Archive for September, 2012

New Identity Theft Methods

Parents do everything they can to protect their children but if something horrible does occur, no parent is prepared to discover that they must not only deal with their grief, but they must also contend with the fact that their deceased child’s identity has been stolen.

According to, more and more parents have discovered that someone had stolen their child’s social security number directly from the government through the Social Security Administration’s on-line public Death Master File. The file is used by the agency to stop benefits for the deceased as well as to pay survivors for benefits that they may be due.

It has also become an ideal place for identity thieves to search for information they can use to file false income tax returns. Parents often don’t discover that their deceased child’s identity has been stolen until they file an income tax return. The IRS claims that as an agency they must carefully balance accuracy with the need to process returns efficiently. Once the IRS sends a refund, even if it is in response to a fraudulent return, the money is gone.

The same file also creates another problem by erroneously listing living individuals as deceased. This creates what is known as credit zombies. This is most often due to data entry errors which are easy to make but almost impossible to correct. Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll Jr. testified that from January 2008 to April 2010 more than 35,000 people were placed in credit limbo when they were declared dead in the system. This keeps these innocent people from opening bank accounts, obtaining loans or even getting a driver’s license renewed.

Lawmakers have heard from their constituents about identity fraud and error and are trying to change or limit access to the Death Master File as well create a more effective system for correcting errors. Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility & Economic Growth, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson recently convened hearings on tax refund fraud as did a panel in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Until a legislative solution can be reached, the IRS is attempting to stem tax fraud identity thefts by flagging deceased taxpayer’s final returns and preventing any one else from using their Social Security numbers.

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A defamatory anti-Muslim movie made in the United States on YouTube sparked a week of violence across the Middle East, then Friday, threats on two American campuses took over Twitter.

All you need is a cell phone to watch it all unfold and contribute to its momentum.

As an advisory to the Department of Homeland Security and a private security consultant, Mohamed Elibiary helps the United States government deal with the effects of social networks.

He can tell you which places in the world Twitter holds sway over Facebook, and where YouTube is not allowed. He can overlay the power of certain social networks on the maps of certain countries.

Elibiary was born in Dallas, but has relatives in Egypt, and he said social networks have in some ways become more powerful than countries.

“In an information age, the nation state becomes a weaker player, and information and social networks are much more influential in affecting public opinion,” Elibiary said. “Governments are going to become weaker, and social networks are going to become more influential.”

In this week where social misinformation has humbled the power of the United States, Elibiary said one way the U.S. can counteract social networks is by tapping the family networks already in place between Americans and their relatives overseas.

“Everybody has a family member overseas, in Egypt or Yemen, or somewhere in the world,” he said. “Those relatives know the truth about the United States, and they can help strengthen a new kind of communication where the U.S. hasn’t established itself yet.”

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A California man accused of posting comments on ESPN’s website that said he was watching kids and wouldn’t mind killing them was being held Tuesday on $2 million bail after he was arrested for investigation of making terrorist threats, authorities said.

Several guns were found at the man’s home Monday, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Steve Low. The name of the man, who is in his early 20s, was not immediately released as investigators are trying to determine if there are any additional suspects.

Threatening posts were made in a reader response section to an online ESPN story on Thursday about new Nike sneakers named after LeBron James that cost $270 a pair, ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys said Tuesday. Some of the nearly 3,000 reader comments on the story talked about children possibly getting killed over the sneakers because of how expensive they are.

“What he was posting had nothing to do with sports,” Soltys said. “We closely monitor the message boards and anytime we get a threat, we’re alerting law enforcement officials.”

An employee at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., notified local police the same day and they linked the posting to the man’s home in Santa Clarita in northern Los Angeles County. Sheriff’s investigators said they were contacted Sunday and began surveillance on the man’s home until a search warrant was obtained.

The online post on ESPN said that a shooting would be like the one in Auora, Colo., where 12 people were killed and 58 were injured in July, authorities said.

The man in California lives with his parents on a street that overlooks an elementary school and a middle school, said Lt. Low. Both schools were open Tuesday, although at least three children didn’t attend class after they were notified by the school about the arrest, said Dianne Saunders, principal of Santa Clarita Elementary School.

“As always, safety is our first priority and we are working closely with police to ensure our kids remain safe,” Saunders said. “We are thankful that police departments are working together and without the information from Bristol, maybe this wouldn’t have been able to be stopped.”

Authorities didn’t disclose how serious the threat was, but they were looking to see if the suspect had made similar posts on the Internet.

“We take all these kinds of threats serious, especially with the climate of other shootings around the nation over the past year,” Low said.

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A Hillside man was arrested Friday evening after he allegedly attempted to detonate what he believed to be car bomb in front of a bar in downtown Chicago, announced Gary S. Shapiro, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; William C. Monroe, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Garry F. McCarthy, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.

The arrest of ADEL DAOUD, 18, a U.S. citizen, was the culmination of a rigorous undercover operation during which Daoud developed his attack plans and surveilled and selected a target. Daoud was closely monitored by law enforcement and was offered several opportunities to change his mind and walk away from the supposed attack.

“The explosives that Daoud allegedly attempted to detonate posed no threat to the public. They were inert and had been supplied by undercover law enforcement personnel,” Mr. Shapiro said.

Daoud was charged in a criminal complaint filed today in U.S. District Court with one count of attempt to use of a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) and one count of attempt to damage and destroy a building by means of an explosive. Daoud had an initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys. He remains in custody pending a detention and preliminary hearing, which was scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday in federal court. Daoud faces a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison for attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a potential maximum of 20 years in prison for attempt to damage or destroy a building by means of an explosive.

According to an affidavit in support of the complaint, beginning in about October 2011, Daoud used e-mail accounts to obtain and distribute material, some of which he purported to author, relating to violent jihad and the killing of Americans.

In about May 2012, two FBI online undercover employees contacted Daoud in response to material Daoud posted online and thereafter exchanged several electronic communications with Daoud. According to the affidavit, during these communications Daoud expressed an interest in engaging in violent jihad, either in the United States or overseas.

The affidavit alleges that, from late May to mid-June 2012, Daoud confirmed his belief in the propriety of killing Americans in a terrorist attack and then began seeking online resources regarding how to carry out an attack.

In about June 2012, Daoud was introduced to a purported cousin of one of the undercover employees, who said he resided in New York and was an operational terrorist. Daoud allegedly expressed an interest in meeting the cousin, who unbeknownst to Daoud was an FBI undercover agent. In the course of his dealings with the undercover agent, Daoud allegedly drafted a list of approximately 29 potential targets, including military recruiting centers, bars, malls, and other tourist attractions in the Chicago area. He then selected, researched and surveilled a target for attack to be carried out with an explosive device supplied by the undercover agent, the affidavit alleges.

About 7:15 p.m. yesterday, Daoud met the undercover agent in Villa Park and they drove to downtown Chicago. During the drive, Daoud led the undercover agent in a prayer that Daoud and the agent succeed in their attack, kill many people, and cause destruction. They entered a parking lot where a Jeep containing the purported explosive device was parked. Daoud then drove the Jeep out of the parking lot and parked the vehicle in front of a bar in downtown Chicago, which was the target that he had previously selected. According to the affidavit, Daoud exited the vehicle and walked to an alley approximately a block away, and in the presence of the undercover agent, attempted to detonate the device by pressing the triggering mechanism. He was then arrested.

This case was investigated by the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which is comprised of FBI special agents, officers from the Chicago Police Department and representatives from 20 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The Justice Department’s National Security Division assisted in the investigation.

The public is reminded that a criminal complaint contains mere allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Flash Mobs: An Emerging Threat to Retailers

Seventy-nine percent of retailers have been victims of multiple offender crime in the past year, according to a survey administered by the National Retail Federation (NRF). Ten percent were victims of flash mobs. Last month the NRF surveyed 106 companies to gauge the impact of multiple offender crimes in the wake of dozens of media reports of smash and grab operations orchestrated by teenagers against retail stores. Half of the respondents reported that they’d experienced two to five incidents involving multiple offenders in the past year.

These flash mobs, or flash robs as they’re sometimes called, involve large groups of people rushing a store at one time, running or making loud noises to distract staff or security, and grabbing what they can before exiting the store as quickly as they came. High-end items like handbags, jewelry and designer clothes are usually the targets, according to the NRF report. Because of the chaotic nature of the attack, suspects are able to make off with large amounts of merchandise.

Store owners in Washington, D.C. were being hit this spring, according to a Fox 5 report. Knowing that, the owner of G-Star Raw, in the Dupont Circle area of D.C., immediately called 911 when 19 teens poured into his store. The teens made off with $20,000 worth of merchandise in less than 10 minutes while he waited for police to arrive. And although violence is rare, there have been reports of store employees or customers being attacked during these incidents.
The survey results show flash robs are typically a young man’s game. Juvenile offenders were involved in 83 percent of cases. In 42 percent of the cases where participants were apprehended (apprehensions occurred in 50 percent of cases), social media or texting was the primary communication medium.

The NRF makes a couple of distinctions between multiple offender incidents and flash mobs. Regular flash mobs can be harmless and even humorous. The trend started in 2003 when 100 people, based on instructions in an email from “Bill,” descended on a Macy’s store in Manhattan. The group didn’t steal, but “the participants consulted bemused sales assistants about purchasing a ‘love rug’ for their ‘suburban commune,’” CNN reported. Since 2003, college students, comedy troupes, and random participants have spread the trend worldwide, acting out scenes from Shakespeare or having giant pillow fights before quickly dispersing.

Like multiple offender crimes, a flash mob is typically organized by mass text messages or social media, but most participants are strangers. Multiple offender crimes usually involve groups of juveniles who already know each other.
A flash mob is usually done to provide some kind of entertainment, the report says. But for flash robs, the consequences for both the offenders and retailers are serious – so serious that the NRF is calling for enhanced penalties for this type of crime.

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Warning Signs of Financial Elder Abuse & Fraud

Older adults are frequent victims of financial fraud, but there often are telltale signs that can help family members recognize something is amiss.

These warnings can be as clear as a sudden inability to pay one’s bills. But often the signals are more subtle: unopened statements from brokerage accounts you didn’t know existed, mail boxes stuffed with sweepstakes offers or the sudden reliance on a “new best friend” for financial advice.

If you think there’s a problem, it’s crucial to persevere. Don’t be surprised if the person at risk doesn’t cooperate as you try to get to the bottom of a potential fraud.

It’s embarrassing to be swindled at any age. Older adults already feeling ill at ease with their abilities, or feeling like their independence is threatened, may have a tough time admitting something has gone wrong and opening up about their finances.

Compounding the challenge is that often the perpetrator is someone the older victim knows and with whom he or she has built a trusting relationship—a member of the victim’s church or veterans group, an accountant or even a family member.

“Seniors are going to be affected by every kind of fraud, because they tend to be the ones that have the savings and the cash,” says Matt Kitzi, Missouri’s securities commissioner.

Prevention starts with being vigilant, says Patty Struck, who heads up Wisconsin’s securities division, which frequently is called upon to investigate fraud among older adults.

Just after Easter several years ago, Ms. Struck’s office received a call from a man who was concerned about his father’s financial adviser. While visiting his father over the holiday, the son learned that the adviser was helping the father take out a new loan on the house—the mortgage having previously been paid off. The adviser had even driven the father to the bank to help him fill out the paperwork, Ms. Struck says.

Seeing no financial need for the loan, the son called Wisconsin regulators. It turned out the adviser was looting clients’ accounts. That included not just the caller’s father, but also his grandmother’s money, as well.

“It’s all about reading between the lines and asking a lot of questions,” says Ms. Struck.

To help ease the process, she suggests that younger family members talk about their own finances with older relatives to help them feel more comfortable opening up. Listen for offhand remarks, such as a comment that their broker isn’t returning phone calls.

Don’t feel guilty about doing some detective work. If there is an open bank statement, check to see if there’s an unexpected name on the account. Other red flags: unusual transfers or big checks being cashed.

If you get the older adult’s cooperation, order a free copy of the person’s credit report. If anyone is opening up new accounts under the person’s name or running up any big credit-card bills it will turn up in the credit report. The older adult may not even have realized he or she is being victimized.

Catherine Ann Seal, an elder-law attorney in Colorado Springs, Colo., says when she gets referrals from the local adult protective-services department for seniors who may have been victimized, one of the first steps she takes is to check public tax and real-estate filings—usually available for free online. She checks if new estate-planning documents or liens or deeds for a home have been filed.

If suspicion revolves around a financial adviser, go to BrokerCheck at the website of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ( to see if a broker has a track record of breaking the rules. Some states let you check online, for a small fee, whether an individual has a criminal record.

A common way older adults fall victim to fraud is what experts call the “new best friend” scam. “The senior all of a sudden has a very strong bond with somebody they have not known for a very long time,” says Ms. Seal.

While those relationships can be on the up and up, con artists will often befriend lonely individuals, sometimes helping with errands or chores to gain their trust. “Very often the elderly people know that what they’re getting into is probably too risky,” Ms. Struck says. “But the person calling them to scam them is so friendly and they’re lonely, so they’re willing to take the time to talk to them.”

More wrenching is when a relative is the one taking advantage of an older person. “Some of the worst exploitation happens among family members,” says Ms. Seal.

Most often, she says, the theft is committed by a family member who is financially dependent on the senior. For example, a parent may be forced to sell a home and use the money to pay for a nursing home. A child, who was counting on the home for an inheritance, then dips into the parent’s savings.

“Transparency is the key,” Ms. Seal says. “Undue influence and exploitation only happens if no one else is aware of what’s going on.”

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Apple has patented a piece of technology which would allow government and police to block transmission of information, including video and photographs, from any public gathering or venue they deem “sensitive”, and “protected from externalities.”

In other words, these powers will have control over what can and cannot be documented on wireless devices during any public event.

And while the company says the affected sites are to be mostly cinemas, theaters, concert grounds and similar locations, Apple Inc. also says “covert police or government operations may require complete ‘blackout’ conditions.”

“Additionally,” Apple says,” the wireless transmission of sensitive information to a remote source is one example of a threat to security. This sensitive information could be anything from classified government information to questions or answers to an examination administered in an academic setting.”

The statement led many to believe that authorities and police could now use the patented feature during protests or rallies to block the transmission of video footage and photographs from the scene, including those of police brutality, which at times of major events immediately flood news networks and video websites.

Apple patented the means to transmit an encoded signal to all wireless devices, commanding them to disable recording functions.

Those policies would be activated by GPS, and WiFi or mobile base-stations, which would ring-fence (“geofence”) around a building or a “sensitive area” to prevent phone cameras from taking pictures or recording video.

Apple may implement the technology, but it would not be Apple’s decision to activate the “feature” – it would be down governments, businesses and network owners to set such policies, analyzes ZDNet technology website.

Having invented one of the most sophisticated mobile devices, Apple now appears to be looking for ways to restrict its use.

“As wireless devices such as cellular telephones, pagers, personal media devices and smartphones become ubiquitous, more and more people are carrying these devices in various social and professional settings,” it explains in the patent. “The result is that these wireless devices can often annoy, frustrate, and even threaten people in sensitive venues.”

The company’s listed “sensitive” venues so far include mostly meetings, the presentation of movies, religious ceremonies, weddings, funerals, academic lectures, and test-taking environments.

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An extremely dedicated dog has continued to show its loyalty, keeping watch on its owner’s grave six years after he passed away.

Capitan, a German shepherd, reportedly ran away from home after its owner, Miguel Guzman, died in 2006. A week later, the Guzman family found the dog sitting by his grave in central Argentina.

Miguel Guzman adopted Capitan in 2005 as a gift for his teenage son, Damian. And for the past six years, Capitan has continued to stand guard at Miguel’s grave. The family says the dog rarely leaves the site.

“We searched for him, but he had vanished,” widow Veronica Guzman told “We thought he must have got run over and died.

“The following Sunday we went to the cemetery, and Damian recognized his pet. Capitan came up to us, barking and wailing as if he were crying.”

Adding to the unusual circumstances, Veronica says the family never brought Capitan to the cemetery before he was discovered there.

“It is a mystery how he managed to find the place,” she said.

Cemetery director Hector Baccega says he and his staff have begun feeding and taking care of Capitan.

“He turned up here one day, all on his own, and started wandering all around the cemetery until he eventually found the tomb of his master,” Baccega said.

“During the day he sometimes has a walk around the cemetery, but always rushes back to the grave. And every day, at six o’clock sharp, he lies down on top of the grave, stays there all night.”

But the Guzman family hasn’t abandoned Capitan. Damian says the family has tried to bring Capitan home several times but that he always returns to the cemetery on his own.

“I think he’s going to be there until he dies, too. He’s looking after my dad,” he said.

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Police may soon be able to catch criminals by the ink they are sporting.

Computer scientists are developing a new program that will be able to identify suspects by their tattoos and match them to photos in police databases or on social media.

Automatic identification through recognition of body art could provide a much needed breakthrough in detective work, often thwarted by grainy footage from surveillance videos that make it difficult to see a criminal’s face to use facial recognition.

‘Those photos are often so bad that face recognition wouldn’t come even close’ to finding a match in a database, Terrance Boult, a computer science professor at the University of Colorado, explained to Live Science.

To rectify this problem, Boult worked with a team of researchers to develop a computer program that reviews body ink, scars, moles and visible skin markings in photos.

The program scans images for these identifiable skin symbols and then looks for people bearing the same markings in a photo database.

The program is designed to pick up patterns in tattoos and could even link together members of gangs, who often share body tags.
Though this isn’t the first program to examine body markings for identification, the computer program was designed to better handle low quality photos, like those taken from a smart phone.

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The gender of suspects can now be determined from latent fingerprints. Peptides and proteins left behind in fingerprints can be processed using a technique called mass spectrometric imaging, a new milestone in fingerprinting technology.

The technique, entitled the “matrix assisted laser desorption ionisation” process was developed by Simona Francese and Rosalind Wolstenholme of the Biomedical Research Center at Sheffield Hallam University. The project is supported by UK’s Home Office in order to enhance the country’s law enforcement capacity.

In certain cases, the peptides and proteins left behind in fingerprints will be the only data police will have on suspects, especially if the suspect’s profile is not matched within the UK’s National Fingerprint Database. Determining the gender, based on the chemical composition of a finger mark, can help narrow down suspects.

Based on a study using matrix assisted laser desorption ionisation profiling, 85 percent accuracy was gained using the technique. The process can detect drug use or drug handling from lipids present in latent fingerprints. The profiling can help investigators create suspect composites along with determining the nutritional habits, drug use or hormonal status of a person.

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