Eight charged in identity theft fraud scheme involving AT&T customer files


Eight charged in identity theft fraud scheme involving AT&T customer files
Eight charged in identity theft fraud scheme involving AT&T customer files

Eight defendants have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to unjustly enrich themselves by stealing personal identifying information and using the information to make unauthorized wire transfers from victim bank accounts and obtaining unauthorized credit or debit cards, according to BankInfoSecurity.com on Monday.

Collectively named in a twenty-two count federal indictment were Chouman Emily Syrilien, 25, of Lauderdale Lakes, Arrington Basil Segu, 28, of Miami, Carlos Antonio Alexander, 24, of Orlando, Angel Arcos, 23, of Pompano Beach, Shantegra La’Shae Godfrey, 23, of Deerfield Beach, and Monique Smith, 31, of Pompano Beach.

Two unnamed defendants remain at large.

Each of the defendant’s was charged with one count of conspiracy and several defendants were charged individually with access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

According to the indictment, Syrilien was employed by Interactive Response Technologies, lnc. (IRT) of Margate. IRT provides staffing for call centers to handle direct sales and customer inquiries for AT&T.  Syrilien unlawfully provided a co-conspirator with the personal identifying information from multiple AT&T customer files. Segu also unlawfully provided personal identifying information of numerous individuals to the co-conspirator.

Alexander, Godfrey, and Smith were added as “authorized users” on victims’ credit or debit card accounts or bank accounts.  This was done in order to access the accounts of victims whose personal identifying information had been stolen.

Once a conspirator’s name was added as an “authorized user,” the bank and/or credit card company was directed to mail additional debit or credit cards bearing the names of these newly added “authorized users” to their addresses or addresses under their control.  This was done without the true account holder’s knowledge or consent.

The defendants used these credit and debit cards to make purchases or obtain money.  Alexander, Smith and Godfrey each made both retail purchases as well as cash advances in excess of $24,000, $12,000 and $8,200, respectively.

Defendant Arcos allowed his personal information to be used to open a bank account to further the fraudulent activity.

AT&T customers who may have been impacted should immediately protect themselves from potential identity theft.

Periodically review your credit report

By keeping close tabs on your credit report, you can detect signs of identity theft early. If you find an account not opened by you and have identified it as fraudulent, enter a dispute directly with the creditor as well as with the credit reporting agencies of EquifaxExperian and TransUnion.

You can obtain a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or 877-322-8228.

Place a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report

Contact the credit reporting agencies and request a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report. Not only will this trigger a free credit report but will advise potential creditors to investigate any application prior to issuing credit, goods, benefits and/or services.

Equifax can be contacted at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742 and Trans Union at 800-916-8800. Be sure to renew the alert every three months.

Freeze your credit report

Identity thieves are frozen in their tracks without access to your credit report as potential creditors will not have access to your credit history. In most states, you are entitled to temporarily “freeze” access to your credit profile without cost if you are over 65 years of age or are a verified victim of identity theft. All others may be required to pay a small fee.

Without access to your credit report, a responsible lender will not issue credit.

Stop unsolicited credit card offers

Opting out at www.optoutprescreen.com or 888-5OPT-OUT will stop most unsolicited pre-approved applications and reduce the incidence of identity theft. Opting out refers to the process of removing your name and address from lists supplied by the Equifax, Experian, Trans Union and Innovis credit reporting agencies to be used for firm (preapproved/ prescreened) offers of credit or insurance.

If convicted, each of the defendants face a maximum of thirty years in federal prison for the conspiracy charge, a maximum of ten years in prison for the access device fraud charge, and a mandatory term of two years in prison for each aggravated identity theft charge, at least one of which must be served consecutive to any other term in prison.

An indictment is only an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

Advertisements

Guide to Credit Reports, Credit Scores


Attention is focused on new financial regulations enacted as part of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission announced final rules requiring creditors to provide consumers’ with a “risk-based pricing notice” when granting credit on less favorable terms than it provides other consumers.

To assist consumer understanding of these new rules, the U.S. Federal Reserve has unveiled an online guide to credit reports.

This straight-forward guide includes information on credit reports and credit scores, how they are utilized in credit granting decisions, unsolicited credit offers, credit repair and how to protect your personal information from fraud.

Released on Wednesday, the “Consumer’s Guide to Credit Reports and Credit Scores” is meant to complement consumer-protection laws that Congress enacted several years ago.

Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, lenders – starting in January – will be required to tell consumers when adverse information on their credit reports is going to result in higher rates and fees for mortgages, credit cards and other loans.

In today’s tough economy, a strong FICO (Fair Isaac) credit score is more important than ever. Studies show that approximately 78 percent of credit profiles in the United States contain some sort of error or omission materially impacting credit worthiness.

As creditors tend to offer favorable terms to consumers with good credit histories and more costly credit to those with poor credit histories, the guide is intended to assist them in disputing negative and/or inaccurate information prior to making an application for credit or employment.

Under the “risk-based pricing” rules, consumers hit with the less favorable credit terms can also obtain a free credit report to check its accuracy.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as modified by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report under a narrow set of circumstances.

If you have been denied credit, goods, benefits, services, insurance, and/or employment, the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are statutorily mandated to provide a copy free of charge.

Absent these exceptions, consumers are entitled to one free “annual credit report” per year. Credit scores are not included with any of the “free credit reports” provided by the national credit reporting agencies.

Equifax can be contacted at (800) 685-1111 or www.Equifax.com; Experian can be contacted at (888) 397-3742 or www.Experian.com; and Trans Union can be contacted at (800) 916-8800 or www.TransUnion.com.

Be sure to prompt that you were denied credit when requested to do so.

For your free annual credit report, contact the central source at 877-FACT-ACT (877-322-8228) or www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Follow the voice prompts and obtain your credit report for review.

Consumer advocates say additional work is needed to address concerns about credit reports and credit scores. “The main problem is really with credit reports – they’re just plagued with inaccuracies,” said National Consumer Law Center attorney Lauren Saunders. “It’s a nightmare for consumers to get anything fixed.”

Saunders said she is expecting the FTC and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the first agency to be charged with protecting consumers from abusive financial products, to take more action in addressing consumer concerns about credit reports.

Acting as a primer to the uneducated individual, the “Consumer’s Guide to Credit Reports and Credit Scores” advises what they should do if they find errors. In a three-step process, ordering credit reports and reviewing them for errors or inaccuracies; contacting the credit reporting agencies to enter a formal dispute; and, waiting for a response from the CRA’s and/or creditors is explained.

To learn more about the Consumer’s Guide to Credit Reports and Credit Scores, visit www.federalreserve.gov/creditreports. To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series at the Highlands Today, visit www.williamlewis.us.

Source:  The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune – Media General Group.  http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/nov/14/guide-credit-reports-credit-scores/

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

Stop Annoying or Harassing Phone Calls


Are you receiving annoying or harassing phone calls from telemarketers or debt collectors? In these tough economic times, your telephone seems to ring more often. There are actions you can take to reduce the number of calls you receive. First, you must determine whether the caller is a telemarketer attempting to solicit a product or charity, or a debt collector attempting to collect a past due bill.

To stop most telemarketers from calling your home or cell phone, you must sign up through the Do Not Call Registry offered by the Federal Trade Commission. Registration can be made online at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222 from the number in which you seek to block.

The national Do Not Call Registry gives you an opportunity to restrict most telemarketing calls received on your home or cell number. Once you register, telemarketers covered by registry rules have up to 31 days to remove your phone number from their calling lists. Should the telemarketing calls continue, you have a right to file a complaint with the FTC.

The Federal Trade Commission says that “because of limitations in the jurisdiction of the FTC and FCC, calls from or on behalf of political organizations, charities, and telephone surveyors would still be permitted, as would calls from companies with which you have an existing business relationship, or those to whom you’ve provided express agreement in writing to receive their calls. However, if you ask a company with which you have an existing business relationship to place your number on its own do-not-call list, it must honor your request. You should keep a record of the date you make the request.”

Distinguished from the telemarketer, is the debt collector. If you owe a past-due bill, debt collectors have the right to call you – but not harass you. The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a federal law that prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.

There are many types of debts covered by the FDCPA. Personal, family, household debts, auto loans, medical bills, and even your mortgage are all protected under the law. The FDCPA, however, does not cover debts incurred to run or operate a business.

Some of the most common questions about debt collectors and consumer rights can be answered by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at www.ftc.gov. Although the FTC will not normally intercede on behalf of an individual consumer, they act as a clearing house for complaints and have been known to initiate legal action against the most abusive collectors in the industry.

Should a Florida resident have a complaint about abusive debt collection tactics, they can file a complaint through the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), the state agency in charge of debt collectors, at www.flofr.com. In this instance, the OFR will open a file and forward the complaint to the offending agency.

If a debt collector violates the FDCPA, you can take legal action.

“You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated,” the FTC said. “If you win, the judge can require the collector to pay you for any damages you can prove you suffered because of the illegal collection practices, like lost wages and medical bills. The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000, even if you can’t prove that you suffered actual damages. You also can be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees and court costs. A group of people also may sue a debt collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever amount is lower. Even if a debt collector violates the FDCPA in trying to collect a debt, the debt does not go away if you owe it.”

Whether you receive an annoying or harassing call from a telemarketer soliciting a product or charity, or a debt collector attempting to collect a debt, you can stop your phone from ringing by simply learning your rights.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/mar/21/lc-stop-annoying-or-harassing-phone-calls/columns-welewisjr/

Identity Theft Protection is a Waste of Money


Are you one of the 13 million people who purchased “identity theft protection” in 2009?  If so, you wasted your money.  Identity theft protection companies push statistics like “almost 11 million adults were victims of identity theft in 2009” while prodding you to purchase a service that could cost up to $179.00 per year.  What they fail to advise is that identity theft protection does not cover account take-overs, the misuse of debits cards, or the establishment of personal identification (such as a driver license) in your name.

I am happy to report that almost all of the services provided by identity theft protection companies are available at little or no cost.  There is no reason to pay a monthly or yearly fee for something you can do yourself.

REVIEW YOUR CREDIT REPORT

By keeping close tabs on your credit report, you can identify signs of fraud early.  If you find an account not opened by you and have positively identified it as fraudulent, enter a dispute with the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.  You can obtain a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or (877) 322-8228.  When you pay for identity theft protection, this free credit report is one of the “benefits” they tout.

PLACE A 90-DAY INITIAL FRAUD ALERT ON YOUR CREDIT REPORT

Call the credit reporting agencies and request a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report.  Not only will this trigger a free credit report but will advise potential creditors to investigate any application prior to issuing credit, goods, benefits, services, and/or employment.  Contact Equifax at (800) 525-6285, Experian at (888) 397-3742 and Trans Union at (800) 916-8800.  When you pay for identity theft protection, this fraud alert is one of the “benefits” they tout.

FREEZE YOUR CREDIT REPORT

Identity thieves and creditors are frozen in their tracks without access to your credit report as they will not have access to your credit history.  In Florida, you are entitled to temporarily “freeze” access to your credit profile without cost if you are over 65 years of age or are a verified victim of identity theft.  All others must pay $10.00.  Without access to your credit report, a responsible lender will not issue credit.  When you pay for identity theft protection, a credit report freeze is one of the “benefits” they tout.

STOP UNSOLICITED CREDIT CARD OFFERS

Are you tired of junk mail filling your mail box?  Opting out at www.optoutprescreen.com or (888) 5OPT-OUT will stop most unsolicited pre-approved applications and reduce the incidence of identity theft. Opting-Out refers to the process of removing your name from lists supplied by Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis to be used for firm (preapproved / prescreened) offers of credit or insurance.  When paying for identity theft protection, opting out is one of the “benefits” they tout.

BUY A CROSS-CUT SHREDDER


“Dumpster diving” is still a very popular method of obtaining credit card applications and supporting documentation.  Purchase a cross-cut shredder that cuts vertically and horizontally, turning sensitive mail into confetti.  If you think a torn up credit card application will be rejected by a credit card company, you have not heard the story of how Chase approved a ripped up application.

While the Credit Card Act of 2009 has mandated a number of changes in relation to “free credit reports,” the area of identity theft protection is an area to watch.  Reduced fees in one area will only mean enhanced fees in another.  There is no reason to pay a monthly or yearly fee for something you can do yourself.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/mar/07/lc-identity-theft-protection-is-a-waste-of-money/columns-welewisjr/

Protect Your Child From Identity Theft


Child identity theft occurs when a child’s identity is used by another person for the imposter’s personal gain. The perpetrator may be a family member or someone known by the family. It could also be a stranger who purposely targets children because of the lengthy time between the theft of the information and the discovery of the crime.  The Federal Trade Commission says child identity theft has doubled since 2006 with 21,344 cases reported in 2008.  In this tough economic time, it has been predicted that child identity theft will again double in 2010.

Children are often easy targets because thieves get an eight to ten year head start on them. In fact, most children who have had their identities stolen are not aware of it until they apply for credit, college, or employment.  Some of these child identity theft cases involve split families where one of the parents is the perpetrator with the crime being exposed by the other, unoffending parent. Discovery often comes:

  • When attempting to open a savings/checking account or college fund. In this scenario, the unoffending parent discovers that there is already an account under the child’s social security number or that the account is denied as a result of worthless checks on file at ChexSystems;
  • When numerous pre-approved credit offers come in the mail bearing the name of the child;
  • When credit cards, checks, invoices or bank statements not opened by an unoffending parent as a joint holder are received bearing the name of the child;
  • When collection agencies call and/or send letters about accounts not opened by the child;
  • When a child is denied a driver’s license because another individual has a license with their social security number. The imposter may even have accumulated traffic citations in the child’s name;
  • While going through papers during a divorce proceeding or while straightening up the house (Parental identity theft);
  • When a law enforcement officer knocks at your door with a warrant for the arrest of your child.

There are instances that may appear to be identity theft but are not. Receiving a pre-approved credit card offer might upset you as a parent but may only be the pitch of a potential creditor because you opened an account or college fund in your child’s name. A quick check of credit reports will help sort out the truth. Currently, all three credit reporting agencies have automated systems. You should contact them semi-annually to request a credit report on your children. If you are advised that no credit report exists, your child is safe for the time being.  Call Equifax at (800) 685-1111; Experian at (888) 397-3742; and Trans Union at (800) 916-8800.

A common misconception is that creditors and credit reporting agencies have a method of verification when it comes to the age and identity of an applicant.  Since most creditors rely strictly upon a written application when rendering a credit granting decision and the age of an individual becomes “official” with a credit reporting agency upon the first application for credit, said reliance can be fatal in relation to identity theft.

If your child becomes a victim of identity theft, you must immediately file a police report.  Federal law mandates that credit reporting agencies investigate and correct all identity theft issues.  Nevertheless, it all starts with a properly filed police report.  Without one, creditors, collection agencies, and/or credit reporting agencies are not required to act upon your complaint.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/feb/21/lc-protect-your-child-from-identity-theft/columns-welewisjr/