Sunday, July 30, 2006

Who is Karen M. Keester?

Who is Karen M. Keester and why should we care about her?

On June 13, 2006, she was arrested for trying to cash a fake check for $1,400. A few days later on June 14, she tried applying for an $8,000 student loan. She was a persistent one!

She is a 31 year-old native of New Mexico who moved to Boston (Beacon Hill to be exact) and on July 29, 2006 was charged with stealing $250,000 over five years. She did so with “… bogus student loans and fake payroll checks while working through temporary employment agencies.” The judge revoked her bail for missing a court appearance and ordered a $25,000 cash bond for the new allegations of ID theft, which went far beyond the check cashing and bogus student loan charges from earlier. The police said there were probably many more victims from her ID theft adventure and would bring more charges later.

Keester has allegedly moved at least seven times over the past four years and used four different social security numbers, three dates of birth, and six state identification numbers. She also used the aliases Karen Kester and Michele Keester. She has been charged with larceny, forgery and identity theft.

“Assistant District Attorney Christine Helsel described an elaborate scheme in which investigators said Keester systemically manipulated temporary employment agencies. Helsel alleged that Keester worked for seven to 10 days at a variety of companies [over several years] that gave her access to confidential employee information. Keester typically used that information, Helsel said, to apply for student loans and also wrote herself payroll checks.” The Boston Globe, July 30, 2006.

She apparently used the Social Security number of an Indian woman to find work through temp agencies.

One of her alleged victims, the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, accused her of stealing about $10,000. The organization had given her authority to write checks, and she used it to make deposits in her personal account. She also used a Planned Parenthood computer to apply for the student loans.

Of course, her lawyer said she was “flabbergasted” by these “false allegations”.

The prosecutors called her “a bold con artist”.

We say this is another excellent and sad example of how much Americans are under attack from potential identity theft losses. At least she did not use all that confidential information to commit acts of terrorism in the names of her alleged victims.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Senate Minority leader Harry Reid ID Theft

CNN reported today that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (d-Nevada) could not understand how someone got ahold of his credit card and illegally charged $2,000 to the good Senator.

ID theft is a pernicious thing and the fact that one of the top leaders in Congress does not understand how this could happen means he probably also cannot help legislate ID protection for the rest of us!

Credit Card theft can happen. Here is what the Department of Justice has to say:

"If you receive applications for "preapproved" credit cards in the mail, but discard them without tearing up the enclosed materials, criminals may retrieve them and try to activate the cards for their use without your knowledge. (Some credit card companies, when sending credit cards, have adopted security measures that allow a card recipient to activate the card only from his or her home telephone number but this is not yet a universal practice.) Also, if your mail is delivered to a place where others have ready access to it, criminals may simply intercept and redirect your mail to another location."

Home telephone?! Who has a "home" telephone anymore?

Also when you charge something there are portable scanning devices that can be used, say by the server in a restaurant or clerk at a store, to illegally scan in your credit card and then miuse it.

We are sending Sen. Reid a copy of our book and our ID Theft Seminar CD so that he can educate himself and his staff and write some better regulations.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Principal loses Iowa Health Systems Employees Personal Data

I am working on a blog about Principal Insurance's loss of Iowa Health System employees personal data. There is not a lot of information on the loss so if any of you have information or a copy of the actual letter that Iowa Health Systems Human Resource Department mailed out I would appreciate you sending me a copy or contacting me at or leave comments on this blog.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Taiwan does it better.

As American government agencies, companies, organizations, and institutions crumble under identity theft loss I have been asked repeatedly "what can we do?"

The New York Times had an interesting article "Taiwan's Model for Electronics in Government" on June 26, 2006.

The government of Taiwan has been working for the past fifteen years "... on a far-reaching plan to use the Internet to make it faster and cheaper for bureaucrats to communicate among themselves and with citizens."

The results appear to be impressive already with 92 percent of businesses and 35 percent of individuals filed their taxes electronically. The government also "... distributes about 100,000 documents online every working day, saving about $3 million in postage."
  • "The government also accepts 15,000 online bids each month from companies seeking public contracts. Thousands of students and parents pay school tuition on the Internet, and citizens apply for drivers' licenses, property titles and a host of other certificates online."
The most impressive success has been the creation of a national identification card. The card is a so-called smart card and has a chip embedded that allows authorized persons to scan the card. It uses and ID and PIN number which must be entered by the owner to activate the scan.

Obviously one the problems with securing identity information (and there are many) is the absence of a secure personal identification system in the United States. The most common ID (as we have discussed on this blog) is the state driver's license which is a weak and unreliable form of ID.

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