Comments and Trackbacks
This site has been receiving incredible amounts of spam in the comments and trackbacks. I decided to turnoff trackbacks and turn on approval before accepting comments. That means comments may take some time to appear on the site. Sorry for any inconvenience.
Identity theft victim left with $1 million liability
Identity theft claiming more and more victims
For Audra Schmierer, it began last January with a letter from the Internal Revenue Service claiming she owed $15,000 in back taxes on income earned in 2003.
Schmierer, 32, thought a mistake had been made. She hadn't worked since giving birth to her son in 2000. The next day, however, another letter arrived from the IRS — this one stating she owed more than $32,000 in back taxes from 2002. And so began a long nightmare that eventually saw the IRS accusing Schmierer of owing $1 million in back taxes on income she never earned.
Inside Bay Area
Three More States Add Laws on Data Breaches
Companies struggling to keep up with a patchwork of state laws related to data privacy and information security have three more to contend with, as a result of new security-breach notification laws that went into effect in Illinois, Louisiana and New Jersey on Jan 1.
Boston Man Charged With Ebay Identity Theft Scheme
Massachusetts authorities have made an arrest in a hacking incident that resulted in dozens of eBay customers having their credit card data stolen
Missing data recovered by ABN AMRO Mortgage
Some Bay Area ABN AMRO Mortgage customers this week are receiving the digital age's dreaded midnight knock on the door: A letter stating a data tape containing their Social Security numbers and other personal information had been lost by a courier.
from Merc News
Illinois Poised to Become First State to Ban Sale of Phone Records
January 9, 2006 - On Friday, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced that he wants to ban the unauthorized sale of phone records within his state. The practice, know in the industry as "pretexting", occurs when someone pretending to be the phone company’s customer calls the phone company and gains access to all of the call information available for the actual customer. Surprisingly, no state currently outlaws this practice. And disturbingly, this lack of regulation has seen the birth of a new cottage industry that allows nearly anyone the purchase the phone records of any person they desire.
H&R Block's Blunders Put Consumers at Risk of ID Theft
Financial giant H&R Block's TaxCut software is designed to help users avoid nasty surprises when calculating their taxes. But many past and present customers of Block were surprised in a different way recently, as they received unsolicited copies of TaxCut in packages that prominently displayed their Social Security number (SSN) on the outside.
The recipient's SSN is embedded in a string of numbers printed on the shipping label, and many confused individuals had received a notice about the error long before they received the package. Some haven't received any package at all.
HeightMax and similar "scams"
***UPDATED 12/12/06. SCROLL FOR UPDATE***
I usually focus on identity theft and financial account fraud. But I couldn't help but hear about HeightMax, yet another consumer supplement product. Seth Godin, a prominent blogger, posted about it today. There's nothing new here, people have been hawking "snake-oil" type miracle cures and fixes for, I would guess, centuries. In recent times, I'm sure we've all heard of Focus Factor. It's a supplement (a pill) that's supposed to help you think clearer, focus better, etc. Yep, they got in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission.
HeightMax' claim to fame is that its mix of vitamins, minerals and whatever else will help you grow taller. Once again, if it sounds too good to be true, and you have to pay for it, it usually is. When do products like HeightMax cross the line into unlawful claims? That's usually for the Federal Trade Commission to decide, which they only do when enough people complain. But HeightMax does shows ScamSafe's 4 signs of a scam:
(1) Questionable testimonials. Lots of people on their web site or brochure claim it's a great product but you can't possibly find out who they are. HeightMax says it's founder is William Thompson, PhD. Who is he? I did a Google search on "William Thompson" and got 345,000 results. Think it's a coincidence they chose such a common name?
(2) Tough to reach. Most scams make it impossible to reach them easily and usually hide their address. Often you don't find a telephone number or mangement's names on the web site. (Be warned though, lots of the top scammers use fake phone numbers and fake names to appear legit).
(3) Claims that are remarkable but truly impossible to back up. Super low interest rates, no fees, or a pill that will make you grow are just a few examples.
(4) SOMETHING THAT PROVIDES EASY RESULTS. Want to get respect, lots of dates, or beat up the bully? Take a pill and...grow tall. It's easy. So people pay the $59 for a bottle of HeightMax. The real winners in life had to work hard (although they usually make it look easy). Please be careful everyone. Believe it or not, it's super easy for a bad person to set up a business that takes advantage of people. And usually it's hard for them to get caught or punished. They know the system.
********** Update: The FTC has nailed the scammer behind Heightmax.
Fashion model charged with identity theft
SAUGUS, Calif. (AP) — Fashion model Beverly Peele has been charged with identity theft for allegedly buying about $10,000 worth of housewares, appliances and furniture with someone else's credit card numbers.
Data breach at Ford Motor Company--70,000 employees
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - A computer with files that have the names and Social Security numbers of approximately 70,000 current and former employees of Ford Motor Company was stolen, the company reported.
An investigation into the theft -- which is believed to have occurred in late November -- is ongoing, and Ford has notified the FBI, Secret Service and Federal Identity Theft Task Force.
Identity theft services
There are quite a few services out there popping up in the identity theft space. The credit monitoring services have been around for a while. Now there’s a number of services that claim to help prevent or restore your identity by doing background checks or giving you report based on pulling data from a variety of sources. These services tend to cost a lot and you have to pay up front. And the data they use for their reports nearly always comes from free sources. You’re paying them to pull it in and present it to you on a web site. I’ve seen these new services can cost $99 or more. And you have to pay up-front for so your risk is high.
I tested one of these services on my own dime. It cost me $44.95 and what I got was not worth it in my opinion. The report had almost nothing in it and it was very expensive. I’m not going to do a comprehensive review of these ID theft resolution or background check services here or even call them out by name, just be careful folks. Review their web site carefully and take a deep breath and think before you sign up. If the company seems to be hiding behind their web site (they make it a challenge to contact them) it may be for a reason—they don’t want to deal with you or your complaints.
There are inexpensive and free ways to protect yourself and we’re going tell you about how you can do that here in the future.
All the best for a safe and protected 2006!