Tuesday, December 23, 2008

End of 2008 ID Theft Tidbits

Well friends we have (barely) made it through 2008. Below are a few recent ID theft bits and pieces to remind us how widespread and complex the problem has become. Keep you guard up. We know that 2009 will be worse!

Story # 1-
December 22, 2008. ALPHARETTA, GA — "Alpharetta police cracked the largest identity theft ring in the city's history, they announced Dec. 22."

Arrested were three Russian immigrants who moved to Alpharetta from Los Angeles, said George Gordon, a spokesman for the department.

"Gordon said the arrests were the culmination of a two-month investigation focusing on the suspects. Investigators raided the men's Alara apartment Dec. 10 and seized nearly $11,000 of heroin, more than $50,000 in cash and the implements to allegedly mastermind an identity theft ring valued near $200,000."

"The source of all the information was an employee of a BP gas station, said Gordon. He'd set up a fake card reader to scam patrons. It was one of the many devices seized by investigators, including hundreds of fake credit and debit cards, skimmer reading devices, remote cameras and card reader clones."

"Additionally, hundreds of documents from illegal purchases including "coded" books containing victim's card numbers with attached PIN numbers were confiscated. Alpharetta authorities also seized $51,000 in cash, high grade heroin with a street value of $10,500, bank statements indicating deposits into the tens of thousands of dollars, recorded video images of the suspects committing fraud as well as identifying clothing seen on surveillance video of targeted businesses." Source-
NorthFulton.com
Story # 2 -
December 23, 2008. Los Angeles, CA. "More than 1,000 patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center had their personal information taken by a former employee in the hospital's billing department, according to hospital officials who said prosecutors allege that the man used the identities to steal from insurance companies.

The hospital's chief financial officer warned affected patients in a letter sent last week that their information had been found during a search of the former employee's home. He urged them to monitor their credit reports and to notify the district attorney's office if they noticed anything unusual." From the Los Angeles Times.com
Story # 3 -

EAST ST. LOUIS -- "Two Canadian street gang members pleaded guilty Monday to aggravated identity theft. Corey Whylie, 32, and Orlando Sang, 28, both of Ontario, Canada, admitted they used stolen credit cards to place advertisements in the Belleville News-Democrat promoting loans for those with credit problems without the payment of an up-front fee. Whylie and Sang, members of the Canadian street gang The Malvern Crew, used a complicated net of cell phones and business stationary to bilk 93 victims out of $83,000." Source http://www.bnd.com
Story # 4 -

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Dec. 22, 2008. Investigators say more than 40 people were involved in an organized identity theft ring in Charlotte. Hundreds of car break-ins since January 2003 were not random, according to authorities. They were well orchestrated with a leader calling the shots and others following orders.

On Thursday, authorities announced indictments against nine of the suspects. Seven of them were arrested Thursday morning. Loretta Blakeney-Herron, Latoya Blakeney, Lajarika Blakeney, Laquasha Blakeney, Latoya Moore, Garnett Coulbourne, Terrell Zardee, Shontavia Barber and Gabriel Neal are charged with wire fraud conspiracy and identity theft conspiracy.

Latoya Blakeney and Barber are also charged with bank fraud.

FBI and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police investigators say the group worked together, stealing checks and IDs from cars and homes. The suspects would forge signatures on the checks and use them to purchase merchandise at stores including Belk, Target, TJ Maxx and Wal-Mart.

Investigators say Blakeney and Barber opened new bank accounts so they could deposit and cash stolen checks, which they made out to themselves. Investigators say the scheme, which started in January 2003, led to $100,000 in losses from individuals, retails stores and banks." Source: NewsChannel 36

What can you do ?

1. Don't leave stuff in your car that allows people to steal vital information.

2. Monitor your credit card and checking account statements every month VERY carefully.

3. Get ID theft insurance so you'll be notified by the insurance company that funny activity is happening with your accounts.

4. If you want to be really sure your credit identity is not stolen freeze your credit accounts at the big three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You can do that with a phone call or open an online account. It takes minutes. Then you can unfreeze your credit quickly for a fee of $10 or in some states for free if you are a senior or have a police report you filed of credit fraud. This would still not have worked for the scam in # 3 above because people willingly fell for the fraud!

5. Pray! Maybe this should be #1.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a better New Year to all of you!

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