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

Maryland Man Sentenced to Prison for Role in Massive Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Scheme

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Stole Identities from D.C. Government Agency for Use in Filing False Tax Returns

A resident of Bowie, Maryland, was sentenced today to four years in prison after pleading guilty in January for his involvement in a far-reaching identity theft and tax fraud scheme in which he assisted in the filing of fraudulent federal income tax returns seeking more than $4.4 million in refunds, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia, Special Agent in Charge Thomas Jankowski of Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Washington Division and Assistant Inspector General for Investigations John L. Phillips of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Marc A. Bell, 49, a former employee of the District of Columbia’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), admitted taking part in a massive and sophisticated identity theft and false tax return scheme that involved an extensive network of more than 130 people, many of whom were receiving public assistance.  According to court documents, the scheme involved the filing of at least 12,000 fraudulent federal income tax returns that sought refunds of at least $42 million from the U.S. Treasury.  The false tax returns sought refunds for tax years 2005 through 2013 and were often filed in the names of people whose identities had been stolen, including the elderly, people in assisted living facilities, drug addicts and incarcerated individuals.  Refunds also were sent to people who were willing participants in the scheme.  The refunds listed more than 400 “taxpayer” addresses located in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

According to documents filed with the court, from 2005 to 2013, Bell was employed as a program manager, program officer or placement expeditor at the District of Columbia’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS).  The agency is responsible for the supervision, custody and care of young people charged with a delinquent act in the District of Columbia and either detained in a DYRS facility while awaiting adjudication or committed to DYRS by a District of Columbia Family Court judge following adjudication.  In his various capacities at DYRS, Bell had access to the agency’s database system, which contained the personal identifying information of DYRS youth, including their names and social security numbers.  Bell admitted that between approximately May 2010 and April 2013, he used his computer access to obtain the personal identifying information of at least 645 then-current and former DYRS youth.  Bell admitted that he provided this information to other scheme participants, who used the names and social security numbers to file at least 1,160 fraudulent federal income tax returns that claimed refunds of approximately $4,441,194.  The IRS issued approximately 700 U.S. Treasury checks, totaling approximately $2,422,211, in the names of the DYRS youth in whose names the tax returns were filed.  Bell received financial compensation from co-conspirators for providing the stolen identities.

Bell is one of approximately 20 participants in this scheme who have pleaded guilty to federal charges in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  Bell pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims, one count of aiding and abetting in the filing of fictitious or false claims and one count aiding and abetting fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents.  In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle ordered Bell to serve three years of supervised release and pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $1,972,710.

This morning, Lakisha Jackson, 40, of District Heights, Maryland, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit theft of public money for her role in the scheme.  As part of her plea, she admitted that between September 2010 and May 2012 she allowed her residential address to be used to file approximately 70 fraudulent federal income tax returns seeking refunds of approximately $229,199 and to receive 61 fraudulently-procured U.S. Treasury checks totaling approximately $193,977.  Jackson faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  She has agreed to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $175,953. Jackson is scheduled to be sentenced on July 13.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo, U.S. Attorney Phillips, Special Agent in Charge Jankowski, Inspector in Charge Kelokates and Assistant Inspector General Phillips commended those who investigated the case.  They also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, including former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Schornstein, Paralegal Specialists Donna Galindo, Corinne Kleinman and Julie Dailey and Legal Assistant Angela Lawrence.  Finally, they thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Chubin Epstein of the District of Columbia’s Fraud and Public Corruption Section and Trial Attorneys Jeffrey B. Bender and Thomas F. Koelbl and former Trial Attorney Jessica Moran of the Tax Division, who prosecuted the case.

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Topic:
Tax
Updated May 3, 2016

Battling ID Theft Takes Concerted Effort

In the state of New Mexico we have a law in place to help victims of identity theft. The problem we have is that so many people are still unaware of it even though it has been around since 2009. This includes many people within the criminal justice system and law enforcement agencies. The law that I am referring to is the, “Identity Theft Passport; Database”. Statute number 31-26-15. Within the statute it states that, the Attorney General, in cooperation with the department of public safety and the motor vehicles division of the taxation and revenue department, shall issue an identity theft passport to a person who claims to be a victim of identity theft pursuant to Section 30-16-24. 1 NMSA 1978”.
How the program works, (1) fill out a police report stating your identity was stolen, (2) resubmit the report back to the agency with whom you filled out the report, (3) wait for the agency to upload the information into the New Mexico State ID theft Victims database that is housed by the Attorney General’s office. This process usually takes a couple weeks. The Attorney General may provide access to the database only to criminal justice agencies. (4) Once the information is uploaded the victim can then go to a state run MVD and be issued a driver’s license with a “V” endorsement on the back. How does this help the victim? Well, if their driver’s license or State issued identification card is run and something they did not do comes up, it will alert the officer to look into it further. In most cases the officer will be able to pull up the mugshot of the person arrested for the crime in question.
Some very good news- help for victims of ID theft is just a phone call away. ID theft victims no longer have to suffer in isolation and feel that they have nowhere to turn to for support.
ID theft Resolutions, Ltd. Is a 501(3) nonprofit dedicated exclusively to (1) educating the public, public officials and legislators about the challenges presented by the Identity theft phenomenon and how to prevent and respond to ID theft and (2) helping ID theft victims recover their identity and protect their credit. We can be contacted by calling 505-417-1902 or 1-888-484-9118 or by email at markmedley@idtheftresolutions.org.

Authorities Need Help Finding Identity Thief!

wisconsin+crime+alert+2

LAKE DELTON, Wis.—The Lake Delton Police Department needs the community’s help to identify two men who are pictured in surveillance photos.

According to an alert from the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network, the two suspects are involved in an identity theft investigation from September 2015.

Police said the white suspect vehicle was operated by one of the suspects.

It’s believed that the two men have ties to the Waukesha County area.

Please contact the Lake Delton Police Department at (608) 254-7571 if you have any information about these men or the vehicle.

Battling ID Theft Takes Concerted Effort

In the state of New Mexico, we have a law in place to help victims of  identity theft. The problem we have is that so many people are still unaware of it even though it has been around since 2009. This includes many people within the criminal justice system and law enforcement agencies. The law that I am referring to is the “Identity Theft Passport;
Database,” Section 31-26-15 NMSA 1978. Within the statute it states that the Attorney General, in cooperation with the Department of Public Safety and the Motor Vehicle Division of the Taxation and Revenue Department, shall issue an identity theft passport to a person who claims to be a victim of identity theft pursuant to Section 30-16-24. 1 NMSA 1978.

How the program works is: 1) fill out a police report stating your identity was stolen; 2) resubmit the report back to the agency with whom you filled out the report; 3) wait for the agency to upload the information into the New Mexico State ID Theft Victims Database that is housed by the Attorney General’s office. This process usually takes a couple weeks.
The Attorney General may provide access to the database only to criminal justice agencies; and 4) once the information is uploaded the victim can then go to a state run MVD and be issued a driver’s license with a “V” endorsement on the back.

How does this help the victim? If their driver’s license or state-issued identification card is run and something they did not do comes up, it will alert the officer to look into it further. In most cases the officer will be able to pull up the mugshot of the person arrested for the crime in question.

Some very good news – help for victims of ID theft is just a phone call away. ID theft victims no longer have to suffer in isolation and feel that they have nowhere to turn to for support.

ID theft Resolutions, Ltd. Is a 501 c(3) nonprofit dedicated exclusively to educating the public, public officials and legislators about the challenges presented by the identity theft phenomenon and how to prevent and respond to ID theft and helping ID theft victims recover their identity and protect their credit.

We can be contacted by calling (505) 417-1902 or 1-888-484-9118 or by email at markmedley@idtheftresolutions.org.