Thursday, February 26, 2009

Supreme Court and ID Theft

This is a very interesting new development regarding ID Theft. Pay Attention!

High Court takes up ID theft law

WASHINGTON ˆ During oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday, the justices tried to figure out just who Congress intended to punish with its new federal identity theft law.

Here is the key question;

Was the statute meant to boost the sentence of anyone who knowingly uses false identification information, or must a defendant know that information belongs to someone else?

The statute in question, U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1), tacks an additional two years onto the sentence of anyone who "during and in relation to any felony violation enumerated in subsection (c), knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person."

Subsection (c) includes a host of felonies, from embezzlement and wire fraud to violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

But just what the word "knowingly" means is far from clear. And the answer could have wide implications for the law federal prosecutors have used in hundreds of immigration violation cases in the last year alone.

The defendant in Flores-Figueroa v. U.S. , Mexican citizen Ignacio Carlos Flores-Figueroa, worked illegally at a steel plant using forged Social Security and alien registration cards he had purchased.

His employer became suspicious of the documents and contacted federal authorities, who found that the documents listed Social Security and alien registration numbers that had been issued to other people.

Flores-Figueroa pleaded guilty to charges of misuse of immigration documents and illegal entry. After a bench trial, he was also convicted of violating the federal identity theft statute, although the government presented no evidence that Flores-Figueroa knew that the numbers belonged to an actual person.

The 8th Circuit upheld the conviction , and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

At oral argument, defense attorney Kevin K. Russell, a partner at the Washington, D.C. firm of Howe & Russell, admitted that it is possible to read the statute as forbidding only the knowing use of a false document.

"We don't claim the government's [interpretation] is grammatically impossible," Russell said. "We are saying that the most natural reading" is that the perpetrator must know the information belongs to an actual person.

"Suppose someone buys an identification card [that] looks like it could be real [but] he isn't sure?" asked Justice Samuel Alito, Jr.

"I don't think simply having a number on a card rises [to] the level of knowledge," Russell said.

Toby J. Heytens, the assistant to the Solicitor General, argued that the statute was meant to protect victims of identity theft ˆ whether or not the offender knew who they were or if they existed.

"There are no victimless violations" of the statute, he argued.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. wasn't convinced that the same statute that applies to stealing a Social Security card from a purse should apply if "it just so happens that the number you picked out of the air belongs to someone else."

It's not going to matter "to the person whose identity" was accidentally stolen, Heytens replied.

Justice Antonin Scalia wondered if the rule of lenity required giving the defendant the edge.

"If [the statute] is ambiguous, the tie goes to the defendant," Scalia said.

When Heytens asserted that the rule of lenity doesn't apply here, Roberts noted the Court's decision in U.S. v. Hayes , handed down just the day before, in which the Court ruled that any ambiguity in the Federal Gun Control Act required a ruling in the defendant's favor under the rule of lenity.

"Is it time to reconsider the Court's ruling in Hayes?" Roberts asked, drawing laughter.

A decision is expected later this term.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Old Phones Are a Risk To YOu

If you've read our books you already know this but here is more information on what to do before you sell or donate a cell phone. From the Wall Street Journal

Thinking of donating or selling the old cellphones stashed in your desk? Before sending them off, be sure to permanently clear the phones of sensitive data -- which could go beyond phone numbers to include passwords, account numbers and medical information.

Commanding a cellphone to erase certain things only deletes the references to the data's location, warns the Federal Trade Commission. You need a more thorough cleaning to remove the actual information.

Start by removing any memory cards from your phone. Then reset your phone to its factory settings; the process varies by phone but can involve changing your personal-identification number or reprogramming the phone through your computer.

Check your phone manual or call your service provider for details.

Once your phone is clean, you may be able to sell it, or donate it to a nonprofit or charity group that may refurbish or reuse it.

The Environmental Protection Agency has information on recycling devices at A Postal Service initiative lets people in select cities mail back small electronics free. (See

If a phone is too tattered for these options, check with your sanitation agency about ways to dispose of it that may keep it out of a landfill.

I have made a sculpture out of cell phones. Pretty cool and it glows in the dark when plugged in. Makes one heckuva night light and gets a conversation going in 5 seconds!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Case of Esther Reed

Here is the story of Esther Reed, a lesson in the cleverness of ID thieves.

See my video commentary -

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 |
CBC News

A U.S. federal judge has sentenced a Montana woman to more than four years in prison for stealing a missing South Carolina woman's identity and using it to attend Columbia University in New York City.

Esther Reed, 30, told the judge in Greenville, S.C., on Wednesday that she pretended to be Brooke Henson to try to start a new life to escape a dysfunctional family. She said she meant no harm. The imposter was arrested last February near Chicago and pleaded guilty in August to charges of federal fraud and identity theft, offences that could have resulted in a sentence of up to 47 years in prison and $1 million US in fines.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Herlong sentenced Reed to 51 months in prison and ordered her to pay $125,000 in restitution to cover student loan debt.

Investigators said Reed hasn't spoken to her family in Seattle since 1999 — a year after her mother died of cancer and the same year the other woman went missing — but they don't believe she had anything to do with Henson's disappearance.

Prosecutors alleged that Reed, who studied criminology and psychology at the Ivy League school, stole or fabricated as many as five identities over a nine-year period.

She also conned her way into California State University at Fullerton and Harvard in Boston, they said.

Reed's lawyer argued her client — who dropped out of high school while living in the small Montana town of Townsend — suffers from a number of mental ailments, including depression, due to an "emotionally abusive family member."
So, clever people always find a new way!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Here we go again", Ronad Reagan

Didn't see this one in your local newspaper or on TV? The media hardly covers these cases anymore because they are so frequent and there seems to be so little we can do to stop ID theft and criminal behavior by hackers.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009. “Up to 2,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees in metro Atlanta could have had their personal information —- including names and Social Security numbers —- stolen by a hacker who broke into one of the agency’s computers. The agency, which operates a number of facilities in North Georgia, including a regional headquarters in College Park, declined comment Tuesday about the number of Georgia employees affected in the breach. Nationwide, about 45,000 FAA employees who were on the agency rolls as of February 2000 could be affected, the FAA said.” Atlanta Constitution
One of the real problems facing us is that personal information is now stored everywhere on the Internet. Barak Obama and his amazing e-campaign for President has millions of e-mail addresses and other information. Federal, state, and local government agencies have information somewhere in electronic files often accessible from the Internet with weak passwords, no encryption, computers with outdated anti-virus software operated by people who barely know where the "on" button is, sloppy employees who carry the information around on laptops and thumb drives, and other grave threats.

And, we want to put the last remaining massive base of information that IS NOT ON THE NET but kept in file folders and scribbled hand written form on the Internet.

What information is that?

YOUR medical records and the records of every other one of us 300 milli0n Americans!

Do YOU think that information will be secure?

Do you think that hackers worldwide are not drooling to start attacking those massive "Gold Mines" of information?!

Look out! Here it comes!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Employers offering ID Theft Services as a Voluntary Benefit. Finally!!

Below, I share a small portion of a recent article written in Business Insurance Magazine. You will find in this article additional statistics and quotes that backup our findings in "The Silent Crime" in regards to more employers and employees today are seeking identity theft services as a voluntary benefit.
The article also shares a new survey that states more people see identity theft as more then just a financial problem, they actually see it as a legal issue. As our subscribers know we have been trying to educate the consumer for many years of this fact, in our books, on our blog, and in our workshops around the world.
Maybe collectively we are all starting to make a difference.

"Continue to educate the masses one at a time and we will make a difference."
Employers offering ID theft protection as voluntary benefit
Legal service plans also becoming more common choices
Reacting to national crime statistics and marketplace demand, many group life insurers and legal service plans are offering identity theft protection as a voluntary employee benefit, experts say.
ID theft protection began turning up in voluntary benefits plans about five years ago. It's typically bundled with other types of coverage or offered as a rider, but it also may be sold as a stand-alone product.

The Society for Human Resource Management's 2008 Employee Benefits Survey showed that 24% of employers offered legal assistance among other voluntary benefits ...

In a soon-to-be-released national consumer survey, 34% of employees cited identity theft as a top personal finance event in which they were personally concerned from a legal standpoint.

"When the economy goes bad, typically we see crime go up," said Michael McCoy, a consultant to Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa, and co-author of "The Silent Crime: What You Need to Know About Identity Theft." The thieves are getting smarter, too, he said. Instead of robbing banks, they're hacking into computers and they're grabbing purses for more than the cash. "You might have a hundred bucks in there, but I just made several thousand from stealing your identity," Mr. McCoy said.

Providers cited prices for employees ranging from lows of $8 to $16 per employee per month to highs of $23 to $26, depending on the employer's size, demographics and range of services in the policy. The higher-priced products often include other legal services, such as will preparation. While most of the business is employee-pay only, some employers share the cost.

full article found at:

If you have an article you would like us to share with others or want us to comment on please send me an email at:
Also, if you have written an article and would like us to publish it on our blog or assist you with having it published in your local markets please email me at the above email.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Cost of A Data Breach -

In this videocast I discuss with you what the real cost to a business if they fail to secure their customers information. This is done with a videocast, please join me at: WATCH VIDEO BLOG AT ---

You can find a copy of the article I discuss in my videocast by clicking on the following link -

Thank you for joining me on the video and I will talk with you next week.

Michael McCoy

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