Protect Your Wallet and Your Information This Holiday Season

As the holiday shopping season officially gets underway, the FBI would like to take this opportunity to warn shoppers to be aware of the increasingly aggressive techniques of cyber criminals who want to steal your money and your personal information.

For example, watch out for online shopping scams—criminals often scheme to defraud victims by offering too-good-to-be-true deals, like brand name merchandise at extremely low discounts or gift cards as an incentive to buy a product. Beware of social media scams, including posts on social media sites that offer vouchers or gift cards or that pose as holiday promotions or contests. Always be careful when downloading mobile applications on your smartphone—some apps, disguised as games and offered for free, maybe be designed to steal personal information. And if you’re in need of extra cash this time of year, watch out for websites and online postings offering work you can do from home—you may actually become the victim of an advance fee, counterfeit, or pyramid scheme, or become an unknowing participant in criminal activity.

Here are some additional steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud this season:

Check your credit card statement routinely, and ensure websites are secure and reputable before providing your credit card number;
Do your research to ensure the legitimacy of the individual or company you are purchasing from;
Beware of providing credit card information when requested through unsolicited e-mails;
Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information;
Never click on links contained within unsolicited e-mails;
Verify any requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them directly;
Be cautious of e-mails claiming to contain pictures in attached files, especially unsolicited e-mails—the files may contain viruses; and
Be leery if you are requested to act quickly or told there is an emergency (fraudsters often create a sense of urgency).
If you suspect you have been victimized, contact your financial institution immediately, contact law enforcement, and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).


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Identity Theft, Fake Hospice Nurse Treated More Than 200 Patients

Imagine the emotional difficulty of arranging in-home hospice care for a terminally ill family member. Now imagine learning after the fact that your loved one had been cared for not by a nurse but by a medical imposter.

That is exactly what happened in more than 200 cases in the Dallas/Fort Worth area over nearly a three-year period when a woman who had stolen the identity of a registered nurse used those credentials to gain employment with multiple hospice companies.

“Jada Necole Antoine had absolutely no nursing experience or medical training,” said Special Agent Brian Marlow, who investigated the case out of the FBI’s Dallas Division. “The thought of having someone who is not a nurse taking care of your parent or loved one is not only criminal, it is morally outrageous.”

The Bureau’s investigation began in 2013 as a result of a local traffic stop in Texas. When the patrol officer asked for identification, Antoine produced her own driver’s license, and it turned out there was a warrant for her arrest on another matter. She also had other identification in the car—including documents belonging to the victim nurse—along with a number of medical records.

That information was forwarded to the Medicare Fraud Strike Force team in Texas, which consists of the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Texas State Attorney General’s office, and local law enforcement.

The strike force is part of a larger, nationwide effort aimed at combating health care fraud and abuse.

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Shoplifting incident leads to felony identity theft charges

BELTON TX Aug 26 2015 — A Killeen woman was arraigned Thursday on a charge of fraudulent use of identifying information.

Jodi Marie Schimek, 28, of Killeen, was arrested Wednesday after police responded to 1400 Lowes Boulevard in Killeen.

According to an arrest affidavit, Schimek was caught on in-store cameras shoplifting at the location and, when police arrived, Schimek handed officers a New York driver’s license with another woman’s name.

Apparently not knowing the woman was Schimek, police said in the affidavit they arrested her and took her to the Killeen jail.

Later that day, the affidavit said, a New York woman called the Bell County Jail “and advised that a female who verbally identified herself as (name withheld) called and advised that a female in the Killeen jail was using her name and information and that a closer check by jail staff of the driver’s license provided by the female did not match the female in custody.”

The affidavit said the New York female identified herself and told jail staff she had not been to Texas for years and that Schimek did not have permission to use her ID.

Police later spoke with Schimek who admitted that she and the New York woman had been friends for years and that she previously had used the ID to buy cigarettes.

Schimek was arraigned by Justice of the Peace Garland Potvin, who gave her a $50,000 bond.

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Financial Fraud

The Hair Show That Never Was
Two criminals were sentenced for a scheme that involved enlisting young women at shopping malls and other places to participate in a “hair show,” gaining access to their bank accounts, depositing phony checks in the accounts, and withdrawing funds before the banks realized the fraud.

Tamira Fonville’s job might be described as “recruiter.” For a time, she profited substantially by enlisting college-age women to participate in a hair show. The problem was, there never was any show, and everything about Fonville’s line of work was a fraud.

She and her partner—both of whom are now in prison—regularly traveled the Interstate 95 corridor from New York to Washington, D.C., visiting shopping malls and other places where young women were known to spend time.

Using a series of phony names, Fonville would interest the women in the hair show, offering to pay for their services. But to pay them, she said, she needed their debit card numbers and access to their accounts.

With that access, she would not simply clean out their accounts. Instead, her partner and mastermind of the scam, Ricardo Falana, would deposit bogus checks into the legitimate accounts, and then immediately begin withdrawing funds before the bank realized the fraud.

“It was a crazy, hit or miss scheme,” said Special Agent Sean Norman, who investigated the case from the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “But they did it at such a high volume that they made a lot of money for several years. There was approximately $600,000 in actual losses to banks and other financial institutions.”

On a typical recruiting trip, Fonville might talk with 20 or 30 women and would follow up with text messages using disposable phones whose numbers could not be traced. If she ended up with three or four willing participants, that was enough.

“Some took the hair show bait and handed over their debit cards and PINs,” Norman said. “Others who were skeptical got a different pitch,” he explained. “They were told: ‘I can make money appear in your account. You will get some money, I will get some money, and the bank won’t lose anything.’”

With access to legitimate accounts not tied to him, Falana deposited forged checks of up to $10,000 and then withdrew money before the bank realized the checks were bad. Many of the victims were coached to tell bank investigators that their debit cards had been stolen and their PINs were written on the cards.

“The majority of the account holders knew they were doing something fraudulent,” Norman said. “They thought they were going to get something out of it, but they got nothing.”

For a time, the money rolled in, and Fonville “got addicted to the lifestyle,” Norman said. According to court documents, between 2008 and 2013, Fonville personally benefited from the scheme to the tune of more than $230,000. She used some of the proceeds to pay for plastic surgery, the car loan on her $30,000 Chevrolet Camaro, and the $2,100 monthly rent on her New York apartment. She would later tell investigators she viewed the scam as a career.

Fonville also fraudulently obtained food stamps, Medicaid, and benefits from a New York child care program, and she received deferments on almost $100,000 in student loans because she claimed she had no income. But then she lied on her car loan application, stating she was an employee of Mesa Airlines and had a salary of $65,000 per year.

Eventually, some of the women whose accounts had been used came forward and told the truth. Norman was able to trace withdrawn funds to Fonville and Falana, and Falana was identified on surveillance video depositing what turned out to be bogus checks. Norman also used E-ZPass toll receipts to link the pair’s recruiting trips to account holders and subsequent fraudulent transactions on their accounts.

“After the pieces all fit together,” said Norman, who is a certified public account and specializes in financial fraud investigations, “their actions were highly predictable.”

Fonville was arrested in August 2014. She pled guilty the following month to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and three counts of bank fraud and was sentenced in April to 15 months in prison. Falana pled guilty to similar bank fraud charges in October 2014 and in February received an 80-month sentence.

In the end, Norman said, “they blew all the money and had nothing to show for it.”

Resources:
- Press release

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How Social Media Networks Facilitate Identity Theft and Fraud

Recent research reveals that identity theft affects millions of people a year, costing victims countless hours and money in identity recovery and repair. What causes this pattern of online theft and fraud? It’s a combination of factors: a lack of consumer knowledge regarding protecting your identity online; growing comfort with, and trust in, social platform providers; the need for social platforms to generate revenue; and a lack of standards or policing of these standards. Although this issue is not yet in the mainstream consciousness, it likely will be sooner rather than later.

Fueling the Fire
Social media sites generate revenue with targeted advertising, based on personal information. As such, they encourage registered users to provide as much information as possible. With limited government oversight, industry standards or incentives to educate users on security, privacy and identity protection, users are exposed to identity theft and fraud. Additionally, these platforms have a ton of confidential user information, and are likely vulnerable to outside (or inside) attack. On the marketing front, Google recently patented an algorithm to rate individual’s influence within social media. Once publicized, it will likely encourage greater participation by active users in order to boost their influence score.

Crimes of Opportunity
With the increased global use of social media, there are more opportunities than ever before to steal identities or perpetrate fraud online. For example, status updates posted on Twitter, Facebook and many other social media sites can be used by criminals. If you post that you’re out of town on vacation, you’ve opened yourself up for burglary. If you mention that you’re away on business for a weekend, you may leave your family open to assault or robbery. When it comes to stalking or stealing an identity, use of photo- and video-sharing sites like Flickr and YouTube provide deeper insights into you, your family and friends, your house, favorite hobbies and interests.

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Secrets of an Identity Thief

Driving around Seattle with “Alice,” a convicted ID thief who didn’t want her own identity revealed, was an education.

“She knew where all the places where to go … the easiest cars to break into,” Shadel said.

Driving around a parking lot, Alice pointed out the cars she would likely target.

“Out-of-state plate, so we are probably going to hit that car because it’s parked over in the corner,” she said. “It’s easy to get into without somebody seeing.”

The out-of-state license plate signaled to Alice that the driver had probably traveled with lots of personal information.

She also pointed out seemingly unlikely targets, like work vans. “They usually had like full on credit cards to bill companies,” she said.

And cars with backpacks that are sitting out in the open. “It’s just full of goodies. It always is.”

In just a few months Alice and her colleagues stole $900,000, Shadel said, noting that “she had a little group.”

“One guy who could make IDs. Another who knew how to swipe all the laptops and put them up in the cloud. It was quite a little posse of identity thieves,” Shadel said.

Identity theft affects more than 16 million Americans each year to the tune of $24.7 billion, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. It is the single largest type of property crime.

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Obama signs order to tighten security for federal credit cards

U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Friday to beef up security measures for federal credit cards, and urged banks and retailers to follow suit in an effort to combat the growing threat of identity fraud.

The order, which Obama signed before a lively, packed crowd of regulators at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will add microchips and PIN numbers to government credit cards and debit cards starting in January.

The president also announced that several major companies will take steps to make their own systems more secure and offer more customer protections.

“The idea that somebody halfway around the world could run up thousands of dollars in charges in your name just because they stole your number, or because you swiped your card at the wrong place in the wrong time, that’s infuriating,” he said.

Obama’s executive order comes after many large companies including Target , JPMorgan and Home Depot have suffered high-profile cyber security breaches.

The White House said that Home Depot, Target, Walgreen and Wal-Mart Stores will roll out secure chip and PIN-compatible card terminals in all their stores, most by January.

In addition, American Express plans to launch a $10 million program to help small businesses upgrade sale terminals. Visa will invest in education programs about microchips, Mastercard is offering free online identity theft monitoring and Citi Cards will partner with FICO to make free credit scores available.

Bank and retail industry groups have been at odds for years over how to improve the security of electronic payments. The recent data breaches have made the dispute more prominent.

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IDENTITY THEFT: NO CHARGES DESPITE EVIDENCE

CHICAGO (WLS) – It’s no longer a matter of “if” but “when” someone will take your personal information. Chicago police say in 2013 there were more than 13,000 reported incidents of identity theft or other similar crimes, and the department has also recently beefed up its financial crimes unit.

But one suburban woman is questioning why two suspects who may have taken her identity haven’t yet been charged.

Cyndi Foglio has a giant stack of paperwork full of credit checks, collection agency notices and $2,500 of payday loans in her name. They’ve ballooned to almost $200,000 with a 499 percent interest.

She says after discovering the identity theft in February 2013, she turned to the Algonquin Police Department for help.

More than a year ago, in August 2013, investigators handed the case over to the Chicago Police Department because the potential suspects live in Chicago. According to an Algonquin police report, subpoenaed information shows that the online payday loan was withdrawn from an IP address on the South Side. The report lists suspect names, a phone number and even an e mail.

“They have names and addresses and the phone numbers on there,” Foglio says. “I am asking them to do something about it.”

Chicago police say they’re still investigating, and that it’s not a slam dunk case. Police wouldn’t answer specific questions about Foglio’s concerns, citing that ongoing investigation, but did talk about the challenges they face in crimes similar to this one.

“IP addresses can be static or dynamic,” says Sergeant John Lucki, commanding officer of Chicago’s Financial Crimes unit. “They are not always associated to a fixed entity or location, so that creates a floating area as to what’s being done out there.”

Lucki says IP addresses can also be unsecure, meaning hundreds of other people could have hopped on that connection.

But Algonquin police, in their investigation, traced that pay day loan money to a pre-paid cash card with an account number, which was registered to one of the same suspects connected to that IP address. But for a non-violent crime, even that may not yet be enough proof for prosecutors.

“If you can’t assemble a complete case usually success for prosecution is minimal,” says Lucki.

Lucki says that in 2012, more detectives were added to the financial crimes unit to keep up with the growing number of cases.

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Even Biometric Locks Can be Picked

How can we ensure that someone is who they say they are? How can be sure that the person in our system, both digitally speaking or physically in front of us, is who whom they claim to be?

You may think that a good password is the answer, but with so many ways to break into a computer system these methods are clearly not always effective – as can be seen from the unfortunate hacked celebrities whose naked pictures were strewn across the internet recently, or the Oleg Pliss ransomware that locks iPhones until the extortioner is paid. Even a combination of a good username and password may not be enough.

An organic alternative to passwords

What about biometrics? This technology uses human physical attributes as locks and keys, such as fingerprints, iris scans or, as is now suggested, the veins in the human fingertip, making them highly individual ways to identify one user from another.

Using biometrics is not especially new. For example, while the likes of iris scanners may be familiar from sci-fi films, they’re also (or were until recently) found in real life airports too. Often mistakenly called retinal scanners, they are based on scanning the unique pattern of the iris, the coloured part of the eye.

But the technology needed to complete an effective and trusted scan is expensive and can be tricked by technologically capable hackers. These are great for entry control systems on the buildings of large organisations, or for the occasional secret bunker seen in films. But they are extremely costly – prohibitively so if a bank was to insist that every customer had one at home – and false readings become a problem as the number of people using it scales.

On the other hand, fingerprint technology has become cheaper and more available – fingerprint scanners are now sufficiently small and accurate that they started appearing in laptops 10 years ago, and are even in small devices like the iPhone 5S. This is one way that banks could allow smartphone and laptop users to access their financial services, with users presenting a finger rather than a passcode.

In fact it’s easy to obtain a range of low-cost scanners for all sorts of authentication uses. But that doesn’t mean the users will like doing so – there are ethical issues to consider, as some UK schools discovered in 2012 when their use of fingerprint scanners to monitor pupil attendance led to an outcry and a government ban without explicit consent from parents.

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4 Identity Protection Habits Every College Student Should Have

For some of us, fall is about to begin and the graduates of the class of 2014 are heading off to colleges across the country. It’s an exciting time — there’s a reason so many people call college the best four years of their lives. You learn so much about the world and yourself. You make lifelong friends. You are an adult without the full responsibility of being an adult.

It’s pretty easy to believe that because you are young and not in the “real world” yet that you are immune to identity theft or credit card fraud. But crime isn’t so choosy about age. College students are actually a prime target for identity thieves because of naiveté. According to University of Colorado—Boulder, only 21 percent of college students are concerned about identity theft. And lack of concern leads to lack of managing financial and personal data making college students vulnerable to identity theft.

Luckily, managing your identity doesn’t have to be hard. Whether you’re an incoming freshman or a graduate student, here are four simple habits to help you protect your identity.

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