Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I recently came across a very interesting article on “cramming.” Cramming is when a “scamming company” gets a hold of your phone number and bills you for a variety of services such as voicemail accounts, call waiting, etc.

For example, the author of this story got “crammed” when his wife signed up to win a free Vegas Vacation on one of those online popups. He suddenly had a bill for 4 voicemail accounts on his AT&T bill. AT&T can’t remove the charges as the phone companies just pass charges through (similar to how collect calls work). There is no authentication involved, all that is needed is a phone number. Meaning if I entered your phone number into this form, you would be billed 14.95 a month X3 for three new voicemail services.

The FTC states that you should:
1) Call the company and request that they refund your money.
2) Call your telephone company and see their policy for this
3) File a complaint with the FTC

None of the following guarantee you get your money back. My experience with a recent scam has been that the company does not have a real phone number, or no one ever picks up. The Phone companies, or Credit Card Companies can usually block charges but will rarely do so each month (meaning you need to call them each month). And a complaint with the FTC will get resolved in the usual government fashion... slowly.

To read more, including a couple scripts on his calls:

Overall I would recommend that everyone be diligent online. Use common sense (A free Vegas Vacation is too good to be true) and check your bills carefully!


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Monday, May 19, 2008

Dangers of identity theft

Dangers of identity theft
Ames Tribune
Steffen Schmidt, Iowa State University professor of political science, is shown during a taping of “Dr. Politics” in the WOI Studios in the Communications Building on the ISU campus. Schmidt, who has been the co-host of the program for more than 16 years, recently co-wrote a book on identity theft."
Contributed photo by Stan Brewer/Special to the Tribune
Steffen Schmidt, Iowa State University professor of political science, is shown during a taping of “Dr. Politics” in the WOI Studios in the Communications Building on the ISU campus. Schmidt, who has been the co-host of the program for more than 16 years, recently co-wrote a book on identity theft.

Here's a nightmare scenario: Someone using your name, your Social Security number and your birth date has done something terrible. Maybe they've charged up thousands of dollars and vanished, leaving you to foot the bill. Maybe they've committed some criminal act, and now police are knocking at your door. Or maybe they've committed an act of terrorism using your identity, which you hadn't even realized had been stolen.

All these things can and have happened, said Steffen Schmidt, an Iowa State University professor of political science who, along with Michael McCoy, a graduate student and researcher at ISU's Center for Information Protection, has been studying identity theft for five years.

Schmidt and McCoy's new book, "The Silent Crime: What You Need to Know About Identity Theft," recently was released and is available at the ISU Bookstore.


... on the quickest way to get your identity stolen:
The quickest way is to lose your wallet and have your Social Security number and other information in there ... The Internet is not yet the major way that people's identities are taken by someone else.

... on the worst ID theft case he's ever heard of:
Some really terrible cases are a guy in Florida who was arrested and thrown in jail and accused of several crimes in Texas, serious crimes. He tells them, "I've never been in Texas, that isn't me." And they say, we've got your Social Security number, and we know it's you. He spends almost a month in jail, can't prove that he was not the one who committed the crimes. Then the authorities in Texas find a guy who's using this guy's name and Social Security number, and he finally gets released. But he had no way of essentially proving the contrary.

... on the maximum amount of damage an identity thief could do to someone:
Millions of dollars, and in some cases worse than that. If your identity is stolen by someone who wants to commit terrorism, and they do, you are arrested because it's your name, it's your Social Security number, it's everything about you that's connected to these acts. Nowadays, you may end up somewhere in detention with no recourse through the courts because terrorist cases in many countries, including the U.S. now, are not tried publicly.

...on the percentage of identity thieves who have been caught:
The percentages are really very low.

Is the public perception of ID thieves as hackers hunched over computer screens?

Unfortunately, to some extent, it is. And it's true that that is becoming the most vulnerable area in the future for identity theft, and therefore people forget that a lot of it is committed in common places by someone observing you punch the numbers in to your ATM machine, by somebody stealing mail out of your mailbox or off your desk.

... on the best way to protect oneself against the threat of identity theft:
I think there are two things. One is to be aware that you have a lot of information that is very sensitive and keep it in a safe place. Do the same when you're at your computer. The other thing that I've done for several years is I actually have an identity theft insurance policy. It's a small policy, very inexpensive.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

ID Theft The Video Interview

Last year we cooperated with some Iowa State University students who were doing a project on identity theft. They did a terrific job! We have updated the information at the end with reference to our newest book (cover on left) published in 2008.

The Identity Theft Video. On You Tube.

To order the book call Iowa State University bookstore, (800 478 0048) and ask for Chris or General Books. They will promptly mail you your copy.

Or go to ISU Bookstore and order on line.

If you need a speaker please contact us directly. We still have a limited number of dates open for 2008.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Our New Book - The Story Behind the Official Portrait.

If you want to see the press release for "The Silent Crime" you can go to the archive.

Also look at the web site of Stan Brewer Photo who did the book back cover photo. Mr Brewer is very talented and has a lot of real-life experience. If you need a professional photo like this (right) he's you man. If he can schedule you in he will travel (first class ticket only but well worth it!).


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Beware of Site that Sounds like our Blog!

One of our subscribers sent us this (below in RED) today from a Google search she did. 

She asked "Do you guys have a new blog?" 

The answer is no! We are the ID Theft PREVENTION Institute! We are a spinoff of two National Science Foundation (NSF) research grants. We work with programs that are part of the Center For Information Protection (CIP) and the Information Assurance (INFAS) graduate program at Iowa State University which was designated as a National Security Agency (NSA) national excellence center. We are the authors of two books on identity theft. 

Pass this on to your customers, friends, and family. 

The following is NOT associated with us! 

The Identity Theft Institute

Welcome to The Identity Theft Institute. This site is under construction. Please contact Michael A. Mastracci for access.

Remember: Be very, very alert. The Internet is a dangerous place and you are the first line of defense against threats to your identity.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

IRS and Baseball Scams

If you are relaxing wake up and get real!

Here are two more Id theft stories just to keep you fresh and on your toes and to keep your presentations interesting and timely.

IRS Scam

The Reno Gazette-Journal recently reported this on their web paper-

"County Sheriff's Office was recently made aware of an online identity theft/fraud scheme perpetrated by suspects sending a ruse e-mail resembling an e-mail from the Internal Revenue Service."

"The e-mail message is titled "Tax Refund Msg". It was sent from an e-mail address of When opened, the message appears as a Web page from the IRS, advising of a tax refund payable to the recipient. The recipient is instructed to provide their Social Security or tax ID number, as well as their name, address, date of birth, and credit/debit card account information to get the refund."

The IRS confirms that this site is fraudulent.


Major League Baseball's new investigative unit is at work on several probes. "There were about 500 instances in 2007 relating to investigations in which players were victims, which included instances ranging from fraud to stalking to phony pages on MySpace and Facebook. There is an ongoing probe of two people falsely claiming to be scouts."

"Some of them were full-blown identity thefts, where people are opening lines of credit in someone's name, and some of them are just impostor cases," Dan Mullin, MLB's vice president of investigations said. "We had a case last year where a guy was posing as a player. He actually was dating a girl. She believed she was dating this major league player, shopping for real estate, shopping for cars."

"The girl wasn't a sports fan, so she was going along with it, right to the point where they were just about to get engaged," Hanna said. "He was using his entree to various real estates and setting up burglaries of these homes that he was going in, looking at."

Sources:        and

ID theft is such a useful tool for making all kinds of mischief and committing all sorts of crimes!

Stay alert. Get or update your Id Theft protection plan.

Invite Mike McCoy or me to give a talk to your group!

Steffen Schmidt e-mail: steffenschmidt2005 at gmail dot com

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