Scams abound in our country – can we stop them?

Identity Theft, Tax scams and phone scamsIdentity theft, Tax scams, and phone scams… it looks like Uncle Sam is ready to play hardball with the perpetrators!

I have a dear friend who speaks often of how irritating it is, not to mention just a bit frightening, to receive on average two phone calls a day from people pretending to be IRS agents. Her husband takes the frustrating calls in stride, knowing them for what they are and pulling the perpetrators along with his own brand of humor – until they get the clue and hang up. I do know she got so tired of the calls she researched and found a place to “inform” authorities and is elated that just recently, the United States Department of Justice unsealed an indictment charging 61 people and various transnational entities involved as part of a rather large “organizational scheme.” Many people have been frustrated with the distraction of the calls… they got off easy!  The DOJ announced the “organization” has actually caused vulnerable Americans to lose millions of dollars.

Long story short… the criminal organization was transnational, which probably accounts for many non-English speaking representatives who victimized tens of thousand of persons in our communities. The scheme included 20 individuals arrested in the United States, as were 32 others—working from five call centers located in India; one other who is a U.S.-based defendant being held in custody with immigration authorities.

Let us pray the indictment and arrests demonstrate the DOJ is committed to consumers as they identify and prosecute individuals… sending a big message around the world that although we are deemed always at risk for identity theft and fraud, our governing bodies will remain vigilant in prosecuting fraud and identity theft… even on a transnational level when required. Our vulnerability is certainly exacerbated when modern criminals can so easily attack from within our borders… and just as easily from abroad. Let this be a lesson to us all to work tirelessly with authorities to provide evidence and build cases—willingly working with and involving law enforcement.

WASHINGTON D.C. (KLTV) reported, “Today’s actions will not only bring a sense of justice to the victims in this case, but this significant investigation will also help increase awareness of this type of fraud,” said Edge. “To potential victims, our message today is simple: U.S. government agencies do not make these types of calls, and if you receive one, contact law enforcement to report the suspected scam before you make a payment.”

I did find it surprising to know the investigation extended well beyond three years and sense the courage of those who were victimized to come forward—regardless the potential embarrassment or fear of potential retaliation of the India-based conspirators. Under the threat of arrest, imprisonment, and a litany of other unfavorable actions, the victims paid through prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, making it easy for the money to be liquidated and laundered through the network of U.S.-based co-conspirators who used fake names and identification and kept a portion of the funds for themselves to handle funds “transferred internationally outside our formal banking system.”

Many articles have been posted about this situation… each one telling another almost unbelievable story of the lengths to which the “fraudsters” went to bilk people of their funds. One tells of an 85-year-old victim who was extorted of $12,300 and another of a person in California, who was harassed over a period of 20 days, robbing the victim of $136,000—yes, $136,000! If you, too, happen to have had a similar experience, you are encouraged to contact the following:

TAX SCAMS

PHONE SCAMS

IDENTITY THEFT

I hope you have enjoyed this article; that it has made you think and reconsider just how cautious you must be: unfortunately, just short of being paranoid! What I want to effect with the Identity Theft articles is to impress upon my readers how easy it is for almost anyone to fall victim to these predators.  I also want to reiterate it you don’t have some sort of identity theft protection, the financial devastation could be huge. If you feel you want to read more Identity Theft articles, stories, and resources, click HERE.

As part of my insurance portfolio, I do offer an Identity Theft Protection Plan through my professional relationship with Legal Shield. If you would like to know more about this plan, I invite you to review my website by clicking HERE. You can make your purchase right from the website, or call me at 480 720 3600 to discuss any questions you may have about the product and services.

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years
http://www.lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com/
JanVitale@lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com
http://www.JanVitale.legalshieldassociate.com

Identity Theft: Craigslist and the FBI

Because identity theft is far too prevalent and because I promote an identity theft protection product, my reticular activator just goes crazy and I am seeing articles and posts everywhere! Recently, Jill Krasny, aIdentity theft word cloud writer for Credit.com published a guest post on the online version of TIME. Just when you think you have seen it all—something else crops up and Krasny’s article really turned my head… scammers on Craig’s List trapping innocent people looking for rental homes!

Honestly! Stop and think about how difficult it is—searching for rental homes in the first place—and now renters have to be skeptical of whether there is a landlord or an identity thief on the other end of the on-going communication. Krasny speaks to how “fraudsters” direct potential renters to a particular “trusted” site for a credit report, which they require before scheduling a tour of the home. Apparently, the quality of copywriting on the site is good, but the scam was uncovered when it was discovered the URL ran through several redirects before landing on a site existing only to steal personal information—and charge a fee for future credit reports.

Unfortunately, this kind of theft is difficult to counter and Craigslist did not immediately respond other than to advise users to never share personal information, refrain from renting or purchasing “sight-unseen,” and refuse background or credit checks until you have personally met with a potential landlord.

Although a landlord is entitled to know your creditworthiness, anyone who is credible will not make that requirement for a viewing of the property. Even they should understand the sensitive personal information contained in them, and appreciate your reticence to share it with a stranger. If they do not; don’t get set up for the possible nightmare of identity theft.

Another one that just makes my blood boil is the IRS/FBI scam! Constance Brinkley-Badgett, also a guest author for TIME, stirred up the pot in late June with her message to consumers, “Beware of this new scam!” The long and short of it is how phone scammers are promoting themselves as the FBI coming down on you for unpaid IRS obligations, in the hope of swindling you out of cash and/or personal information. This one has made it to the FBI field offices who are issuing warnings that “a phone scam that fakes the FBI’s name and actual telephone number on the recipient’s caller ID has recently occurred.” I cannot imagine I would be so dumb as to believe anyone who told me there was a “federal warrant out for their arrest, which will be thrown out in exchange for immediate payment,” but apparently many victims have been traumatized.

What I did like about this particular article is that it did not just report the matter, but encourages victims to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.IC3.gov.

What is so frightening about this particular scam is how much the caller already knows: the name, background, and personal cell phone number of the intended victim, and just how far-reaching the scam is in terms of who it targets.

Just for your edification, the FBI has clarified the agency never calls or emails people to demand money or threaten arrest! It also recommends you:

  • Are always suspicious of unsolicited phone calls.
  • Never give money or personal information to someone with whom you don’t have ties and did not initiate contact.
  • Trust your instincts: if an unknown caller makes you uncomfortable or says things that don’t sound right, hang up.
  • If you think you may have been a victim of this or similar scams, it’s a good idea to check your financial accounts, credit reports and credit scores frequently for signs of fraud, like unauthorized transactions or unfamiliar entries. Be sure to immediately address these issues by notifying the authorities and even considering a credit freeze. 

I hope you have enjoyed this article; that it has made you think and reconsider just how cautious you must be—unfortunately, just short of being paranoid!  What I want to effect with the Identity Theft articles in the newsletter is to impress upon my readers how easy it is for almost anyone to fall victim to these predators.

I also want to reiterate it you don’t have some sort of identity theft protection, the financial devastation could be huge. As part of my insurance portfolio, I do offer an Identity Theft Protection Plan through my professional relationship with Legal Shield. If you would like to know more about this plan, I invite you to review my website:

https://www.legalshield.com/hub/janvitale.

You can make your purchase right from the website, or call me at 480 720 3600 to discuss any questions you may have about the product and services.

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years
http://www.lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com/
JanVitale@lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com
http://www.JanVitale.legalshieldassociate.com

CLICK HERE FOR MORE Identity Theft Articles…

Identity Theft: Seniors and Holiday Seasons

Identity Theft Seniors and HolidaysIdentity theft surrounds us and threatens our senior population. As we head into the holiday season and think about wrapping up the year-end, I want to draw attention to the segment of our society—which is more financially exploited— during a time that should be filled with sharing and giving. The financial “abuse” of seniors is not widely publicized, for myriad reasons, but one rarely addressed is how seniors are robbed not only as their means of subsistence but the self-esteem and trust that are eroded when a relative, friend, caretaker or scam artist manages to drain away savings, credit status and assets it took them years to establish.

Seniors are highly susceptible to criminals, who believe this population has higher cash reserves, but are also far less likely to check their financial statements carefully, or with any frequency. This diminished level of detection increases the target risk; thieves believing seniors are less aware of identity theft and current scams – making it easy for unscrupulous people to exploit them.

Identity Theft and SeniorsIf you have a loved one who is a senior, have frequent conversations with them to ensure they are protected from anyone being able to:

  1. Use their personal information to establish credit.
  2. Have access to checks and credit cards and using them without permission…
    • to drain bank accounts,
    • rack up credit card debt,
    • secure loans,
    • obtain medical care, or
    • commit other crimes with the victim’s identity.
  3. Deceive seniors to sign contractual obligations such as a Will or Power of Attorney.

You can counsel them to be aware of the ways identity thieves work to obtain their personal data; seniors tend to…

  1. More frequently have their wallets, purses or other vital documents stolen. Social Security and Medicare cards make them prime targets for caretakers, relatives, friends, and devious thieves.
  2. Not “shred” documents containing their personal information, leaving them more vulnerable to dumpster divers.
  3. Be more trusting and/or feel threatened by thieves in guise as insurance companies, financial services, charities and governmental agencies, and too quickly share vital information over the phone.

Phone scams, online fraud, mail theft… each begins with the elderly person placing confidence and trust in someone. Have the difficult conversations to keep them aware, and work with them frequently enough they are not so vulnerable and at risk.

Our seniors are reluctant to report financial abuse or identity theft; their level of incapacity may be why… or they may just suffer the stigma attached to becoming a victim. Many are afraid if they report the incident they may lose their independence or be found to be incapable of managing their affairs; others feel embarrassed and responsible for even falling victim. Identity thieves count on this reality… and plan to take advantage of the opportunities it creates. Communicating with your loved ones increases their ability to be a less attractive target—at so many levels, and small changes will help protect their identities and prevent any kind of financial abuse/identity theft.

If you suspect that you or a senior you know may be a victim of financial exploitation, please use the resources below for assistance.

  1. Free annual credit report, call toll free 1-877-322-8228 or go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
  2. Department of Justice – Elder Justice Initiative: https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/find-support-elder-abuse
  3. Department of Health & Human Services Administration on Aging abuse hotline toll-free 1-800-677-1116.
  4. Arizona residents: https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/support/resources/az?state=AZ

The information in this article should not be used in lieu of legal advice, and I encourage you to consider an identity theft insurance product through my website: https://www.legalshield.com/hub/janvitale or call me at 480 720 3600

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years
http://www.lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com/
JanVitale@lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com
http://www.JanVitale.legalshieldassociate.com

MORE on IDENTITY THEFT… click here

Mended Little Hearts of Phoenix

Arizona charities are just one of the ways I am proud to serve my community. Sharing with others the various charities throughout the Valley is one small way I can participate and bring an increased awareness to encourage others to do the same.

Mended Little Hearts of PhoenixI recently met Angel Olvera at a networking event and wanted to share with you what he does through Mended Little Hearts of Phoenix, where they believe that “Little Hearts Hold Big Hopes.”

The organizations bring families together to inspire hope, healing, and awareness through a variety of services and programs.

Educational Programs: 

Speakers are invited to meetings to discuss topics relevant to the CHD Community (Congenital heart defects) such as:

  • feeding issues
  • nutrition
  • IEP’s and 504 plans for school

Group Programs: 

Each month Mended Little Hearts of Phoenix hosts a program at the Ronald McDonald House (the Roanoke DR location)… to provide invaluable peer-to-peer interaction and create a setting for families to make personal connections with each other.  The meetings also provide a place for children with heart defects to meet other children like them, with familiar scars… and know that they are not alone.  Check the organization’s Events Page for details on monthly programs and upcoming events.

Annual Events:  

Annual Events such as its Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Fair, Halloween Party, and Summer Family Bowling and CPR Certification Training serve as a perfect forum to spread CHD Awareness and Advocacy in the community.  Mended Little Hearts of Phoenix also holds an Annual Holiday Party in December in which heart families can enjoy each others company and kids can have fun!

Thank YOU! Mended Little Hearts of Phoenix for all that you do!

 

Will Justice Be Served in Banner Health Data Breach?

Will there be justice for Arizona Communities, and patients of Banner Health for the egregious and negligent breach of contract to protect their personal information from fraud and identity theft?

Taking justice to the top…

Just how far would you be able to personally take a service provider through the justice system if you feel they are responsible for identity theft and its subsequent damage to your financial and personal well-being… because you felt the company failed to exercise prudent and reasonable care in protecting your information?

Media headlines are full of breaking news on data breach events, and unfortunately, a Pinal County woman found herself in Banner Health, where she, of course, provided extensive personal and financial information as the normal course of doing business with the huge medical conglomerate.

She is now part of a class-action complaint against Banner Health following its announcement hackers had broken its security features, compromising the personal information of more than three million patients. The complainants were exposed not only to heightened risk of identity theft and fraudulent activity, they also ask the Court to consider the economic damages, of which the purchase of credit monitoring services are included

Is the burden ours to claim?

Identity Theft, Banner HealthDoes this situation mean we have to complete due diligence on each service provider we use, making sure the company employs security protocols to detect any questionable or unauthorized network activity? Do we have to have some sort of confirmation its system can provide timely and adequate notice of data breaches and can commit to the contractual promise to protect our personal information?

Starting August 3, 2106, physicians and other patients took up the torch to find some resolution for the breach…you may want to follow this suit; it may set a new standard for those holding the personal information of patients/consumers. You may also want to think and reconsider just how cautious you must be: unfortunately, just short of being paranoid! What I want to effect with the Identity Theft articles is to impress upon my readers how easy it is for almost anyone to fall victim to these predators.

I also want to reiterate it you don’t have some sort of identity theft protection, the financial devastation could be huge. As part of my insurance portfolio, I do offer an Identity Theft Protection Plan through my professional relationship with Legal Shield. If you would like to know more about this plan, I invite you to review my website by clicking HERE… You can make your purchase right from the website, or call me at 480 720 3600 to discuss any questions you may have about the product and services.

Also, if you want to brush up on your knowledge of Identity Theft, you are invited to browse through all the tips, tools and support available to you by clicking HERE.

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years
http://www.lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com/
JanVitale@lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com
http://www.JanVitale.legalshieldassociate.com