon Lisbeth Herlocker were charged with breaking and entering a house under construction and taking appliances.

– See more at: http://www.salisburypost.com/2016/05/31/man-charged-with-identity-theft-has-history-of-breaking-and-entering/#sthash.CHS79OO3.dpuf