Expect more, pay less has brought new meaning to the Christmas shopping rush as Target confirmed early Thursday that information from nearly 40 million of its customer credit and debit cards may have been compromised by a data breach during the height of the holiday shopping season.
Occurring at nearly all of their stores nationwide, the data breach occurred between November 27 and December 15, 2013. Target said it immediately contacted authorities and financial institutions once it became aware of the security breach.
“Target’s first priority is preserving the trust of our guests, and we have moved swiftly to address this issue, so guests can shop with confidence. We regret any inconvenience this may cause,” stated Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a prepared statement early Thursday. “We take this matter very seriously and are working with law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice.”
Target is working closely with law enforcement and financial institutions, and has identified and resolved the issue. The Minneapolis based-company also reported that they were teaming with a third-party forensics firm to investigate the breach.
“I can’t think of another day in the calendar when target or anyone else could expect to have more people in stores. More deals, traffic, more swipes — perfect day to launch an attack,” Krebs told ABC News.
The breach is believed to have affected nearly 40,000 card machines at nearly 1,797 Target stores nationwide. While millions of cardholder accounts are potentially vulnerable, online purchases have not been affected.
“The information that’s stored on the magnetic strip — name, card number, expiration date, other info — if bad guys can steal that card … they can actually create a second copy,” Krebs said. “If thieves can create a second copy and were able to intercept a PIN number, that could allow them to withdraw money from ATMs.”
Customers who may have been affected should pay close attention to their credit card and debit statements, said Krebs.
“Advice to customers — be vigilant, pay attention to your statement if something doesn’t look right,” Krebs cautioned. “Whether or not you feel like you might be impacted by this breach, it’s a really good idea, particularly around this time of year, to pay attention to what’s on your debit and credit card statements.”
While consumers will be reimbursed for any fraudulent charges, the refund might not come until after Christmas, creating another headache for shoppers who are operating on limited funds.
For more information, please visit Target’s corporate website. Consumers who suspect unauthorized or fraudulent activity may contact Target at 866-852-8680.
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Owned by P.F. Chang’s, Pei Wei offers a modest selection of freshly prepared Asian items influenced by the cuisines of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand. All of their dishes are made to order and offer customization. With several locations in South Florida, Pei Wei has 190 locations in the United States and 3 international locations.
To grab your coupon, head over to Pei Wei’s Facebook page and click “Like.” You will be prompted to take a “Perfect Match Quiz” before being allowed to print a coupon for their Buy One Entree Get One Free offer. The quiz takes less than two minutes.
“Driving hungry fans to ‘Like’ their page with free food is certainly an effective use of social media,” Sharon Gadbois, a social media expert with Social Media Bullies told Examiner. “As for me, I’m going to try Pei Wei’s new Thai Chicken and Korean Steak Lettuce Wraps with the BOGO coupon.”
Whether you enjoy the Pei Wei combo meals, a signature dish, lettuce wraps, salads, noodles or simply a rice bowl, the offer is good for one free eligible entree with the purchase of an equal or greater value item at participating Pei Wei restaurants.
Harnessing the power of social media to score a free cookie from Chick-fil-A or a free coffee from Dunkin Donuts is easy, according to Adam Bryan at urban tastebuds. In most cases, all that is required is to “Like” them on Facebook or “Follow” them” on Twitter.
The coupon offer is good through October 27th. Click here for the Pei Wei deal and to start the quiz.
For daily updates on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, you can join Bill’s 16,550 plus fans on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/thecreditreportwithbilllewis.
Beware of an e-mail claiming to be from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on behalf of the FBI requesting that you “kindly get back to us for further directives.” It is a scam, according to a report in the Miami Herald on Wednesday.
“It didn’t appear very convincing to me when I opened it,” former WSVN-TV reporter Derek Hayward told Examiner. “An award of almost 11 million dollars would come in quite handy now that I’m retired,” he stated with a chuckle.
The fake e-mail claims as follows:
SECRET SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
WASHINGTON, DC 20528, USA.
This is the Department of Homeland Security we have vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face as well as internet Fraud. This requires the dedication of more than 230,000 employees in jobs that range from aviation and border security to emergency response, from cyber security analyst to chemical facility inspector. Our duties are wide-ranging, but our goal is clear — keeping America safe.
We are happy to inform you that your funds valued at US$10,700,000.00 (Ten million Seven Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) have been approved by the Treasury Department of the United States.
Kindly get back to us for further directives.
Note: Do not reply to any e-mail that comes from the FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. The FBI director does not e-mail people; He will rather send an agent to your door step in person. Do not fall a victim of scam again, a word is enough for the wise.
Thank you and have a good day.
Signed: Julia Pierson
Director, United States Secret Service
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528, USA
The signatory of the e-mail – Julia Pierson – is the real director of the U.S. Secret Service. She is an Orlando native, former Orlando police officer, and spent several years in the Secret Service’s Miami office back in the 1980’s. She became the agency’s first female director in late March.
As in other variations of this scam, this is not a legitimate communication from law enforcement, but rather an attempt to obtain personal banking information from an unsuspecting victim. If you have received this e-mail or something similar to it, do not follow the instructions. It is suggested that you forward the communication to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.IC3.gov.
As a result of the housing collapse, many homeowners experienced a serious reduction in income or lost their jobs due to the crumbling economy. Some mortgage borrowers were forced to file bankruptcy or short sale their home to avoid foreclosure. Others were not so lucky and lost their home on the courthouse steps. Borrowers may now qualify for an FHA mortgage under new guidelines established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to Eli Younes of Viking Mortgage in Pembroke Pines on Monday.
The new HUD rules allow borrowers whose credit was damaged due to a temporary loss of employment or income to qualify for an FHA mortgage if they have substantially recovered from that situation and maintained a positive credit history for at least 12 months. Borrowers who recently experienced a bankruptcy, foreclosure, short-sale, loan delinquencies, deed-in-lieu, debt collections or other situation negatively impacting their FICO credit score may now be able to qualify for an FHA loan.
Recognizing that any number of events may have impacted a borrowers’ credit rating, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) believes that such catastrophic event does not mean they are not financially stable or unable to make a mortgage payment. As such, the previous 3-year waiting period required by the FHA on financing a new home has been revised.
“Referred to as the ‘Back to Work’ initiative, this program is designed for borrowers who lost their home through foreclosure, short sale, bankruptcy or deed in lieu and also suffered a 20% or more loss in household income,” Eli Younes of Viking Mortgage told Examiner. “As with most FHA loans, this program only requires a 3.5% down payment and is applicable for all purchase loans other than the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage.”
In order to qualify for a mortgage under the “Back to Work” initiative, there are several steps that must be taken to prove an “Economic Event” that was beyond the borrower’s control.
The lender must verify that the borrower lost at least 20% or more in household income – or became unemployed – for a period of six months prior to the foreclosure, short-sale, or deed-in-lieu. To verify loss of income, the lender must request a written Verification of Employment to show the termination date or loss of income, receipt of unemployment compensation, or signed W-2′s and tax returns detailing the reduction in earnings.
To demonstrate a loss of income for part-time or seasonal employment, the borrower must prove a 2-year history in the same field prior to loss of employment. Borrowers will also be required to prove that they have fully recovered from their hardship, increased earnings and have maintained other credit obligations for a period of 12 months following foreclosure, short sale, bankruptcy or deed in lieu.
When evaluating a borrower for the “Back to Work” initiative following a foreclosure, the lender may deem the borrower eligible if:
1.) The borrower’s credit report is free of any late housing payments within the last 12 months;
2.) All other mortgage accounts must be current for the last 12 months, even if the loan was previously modified to avoid a foreclosure action;
3.) The borrower’s credit report contains no more than a single 30-day delinquency on payments due other creditors; and
4.) The borrower’s credit report contains no current collection accounts or public records. This condition may be waived in instances of identity theft or borrower’s with medical collections.
1.) Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: One year must have elapsed since the bankruptcy discharge. Proof must also be shown that the bankruptcy filing was the result of an “Economic Event” covered within the FHA program guidelines.
2.) Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Most lenders will require that the bankruptcy filing be discharged with all payments required under the agreement having been made on time. For borrowers currently in bankruptcy, written approval from the court allowing them to enter a new mortgage contract is required.
Housing Counseling Requirement:
For purposes of establishing satisfactory credit following an “Economic Event,” mortgage borrowers’ under the “Back to Work” initiative must:
1.) Receive homeownership counseling or a combination of homeownership education and counseling, at a minimum, one hour of one-on-one counseling from HUD-approved housing counseling agencies, as defined at 24 C.F.R. §214.100. The counseling must address the cause of the ‘Economic Event” and the actions taken to overcome it as well as reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence; and
2.) Be completed a minimum of thirty (30) days but no more than six (6) months prior to submitting a loan application to a lender, as application is defined in Regulation X, implementing the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, 24 C.F.R. §3500.2(b).
The housing education may be provided by HUD-approved housing counseling agencies, state housing finance agencies, approved intermediaries or their sub-grantees, or through an online course. It may be conducted in person, via telephone, via internet, or other methods approved by HUD, and mutually agreed upon by the borrower and housing counseling agency.
Rules for Renters:
Under certain circumstances, renters may qualify under the “Back to Work” initiative. For purposes of establishing satisfactory credit, mortgage borrowers must:
1.) The borrower’s credit report is free of any late rental payments within the last 12 months;
2.) The borrower’s credit report contains no more than a single 30-day delinquency on payments due other creditors; and
3.) The borrower’s credit report contains no current collection accounts or public records. This condition may be waived in instances of identity theft or borrower’s with medical collections.
Prior to the proposal of new mortgage guidelines, the FHA had considerably shorter waiting periods for borrowers who had gone through foreclosure or bankruptcy than for conventional mortgages. In the past, borrowers could be approved for a new FHA mortgage in as little as three years after a foreclosure or two years following a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
A foreclosure, short-sale, Chapter 13 bankruptcy or deed-in-lieu will continue to plague a borrower’s credit report at the Equifax, Experian and TransUnion consumer reporting agencies for a period of seven years. A discharged Chapter 7 bankruptcy will remain on the credit report for a period of ten years.
“As a result of the recession many homeowners experienced unemployment or unforeseen circumstances and were not able to make their monthly mortgage payments,” Carlos J. Reyes, a foreclosure defense attorney with the Reyes Law Group in Fort Lauderdale, told Examiner. “I’m glad to see that the FHA has recognized the financial hardship faced by many borrowers and is allowing them to once again attain the American Dream through homeownership.”
The new guidelines take effect immediately and will be in force through at least September, 2016.
A South Miami man is being held without bond Friday after gunning down his wife and posting gruesome photos of her body on Facebook, according to police and The Miami Herald.
Turning himself in to police Thursday, Derek Medina, 31, was booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center early Friday following the shooting death of his wife, Jennifer Alonso, 26.
Under the caption “RIP Jennifer Alonzo,” Medina posted a graphic photo of his slain wife’s blood soaked body on his Facebook Timeline. Shortly before, he updated his status to reveal: “You will see me in the news.”
“Im going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife love you guys miss you guys takecare Facebook people you will see me in the news,” Medina wrote.
“My wife was punching me and I am not going to stand anymore with the abuse so I did what I did I hope u understand me.”
Medina then drove to his father’s house and confessed to the murder. Thereafter they drove together to the South Miami Police Department.
“Officers then responded to the listed location where they found the victim deceased from apparent gunshot wounds, as well as the victim’s daughter, 10, who was unharmed,” authorities later reported.
“His lawyers will advance the ‘battered husband syndrome,’ to mimic the often-used defense of ‘battered wife syndrome’ used famously by Ellis Rubin and other lawyers defending wives who have killed their husbands,” Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney John Contini, author of several real-life crime dramas including Danger Road and Feeling the Heat, told Examiner. “They’ll argue, ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,’ otherwise you’re denying men ‘equal protection’ under the 14th Amendment which guarantees equal treatment for both men and women under the law.”
It took Facebook five hours to remove the graphic photo of Jennifer Alonzo from Derek Medina’s personal profile. In releasing a statement to Examiner:
“The content was reported to us. We took action on the profile — removing the content and disabling the profile, and we reached out to law enforcement. We take action on all content that violates our terms, which are clearly laid out on our site.”
With the exception of Medina’s claims of self defense, a motive for the murder is unknown at this time.
“In posting his allegations of domestic violence for the entire world to see, it appears that Medina could be setting the groundwork for a ‘Stand your Ground’ defense,” Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney and Fox/CNN legal contributor Eric Schwartzreich told Examiner. “With that said, a fish doesn’t get caught if it keeps his mouth shut.”
Fading faster than his rise in the polls for New York City mayor, former congressman Anthony Weiner has plummeted to fourth place in the Democratic primary field, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released late Tuesday.
With over 20 declared candidates for mayor, more than have of those surveyed – 53 percent – suggest Weiner should drop out of the race.
Weiner – who first rose to national stardom in 2011 in his now infamous crotch shot - has vowed to stand tall and continue his campaign despite sexting young women while married. Bringing parody to the race while violating the fundamental vows of marriage and abusing the public trust, Weiner remains hard in his commitment to become mayor of America’s largest city.
Crossing party lines – Democrat, Republican and Independent alike – gender, ethnicity and religion, voters have been unforgiving as allegations of continued bad behavior plague a shrinking Weiner base.
“With six weeks to go, anything can happen, but it looks like former Congressman Anthony Weiner may have sexted himself right out of the race for New York City mayor,” stated Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “And with Weiner in free-fall, it begins to look like a three-way race again.”
While obstinance and delusion continue to rein supreme for Weiner, he refused to fade from glory and vowed to continue despite his lewd messages to women.
“Quitting isn’t the way we roll in New York City,” Weiner stated in a minute-long video posted on his campaign website late Tuesday. “Someone wants to come out with something embarrassing about you in your private life; you’ve got to talk about that for a little while.”
“If politicians like Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer can reinvent themselves despite allegations of lewd photos, messages and using the services of a prostitute, anyone can,” Rico Petrocelli, former chairman of the Broward Republican Party in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told Examiner. “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.”
Utilizing public record databases to find criminal, civil, or traffic violations in South Florida became a little easier Friday with the release of a semi-comprehensive list of online resources.
Locating and identifying a criminal history, civil litigation or traffic history is but a click away. You can also access resources in relation to inmates, those on probation, parole or community control, sex offenders or missing children, in addition to stolen property or vehicles.
· Florida Department of Law Enforcement – For a modest fee of $23.00, you can obtain an individual’s criminal history record in Florida.
· Broward County court records - Search civil, criminal and traffic courts through the Clerk’s office.
· Miami-Dade County court records – Search civil, criminal and traffic courts through the Clerk’s office.
· Monroe County court records – Search civil, criminal and traffic courts through the Clerk’s office.
· Palm Beach County court records – Search civil, criminal and traffic courts through the Clerk’s office.
· Florida Offender Alert System – Sign up to receive an email alert when a sex offender moves into your neighborhood.
· Florida Sex Offender Registry – Locate registered sex offenders by name, city, address or zip code.
· Sex offender screen names – Check a computer screen name or email address to determine whether it’s linked to a registered sex offender in Florida.
· National and other state sex offender registries – Search the national database, or select a state to view a particular registry.
Jail and state prison inmates
· Broward County Jail inmates – Search for inmates currently incarcerated in Broward County.
· Miami-Dade County Jail inmates – Search for inmates currently incarcerated in Miami-Dade County.
· Monroe County Jail inmates – Search for inmates currently incarcerated in Monroe County.
· Palm Beach County Jail inmates – Search for inmates currently incarcerated in Palm Beach County as well as those released within the last 12 months.
· Florida Department of Corrections – Search for inmates currently incarcerated or recently released, as well as those on probation, parole, community control or other form of non-custodial release.
Wanted and missing persons
· Florida Missing Children Search – Search for a missing or endangered person directly at the state Missing Children Information Clearinghouse.
· Missing Persons Search – Search for a missing person directly at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
· National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – Search for several national resources for missing children.
· Wanted Persons Search – Search for felony or misdemeanor warrant information as reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
· Wireless Amber alerts – Sign up for free wireless Amber alerts directly to your cell phone.
· Florida Crime Information Center – Search for information on whether a vehicle, vehicle parts, boats, license plates, decals, guns and other items were reported lost or stolen in Florida.
· VINCheck – Search the National Insurance Crime Bureau database to see if a vehicle has been reported stolen.
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Seeking a fresh start in life and a discharge from creditors – including the attorney who masterminded her acquittal in the murder of two-year old Caylee Anthony – Casey Anthony filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy late Friday in Tampa.
Claiming $1,100 in assets and over $792,000 in liabilities, the unemployed Anthony has listed unsecured debts that include $500,000 to Jose Baez for attorney fees and costs for her criminal defense during trial; $145,660 to the Orange County Sheriff’s office for a judgment covering investigative fees and costs; $68,540 to the Internal Revenue Service for unpaid taxes, interest and penalties; and $61,505 to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for investigative costs.
Anthony lists about 80 creditors in her 60-page court filing. For the most part, she claims unsecured debt for attorney’s fees, forensics, investigative and consulting services, in addition to medical and psychiatric services.
Other unsecured debts include Anthony’s mother, Cindy, unpaid credit card bills and even a debt for scuba diving services.
It appears that Anthony has included every possible debt to every possible party.
The bankruptcy filing also shows that Anthony is a defendant in several lawsuits, including one brought by Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez for defamation in the Orange County Circuit Court.
Fernandez-Gonzalez claims that her reputation was destroyed when Anthony told detectives that a babysitter with the same name kidnapped Caylee. Later found dead, police were investigating the 2008 disappearance of the two-year old.
Although strikingly similar, Anthony’s attorney has previously stated that details offered by her to police did not match this particular Fernandez-Gonzalez.
A successful bankruptcy discharge under Chapter 7 would wipe Casey Anthony’s financial slate totally clean. Although a trustee has the right to take possession of and sell non-exempt property and use the sale proceeds to pay creditors, only $1,100 in assets have been claimed by Anthony.
Unemployed and recently completing probation following her previous felony conviction on check fraud charges, the acquitted alleged murderess has nothing to lose by discharging her debts utilizing federal bankruptcy laws.
Although bankruptcy may appear on her credit report for up to ten years, Casey Anthony will always be compared to O.J. Simpson as an acquitted alleged killer.
Now imprisoned in Nevada on unrelated robbery and kidnapping charges, Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of the 1994 double murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman after a lengthy, internationally publicized trial in Los Angeles, California.
The Tampa bankruptcy filing came on the same day that the Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed two of Anthony’s four misdemeanor convictions for providing false information to a law enforcement officer during a missing person investigation.
“The Appellate Court disagreed with Judge Perry’s interpretation of the law arguing that providing ‘false information’ is not the same thing as a false statement,” indicated Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Eric Schwartzreich. “If the police are questioning you about a robbery and you state that ‘birds do not fly’ – that is a false statement, not false information. That is the distinction the Fifth District Court of Appeal used to reverse the two misdemeanor ‘lying’ convictions.”
Although Anthony was acquitted of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child, she was found guilty by a Florida jury of lying to police. She was sentenced to one year in jail on each count, to be served consecutively.
Having received substantial credit for time served, Anthony was released days later on July 17, 2011. An appeal by her attorney followed.
“Wiping her debt away through bankruptcy was inevitable,” said John Contini, a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney and author of several real-life crime dramas including Danger Road and Feeling the Heat. “Although forever in debt to those who helped acquit her of killing young Caylee, without the protection of the federal Bankruptcy court, Casey Anthony would never be truly set free.”
2,140 days without freedom.
Retired FBI agent Robert Levinson devoted almost three decades of service to his country and the citizens of the United States. A career that deserved honors has instead resulted in almost six years as a hostage in a foreign country.
Until his disappearance in March 2007, Levinson, 64, resided with his wife and seven children in Coral Springs. Working as a private investigator, he was researching a cigarette smuggling case on Kish Island in Iran when he went missing.
There have been many efforts over the years to locate Levinson and return him home and to his loving family. All have met with disappointing results.
In 2010, the Levinson family received a “proof-of-life” video from his captors. The Federal Bureau of Investigation responded by placing a $1,000,000 reward for information pertaining to his disappearance and whereabouts.
To date, there have been no publicized results and the Levinson family feels all but abandoned.
Family and friends have set up a website and social media accounts under the username of “HelpBobLevinson” on Facebook and Twitter. Spreading awareness by posting updates on Bob Levinson’s “disappearance” in Iran has become priority one.
Levinson’s wife – Christine – released Tuesday five disturbing photos of Bob dressed in an orange prison-type jumpsuit. He had lost weight and has a long grey beard and disheveled hair.
In visibly deteriorating health, Levinson is also seen holding signs pleading for help.
An analysis of the photographs has led authorities to believe that Iran is behind Levinson’s kidnapping. With such knowledge, the family hopes that the United States will exact more pressure on the Iranian government to free Levinson.
According to published reports, the Levinson family received the photos anonymously by email in late 2010 and early 2011. With Tuesday’s release comes a heightened attempt to encourage media awareness and governmental attention.
The Levinson family is now attempting to secure Bob’s freedom through a recently created White House petition process under the Obama Administration’s “We the People” website.
“Make rescuing US Citizen Robert Levinson being held hostage in the Middle East since 2007 a top priority,” states the petition.
The family notes on the website that Levinson is the second-longest-held hostage in American history, second to Terry Anderson, held longer in the Lebanon Hostage Crisis.
As of now, the petition has almost 11,100 signatures. To be successful, it must have 25,000 by January 20th – the day before President Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington D.C.
“We keep trying to get media attention in the hopes that whoever is holding him can see it, and will reach out to us to try and resolve it,” stated Bob’s son, Doug Levinson. “We also started the petition to try to get the White House to respond to it and make it a top priority.”
When Robert Levinson finally returns home, he will be proud to find his son pursuing the same career path that he took.
“My dad always wanted to be an FBI agent since he was 8 years old,” Levinson said. “None of my brothers or sisters had the desire to go into the FBI, but I have since I can remember. He’s my idol, my hero. Everybody wants to be like their hero, and I’m no different. If I could be half the man my father is, I would be happy.”
The entire community can help the Levinson family by signing the petition and promoting it through social media. In order to warrant an official response from the White House, 14,000 more signatures are required by Sunday.
For more information about Bob Levinson’s disappearance, please visit www.helpboblevinson.com. For more information on the $1,000,000.00 reward being offered by the FBI for information on his disappearance and whereabouts, please visit tips.fbi.gov.