Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Use of chip-based rather than mag-stripe credit cards could reduce identity theft

Byron Acohido has a front page story in USA Today Christmas Eve warning “Target’s breach won’t be the last”.  The main reason, he writes, is that credit cards in the United States, in widely expanding use with retailers, taxis, and even cell phone payment systems, depend on magnetic stripe systems that can be copied.  In Europe, credit cards have chips which are much harder to replicate.
The link for the story is here
The story is important because it implies that the use of magnetic strip cards, very expensive to replace, facilitates identity theft, could place bank accounts at risk, and certainly places employee reputations at risk in jobs where employees are considered responsible for their own scores, regardless of fault.  The new bill limiting the use of credit checks in employment could be relevant here.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Could phishing emails for credit cards you don't have be a sign of identity theft?

Recently, I’ve gotten what appear to be spam or phishing emails from banks with whom I do not have accounts or credit cards.

These are often European banks (like the Royal Bank of Scotland), come with attachments, and have obvious spoofs (the sender can be determined to not be from the bank).  That last observation is not true of all spoofs. 
The question would come up, is this just identity theft?  Probably not in this case, because there are such obvious signs of spoofing. But real identity theft would mean that the institution “thinks” that I have an account with it, bills me, and then reports non-payment to credit bureaus and hires collection agencies. 
I have proposed NCOA as a way to control identity theft, because it would entail consumer notification.  In some postings I have said that email notification could suffice, but because of the possibility of phishing, it probably should not.  Notification of pins and opening accounts should probably start with physical mail.
I’ve discussed the Target breach situation on my Internet Safety blog. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Equal Employment for All Act would ban most credit report use in ordinary employment

The Equal Employment for All Act of 2013. HR 645,  would make it illegal in many jobs for employers to use credit reports (including “investigate consumer reports”) to deny employment to applicants in jobs except those requiring security clearances, jobs with certain government agencies, or managerial positions in financial institutions.  The Congress link for the bill is here. It was introduced by Steve Cohen (D-TN) in Feb. 2013.
CNN Money has a story on the bill by Blake Ellis today here. The practice of employer credit checks when not relevant to a job is thought to perpetuate unemployment, especially for the long term unemployed who are caught in a vicious circle.
Further, many credit reports have inaccurate information because of identity theft of simply reporting errors.  In the past, many employers have viewed associates as having absolute responsibility for their own credit history.
In the 1980’s Chilton Credit Reporting in Dallas required a credit check of everyone working there.  No problems turned up for me, but in 2000, a questionable debt for an expired credit card (from 1980) showed up with a company that bought bad debt.  When Chilton was purchased by TRW in 1989, the requirement that employees pass a credit check was stopped.
Some observers note that employers use credit checks to verify previous employment or addresses.
Will employers instead heighten their concern over “online reputation”?  Even that can easily fall to mistaken identity.  

Monday, December 09, 2013

"Foreclosure trolls" follow the example set by patent and copyright trolls, perhaps: a new kind of debt-collection?

We may have copyright trolls and patent trolls, but the Washington Post is reporting on what looks like a “foreclosure troll”, a company named Aeon Financial, which purchases tax liens in Washington DC and some other jurisdictions and then “shakes down” distressed homeowners for extra fees.
The Post story Monday by Michael Saliah and Debbie Cenziper is here
The Post calls it a “debt-collecting machine

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ABC advises consumers not to apply for department store cards during holiday shopping season, too easy for identity thieves

ABC World News Tonight, on Wednesday November 27, 2013, gave a brief report on particular dangers of identity theft on Black Friday.

The thrust of the advice was not to sign up for store-specific credit cards, which are often pushed in order to obtain even lower prices, during the holidays.  Use regular credit cards if you have them.  I wrote about a misadventure with Macy’s here Jan. 23, 2013.  
There's a story on my main blog today about an unusual debt collection practice involving a TOS agreement that imposes a "fee" if someone writes a negative review about the vendor.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bank branch move jeopardizes safe deposit box security

Recently I noted that my Bank of America branch in Arlington VA was moving.  I went inside yesterday to check on the safe-deposit box, and was told that the box was supposed to be closed Nov. 8. 
The Bank will have boxes in the new facility, as the move happens over the weekend, but in the meantime did not really have a solution for consumers to secure their papers and valuables should they be away.  They did not have enough available boxes in nearby branches. 
They said they had sent out a letter, so maybe I should have opened the mail.  I get too much junk that is meaningless.  They did have a wrong phone number.  Maybe they did have boxes for the people who closed up in time. “Would’a Could’a Should’a”.
I got a box immediately at a nearby Wells Fargo branch and moved everything. The point is that a safe-deposit box is part of someone’s home and personal security strategy.  It needs to be there all the time, and not suddenly closed. 
What did happen is that the landlord for the building did not want to renew the lease and forced the bank to move two blocks away.   But customers are chased out and possibly put in jeopardy.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Obama administration to clamp down on companies that buy consumer debt and pursue consumers for debt they don't owe

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is planning to implement new rules regulation debt collectors. 
The biggest problems seem to occur with companies that buy the debt of other companies on pennies on the dollar and pursue consumers.  Apparently these companies have not been regulated as well as companies that recover debt as third party collectors.  I worked for one of these latter companies in St. Paul MN in 2003 (RMA, or Risk Management Associates) and found it was well run.  Other competitors in the Twin Cities then included Tri-Advantage, and Allied Interstate.  RMA was very good about following the law (FDCPA, or Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) and allowing consumers to file formal disputes.

I could mention a book from Paladin by Max Edison, "Beat the Bill Collector: How to Obtain Freedom from your Debt" (1997).  I know the person and met him after moving to Minneapolis in 1997 (through the Libertarian Party of Minnesota) and he does described what it is like to work for one of these companies in suburban Minneapolis along I-494.  He also authored "Financial Freedom: How to Work Less and Live More" (1999). 
In 2000, I had checked my own credit report and found a 1980 bill, expanded to about $600, from an old Chemical Bank purchase that had been lost.  I called the company in NYC (National Credit Systems) holding it, and it immediately threatened to sue me.  I did pay, but I was  not given the chance to dispute it or find out if it was valid, and had fallen through the cracks in a relocation.  It had not surfaced in 1987 when Chilton, in Dallas, did credit checks on all its employees. 
The news story in the Washington Post by Danielle Douglas, p. A16, link here
There is also a problem with debtors being sued directly by law firms.
The news story suggests that people are chased for debts that they do not owe, because of identity theft or because of incorrect systems processing, sometimes for very old bills after bank mergers.  

Apparently this is a much bigger problem for debt that has been sold.

Medical and dental collections is also a big separate issue, which may only slowly come under control if Obamacare finally really “works”.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Facebook removes ability to keep Timelines, profiles out of search engines; a possible opening for cybercrime?

There are some new stories on Internet privacy and safety worthy of note.  The Guardian reports that Facebook has removed a privacy setting that prevents people from having their Timeline looked up by name.  It was first removed from people who hadn’t used the setting in the past year, and it is now removed for everyone.  The Daily Mail story is here.
There would be some individuals who for business or other personal reasons do not want anyone unauthorized to find their profiles.
But Facebook normally says that some basic information on a Profile page is available to everyone.  If you look at any typical non-friended person, it’s quite considerable, even though none of it is PII other than the real name (which is required by Facebook policy).  Employers can discern a lot from most public profiles. 
Could profile information alone contribute to identity theft?

Update: (later Friday):

Electronic Frontier Foundation writes that there is a workaround to protect yourself from unwanted searching of your Facebook profile, link here

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Health care and insurance companies on the hook if they don't encrypt PII on laptops; what about working from home?

A major health care provider in Illinois is the object of a class action law suit after four of its laptops or PC’s were stolen.  The problem was that the data on the hard drives was unencrypted.

That means anyone could use the PII on the four computers from Advocate Health Care.

There is a story Sept. 10 Sophos (the anti-virus provider allied with Webroot) by Paul Ducklin here
When I worked for a life insurance company, mostly in the 1990s, it was common for employees to do production support from home, and some, including me, often used personally owned laptops, which in the environment at the time sometimes offered legal advantages.  That’s not so now. Obviously this would be a risk.

ABC has reported that much medical identity theft seems to report in India because so much work is offshored. 

A few companies offer customer service jobs to people to work at home with their own computers, and I wonder if the PII data on home computers is encrypted.  This sounds like a new security wrinkle that can affect the home job market.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

New scam sifts personal information from prospective renters before showing apartments

NBC4 in Washingtin DC is reporting a scam where someone posts a below market apartment or home for rent on Criagslist without giving the address, and then demands very detailed personal information from the applicant before the apartment will even be shown.  The personal information is used to make bank account withdrawals. 

Legitimate rentals don’t take applicant information until showing a unit.  

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Credit card skimming at gas pumps seems to explode as a problem on the road

ABC News is reporting on a large increase of “skimming” at credit card readers at gas station pumps, news story here. This was reported on the “Lookout” show from ABC Nightline Sept. 4 and on World News Tonight.

The problem has gotten so pervasive that some security experts recommend paying inside.  It is impossible to tell by inspection if a skimmer has been placed in a gas station card reader. 

I personally have not encountered any unauthorized charges (except from cards stolen in a street snatch at the DC Metro) since 1995!
It is also safer to use credit cards, where unauthorized charges are easier to reverse, than debit cards.

Indoor reading machines, where a clerk is present, should be safer.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

New kind of burglary motivated only by identity theft

The “girls” (that’s what my mother would have called them) on the NBC Today show today (Thursday August 22, 2013) reported some new schemes for identity theft.

One is that burglars sometimes come into homes and photograph person records and leave without a trace, particularly homes without security systems and without high cylinder locks (and have only older locks that can be picked easily by “bump keys” – as was demonstrated about five years ago by the character “Kate” or “Katrina” on “Days of our Lives”). 

Another ruse is advertising vacation rentals, and either then breaking into them, or using the personal information collected for identity theft. 

Still another ruse is to offer services to put people on “do not call” lists.

The show advised carrying personal hotspots when you travel, rather than using hotel Internet (although https should make most activity reasonably safe in a reputable place).  It also advised against posting details of your trip online until you get back home. (An iPad can serve as a hotspot, at least with Verizon.)  

ABC “World News Tonight” Wednesday (Aug. 21) ran a report indicating that most burglaries happen during the day time on weekdays.  For vacationers, it recommended irregular timer lights and devices that mimic the sound and light effects of television sets to come on and off.   It also showed how modern home security systems can be monitored from smart phones – but that requires adding security cameras to your system.   

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Some low-income consumers have trouble getting "good" checks cleared or approved because of data broker mistakes

Michelle Singletary has a story in the Sunday Washington Post Business Section, Aug. 18, “Keeping consumer-reporting agencies in check”, link (website url) here.

The story focuses specifically on personal check clearing, and the possibility that someone’s check will be denied because of incorrectly stored information from other retailers.  It talks about a settlement against Certegy Check Services by the FTC.

Some consumers have no other way to pay but by check, and consumers were required to make unreasonable efforts to correct information with the data broker. 
Some retailers have the ability to clear checks electronically on site, which would eliminate problems.

I worked for Chilton (now Experian) in Dallas in the 1980's, and one of its subsidiaries was Telechek, which approved checks at cash registers.   

Friday, August 09, 2013

Crooks using Caller-ID to spoof police, threaten people into emptying bank accounts

USA Today is reporting on a scam where crooks call people and demand payments for supposed debts and manipulate caller-ID by hacking to make it appear that police are calling.

Steph Solis has a story Friday August 9 2013, and Byron Acohido has a related story online, March 15, where caller-ID spoofers try also to get directly into bank accounts, link here
The problem may be confused with abuses by the debt collection industry, but this takes “collection” to a new low, probably for money that isn’t even owed.

Callers make repeated calls and claim to have bench warrants, and recipients may fear police.  The proper procedure should be to call the daytime non-emergency number for a local police department, which will deny that the call is theirs and then investigate. 

Monday, August 05, 2013

Should consumers buy identity theft insurance? Where?

Should consumers buy identity theft protection?

Many consumers may find that in many states it is offered as a rider for normally property or renters coverage.  It also may be offered with umbrella coverage, common with auto policies.  I have wondered about the business wisdom (and sustainability) of combining normal property damage and liability coverage with “non physical” risks like identity theft and defamation liability (for Internet use), because they would be so difficult to underwrite and price as technology rapidly changes.
The “Nextadvisor” site has a comparison chart and various write-ups and sublinks for companies that offer identity theft protection, here

I’ve seen a number of tweets about this in the past few days.

Lifelock is on the list, and I think it comes with AOL membership if you want to use it.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

One of nation's larges debt collection agencies fined heavily by FTC

One of the US’s biggest debt collectors, Expert Global Solutions, has agreed to pay a large fine, though small in proportion to its revenues, to the FTC for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and various rules. A typical media story is by Matt Brownell in Daily Finance, here.

The illegal practices included leaving messages on answering machines that others might pick up, and making illegal calls to third parties tangentially connected to debtors.

I worked for a debt collection agency, RMA, near St. Paul MN in 2003 for a while, and the company was quite strict about following the rules.

However, earlier, another competing company nearby, Tri-Advantage, had not hired me because the manager felt I could not be aggressive enough in manipulating debtors.  

Monday, July 01, 2013

Identity thieves spoof landline and cell numbers on individual caller-id's

ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington has a story about a woman in Maryland whose home phone number was spoofed on a caller ID system.  She started receiving about 40 return calls a day from callers who said her number appeared on her ID.

Apparently this can happen to a land number or cell number.

It wasn’t really clear how this could be effective, but identity thieves use sender spoofing for impersonation when they want to steal personal information.

The link for the story is here.

I’ve have started keep a log of robo calls as they pop up on Comcast, possibly to complain later to the FTC.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Debt collectors (hired by banks) go after deficiency balances from foreclosures from 2008 crisis

Banks and mortgage companies (and guaranty “companies” like Freddie Mac) are mounting an effort to pursue some persons who lost homes to foreclosure during the 2007-2009 housing crash for “deficiency balances”, particularly when they believe particular homeowners have “walked” from homes where they could have continued paying, or when they believe former homeowners may have the means to pay.
The story by Kimbriell Kelly appears on the front page of the Washington Post Sunday June 16, 2013, here.
Usually the financial institutions hire debt collectors to pursue borrowers, and sometimes sue.  Dent collection companies can form units specializing in these kinds of collections, just as with medical. 

But this was a problem in earlier crises, such as when real estate in Texas crashed in the late 1980's after oil prices went down, helping to precipitate the savings and loan crisis.  In those days, people sometimes could be responsible for deficiencies after unqualified “simple assumption” sales that are no longer allowed under FHA rules. 
James Wiedemer had covered all this in his 1992 book “A Homeowner’s Guide to Foreclosure: How to Protect  your Home and your Rights” (Dearborn Financial Press in Michigan). 

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Ten years ago, I started my own stint as a debt collector

About ten years ago, I started a two-month stint working as a debt collector for RMA (Risk Management Associates), near the Minneapolis-St Paul airport.  In August, 2003, I would return and come back to northern Virginia for family reasons.

I started the day after Memorial Day. The first day was “just” seven hours and started with training, that lasted a week.  On the second day, we had a quiz, on which we had to make 100% before we were admitted to the floor.  On the fourth day, we started practice collections.

I actually entered the floor (quite expansive and a real sight)  the following Monday, and worked on the ATT account, on small balance debtors.   The whole experience is still fresh in my mind. It was advantageous to be located in the Midwest, in central time zone.  We rotated shifts, sometimes going until 8 PM at night. 

I recall someone who told me her life went downhill after 9/11, as if we wouldn’t know what that was.  Another wanted me to pay his $65 debt personally!

The job was to create “urgency”, to settle by with check-by-phone, or Western Union.  It seems passé now. 

In early 2004, I applied for an was turned down for a job as a collector for a company run by a law firm in Rockville (and Frederick) MD.  It would have meant a long commute.   

Sunday, May 12, 2013

New York Times reports on "catch 22" for bad credit and unemployment

The New York Times is continuing to cover the “catch 22” effect of bad credit for the unemployed, with a Business Day article by Gray Rivlin, “The long shadow of bad credit”,  link here
Nine states prohibit employers from using credit histories to deny employment for many jobs, but they are required for others.  And employers usually fail to disclose (as often required) a bad credit report.  
Illinois is one such state.
The news story told of one sales employee who received a cell call on the way to his orientation, that his job had been turned down because of credit problems.
And despite the widespread occurrence of credit report errors, employers often take the “libertarian” position of “absolute personal responsibility” for maintaining clean credit, despite the wide influence of identity theft. 
When I worked for a debt collector in the summer of 2003, there was a general attitude among employees that the debtors were "deadbeats" or people of bad character.  One person I called blamed her problems on 9/11, and another invited me to pay his $69 small balance!  
Back in the late 1980s, Chilton (now Experian) required all its employees to pass credit checks, with 90-days to fix problems; but TRW got rid of the practice when it acquired Chilton.
The NYT has previously argued for laws prohibiting the use of adverse credit in most jobs.
Curiously, the story mentioned the idea that a credit report is a “lifestyle check”.  In the 1980s, back in Dallas, I remember signing release forms allowing checks into “mode of living” even though these did not happen in practice.  

Thursday, May 09, 2013

NY State goes after debt consolidation companies; CA goes after JP Morgan

The Washington Post and Associated Press are reporting that New York State will prosecute officials of “debt-fixing”  (debt consolidation) companies that opened after the financial crisis of 2008. One of the largest was Mission Settlement Company. The link to the story is here
Retirees are often contacted to go to work for such companies.  I encountered a few such solicitations.  It’s easy to make it sound like you’re “helping people”.   It sounds like extended hucksterism.
The federal enforcement arm is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, link here.   The agency says it is hiring people for “externships”.  That’s a new term for me.
The AP is also reporting that the state of California is suing JP Morgan for debt collection practices, which included “robo-signing” documents and filing letter lawsuits without properly serving consumers.  The San Francisco Chronicle story is here

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Vantage credit scores try to give consumers a fairer shake on debts in collection that get paid

That “other” credit scoring company, Vantage is trying to give customers a fairer shake by discounting accounts that went into collections but ultimately got paid.  Tara Siegel Bernard has an article in the May 3 New York Times comparing the way Vantage and FICO (Fair Isaacs, which is more popular with lenders) works.  FICO does consider anything over $100 that went into collections.  The link is (website url) here

The article gives a case where a $750 medical bill left unpaid for a while because of a mix-up wound up in collections and cost a homeowner an extra $30000 in interest on her loan.

Medical collections, even relatively smaller ones, cause a disproportionate effect on many credit scores.
I wonder if parking tickets affect scores.  I got a ticket from another city (Ellicott City. MD) in the mail, 30 days delinquent, from a collection agency specializing in tickets,  when I had never seen the ticket placed on my car.  I don’t know what I did that was illegal.  I paid it online *$48) to clean it up. But this sounds like a touch of extortion. 

When I worked for RMA ten years ago in St. Paul, it did have a medical collections department. Since I did have health care in my background, I wonder if I might have migrated there had I stayed.
The Vantage credit score has nothing to do with the Vantage information system product that insurance companies use.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

NYTimes argues that most employer credit history discrimination should be banned

The New York Times today has an editorial supporting a bill before the New York City council banning the use of credit history to eliminate job applicants in most jobs, except in a narrow range where credit checks are required by law or direct handling of money is involved.  The link is here
Part of the rationale for the bill is the tremendous number of errors in credit reports, and the difficulty in fixing them.  The error problem – greatly exacerbated by identity theft – tends to drive people into structural unemployment and poverty, as does simply the idea of having made “one mistake”.
When I worked for Chilton (the predecessor of Experian) in Dallas in the 1980s, credit reports of employees was not required until 1987, and then that was dropped when TRW acquired it.  But for a while a few employees were put on discipline or warning for having late payments in their credit histories..  

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

How to use the "opt out prescreen" facility

The column “Hints from Heloise”  discusses how to use the consumer “opt out prescreen” facility, with the link here. The column, on p. C5 of the April 2m 2013 Washington Post, was not online yet.
The column says it is all right to give your social security number and date of birth when you use the site, or call “1-888-5-OPTOUT”.  But you can skip those questions , say nothing, and move to the next prompt. 

 But use of the questions may help the service identify you if others have the same name.
The Federal Trade Commission has a page on prescreened credit card and insurance offers, here

Monday, March 18, 2013

Debt collectors don't like (temporarily) interest-free cards

I stumbled (literally) upon this article on “How Life Works”  on how to pay zero interest on credit cards until 2014, here  (it was written in 2011).
It talks about new interest free cards, that got created when banks were no longer allowed to jack up interest rates retroactively, resulting in higher credit card rates for “everyone” (as Facebook sees it).
Maybe this is too late already.  Dent collectors don’t like this innovation, as it cuts down on their “business”.  I remember my own days from 2013.  

The idea of "urgency" in debt collection (and use of Western Union services) seems to get weaker all the time.  

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Comcast landline digital phone can flash calls on TV, enabling you to skip checking robo calls and scams

Comcast Xfinity has started a nice service.  When I get a call on my landline and am watching cable on the new box (upstairs), it flashes the number and first name of the caller.

So now I know in advance if it is one of these calls claiming that I have won a Lincoln Continental, a cruise (who wants one anyway?) or a million dollars in cash, when I haven’t entered anything (posting Dec. 24, 2012).

Even without smartphone technology, it's pretty easy to tell from the number if a call is a robo call or from a phone bank. 

Of course, if you have guests, you might not want visitors to see who is calling you.

The boxes behave differently; recently Comcast changed the software to make them go to sleep at night. 
You don’t pay for unsolicited land calls, like you do on cell.  I haven’t had too many, or too many texts, but it’s easy for that to get out of hand, even if my “identity” is correct. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

CBS "60 Minutes" reports that consumers are not able to see their full credit reports, as loan officers can see them secretly

CBS 60 Minutes last night (Sunday, February 9, 2013) reported on the difficulty most average Americans have in getting Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian to fix errors on their credit reports.
The basic video is here.   It leads to a “CBS Overtime” video which should also be watched.

The most shocking fact on the video (as uncovered by a particular female consumer who sued one of the credit agencies) is that the credit report that the three major companies send you (through the mandatory free “annual credit report” mechanism) isn’t the same credit report that loan underwriters see,  I have never heard this myself.  And I worked in the credit industry (for Chilton, which became Experian after going through TRW) myself in the 1980s, in Dallas.
I do not know how this can be.  Is this against the law?  If a car, department store, or mortgage underwriter could see this “invisible” report , could your property or auto insurance company?  Could your employer?  Could the government or police?  This is unacceptable and shocking.
CBS also reported that most “disputes resolution” is done with offshore staff, in India or South America.  Calling 800 numbers does not work, and employees have little authority to fix errors.

These companies find it cheaper to settle lawsuits from consumers (which consumers win when they can afford good lawyers) than actually have to resolve disputes.  
I don’t think this was the case when I worked for Chilton.
I worked for a debt collector (RMA, or Risk Management Associates, now associated with ACB or Associated Credit Bureaus) near Minneapolis in the summer of 2003.  I believe that about 98% of the debts for people whom I called were probably valid.  But a few were in dispute and people had trouble resolving them.  It may sound hard to believe, but some consumers really did want to settle their problems. We actually followed the FDCPA and FCRA rules closely.

What I wonder is if the following video is really correct: 
This  CBS story needs to be followed closely.  

It's also useful to the link for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that stands behind the CBS story, here. An FTC study found that 5% of consumers had errors on their credit reports serious enough to affect their terms on loans.  Over 42 million reports (about 13%) had some errors.  And the study has apparently found that correcting errors is very difficult.  I will have to look and see whether Macy's "bait and deny" trick could be based on wrong information (Jan. 23, 2013).  In addition to less favorable loans, consumers could lose out on discounts.

Some employers and lenders feel that only consumers and employees (that is, individuals) can take "absolute responsibility" for their own records.  

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

IRS says policy changes needed for it to do a better job in stopping identity theft

There is a story by Matthew Weigert (Dec., 3, 2012) on FCW, “The Business of Federal Technology”, about the difficulties the IRS says it has in detecting identity theft in returns because of regulations in the way it contacts other agencies, particularly regarding health care (those would be HIPAA regulations).
The link for the story is here

The IRS does have its own YouTube video on how identity theft in tax returns can be stopped.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Mills" producing fake ID cards proliferate, challenging police

Pamela Brown has a story for WJLA-7 in Washington DC about “mills” that churn out “Argo” fake ID’s (particularly drivers’ licenses) in Washington DC.

It’s always possible for law enforcement to look for specially hidden print or holographics to detect fakes.
People use them to get into bars illegally (this happens a lot) and sometimes might be able to get away with them to get green cards or go to work illegally.

Home printing and duplicating technology (as well as various rogue software programs) have tempted more people into this sort of “industry”.  An episode of the WB show “Everwood” had been predicated on this idea back in 2003.  And one of my screenplays exploits this idea.  A teen, trying to get a substitute teacher to learn to use P2P, sends the teacher the software, and its presence on his own computer at home implicates him, and important plot point in the movie.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Macy's turns me down despite high credit score: bait, and deny

Well, today I got a letter from Macy’s turning me down.  After one week ago today, the store baited me to apply for an unnecessary card.

I had a credit score of 845/900 from Experian (I think this is the Vantage score).  I thought that was good.  But yet the letter says.

“Excessive amount owed on accounts”;

“Proportion of loan balances to loan amounts is too high”;

“Time since most recent account opening is too short”;

“Too many accounts with balances”;

 “Too many inquiries last 12 months:.

I do have several cards, and I pay the balance in full each month, usually two or three days ahead of time, online, electronically.  But there is often an unbilled amount that will carry over to the next month.  So the reasons seem very silly.  All payments are made on time (except for one disputed USAir membership fee, which was supposedly cleared up.)

Maybe the USAirways escapade looked bad (Nov. 23, 2011).
By the way, on my main “BillBoushka” blog today, I discussed the “service” by Frank Ahearn to help people “disappear” online.  That’s not exactly the same thing as identity security. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Department stores prod customers with unnecessary credit cards for discounts

Well, yesterday I bought some dress shoes at a Macy’s in a shopping mall (might actually need them again), and the clerk said I could get a 20% discount with a Macy’s visa card.  I said I didn’t need any more credit cards, but was talked into applying for one anyway. 

Down goes my FICO credit score a few points.

I had to talk on the phone with someone, explaining trust income, and how I “rent” my house. 

I wound up with a 10% discount (I don’t know if something went wrong with the credit).
Companies keep prodding to get more cards.  You saw what happened with the USAirways card – an $89 annual fee, and then they discontinued it when I hadn’t used it or traveled in time (see Nov. 23, 2012 posting).

Friday, January 11, 2013

Whatr? Use my discount card for somebody else's cigarettes?

Today, as I stood second in line at a Rite-Aid store at the cash register, the clerk asked me for my “wellness card” so that the customer in line ahead of me could get a discount for a cigarette purchase.

No, I don’t think I’m at serious risk of identity theft from the incident.  But it’s wrong to ask one person to participate in another’s purchase of a product (however legal) that he does not approve of.  And now, that purchase is on my “record”.  I don’t think it is likely to be abused, but the idea that there is an electronic record of a cigarette purchase by me that did not happen is disturbing.

I suppose the CVS automatic checkout lines have a lot to say for themselves (although sometimes they don’t work).

Oh, yes, men, cigarette smoking can make you go bald on the legs. The "wellness" here sounds like an oxymoron. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Maryland invokes strongest law in nation giving parents ability to proctect kids' credit histories

Maryland has passed a law, effective January 1, 2013, that allows parents to freeze the credit histories of minor children even when they do not yet have an existing report.  Previously, a freeze could happen only when there was an existing report.  There is a fee unless the minor has already been the victim of identity theft.  This is the strongest law in the nation right now protecting the credit records of minors or preventing access to records of those that purport to be the same minors.
The Aberdeen Patch has a story here.