Archive for the tag 'identity theft'

A smart chip-equipped credit card. (Source: DennisSylvesterHurd/Flickr)

State Senator Marty Golden, citing a rise in credit card fraud in his district and beyond, is touting legislation he co-sponsored last month that would require credit card companies to install smart chip technology in every card issued to a New York State resident.

Golden held a press conference in Bay Ridge on Friday to advocate for the legislation, saying that merchants in his district have reported a spate of credit and debit card fraud, as well as “hackers” who have stolen data from local businesses. He was joined by Third Avenue Merchants Association President Robert Howe as well as Dimitri Akhrin, president of the Bank Associates Merchant Services.

“This legislation would require smart chip technology to be incorporated in our debit and credit cards to help protect against identity theft. Over the past few weeks, my district has been targeted by hackers who have been able to break through the security walls of some local stores. The false charges reported to my office have been made in Brooklyn, Long Island, Connecticut and event [sic] Puerto Rico,” said Senator Golden in a press release.

The senator cited Bureau of Justice Statistics reports estimating that 16.6 million people have suffered from identity theft in 2012 to 2013, 15.3 million of whom had an incident involving a debit or credit card.

According to tech site NerdWallet, manufacturers and advocates say smart chips are a safer alternative to magnetic stripe cards. Smart chips store encrypted account information and cannot be read by swiping. Instead they’re scanned into a terminal that reads the chip and can require a pin number to decrypt the chip’s information. They are not susceptible to common data scamming techniques as are magnetic strips, such as swiping, which allows fraudsters doubling as waiters or cashiers to discreetly pass your card through a handheld device that stores the card’s data.

Smart chips do have their own vulnerabilities, but the website notes that implementation in Europe has seen dramatic decreases in fraud.

The bill, which can be read here, was introduced on February 14 by upstate Senator Joseph Griffo with Golden as a co-sponsor. The Assembly version was co-sponsored by Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny.

American companies have been slow to adopt the technology because of the cost of replacing existing systems, including in-store point-of-sale systems and ATMs. The legislation does not address who will foot the bill, suggesting the business-owners will have to invest in new hardware if the law passes.

Source: wmfawmfa/Flickr

Area resident Petr Murmylyuk was sentenced to 30 months in prison for conspiring to hack into retail brokerage accounts and execute sham trades, the U.S. Attorney announced on Friday.

Murmylyuk, who also went by the name Dmitry Tokar, pleaded guilty in July 2013 to charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He had previously pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft and tax fraud for a separate but related scheme.

According to prosecutors, Murmylyuk admitted to his role in conspiring to steal from online trading accounts at Scottrade, E*Trade, Fidelity and others wit the aid of foreign nations visiting, studying and living in the United States.

Here’s how the scheme went down, according to prosecutors:

Members of the conspiracy first gained unauthorized access to the online accounts of brokerage firm customers. The conspirators then used stolen identities to open additional accounts – referred to in the Information as “Profit Accounts” – at other brokerage houses. They then caused the victims’ accounts to make unprofitable and illogical securities trades with the Profit Accounts, leading to losses in the victims’ accounts and gains in the Profit Accounts. One version of the fraud involved causing the victims’ accounts to sell options contracts to the Profit Accounts, then to purchase the same contracts back minutes later for many times the price.

The members of the conspiracy recruited foreign nationals visiting, studying, and living in the United States to open bank accounts into which illegal proceeds could be deposited. The conspirators then caused the proceeds of the sham trades to be transferred from the Profit Accounts into those accounts, where the stolen money could be withdrawn.

In addition to the prison term, Murmylyuk is ordered to serve three years of supervised release, and pay restitution of $505,357.79.

Photo by tamakisono via Flickr

The 61st Precinct Community Council Meeting will meet tomorrow, November 13, at the Bainbridge Center, 3093 Ocean Avenue.

Prior to the usual meeting, the precinct is holding a free document shredding event in an effort to combat ongoing issues of identity theft in the community.

From 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the Bainbridge Center, an NYPD shredder truck will be on site to destroy documents with sensitive information. Bring unwanted and/or expired personal documents so that they can be safely shredded, destroyed and disposed of.

Items to bring include:

  • Old tax returns
  • Expired identification
  • Old bank statements
  • Sensitive documents
  • Cancelled checks
  • Credit cards
  • Any other documents containing personal information (names, addresses, birth dates, social security numbers, etc)

The meeting will begin after the shredding event at 7:30 p.m. The Community Council is comprised of concerned residents and top brass from the 61st Precinct, and offers neighbors an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns about crime and safety issues in the area. The monthly meetings are attended by Captain John M. Chell, the commanding officer of the precinct, who will present a report on incidents and trends in the neighborhood, and speak face-to-face with neighbors about specific concerns.

For further information, or if you have questions or comments concerning Community Affairs, call (718) 627-6847.

The following is a message from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

Photo by Erica Sherman

Photo by Erica Sherman

The only thing worse than having maxed-out charge cards and a mortgage in default is when your kids have them. Hard to believe, but the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that no fewer than 8.6 million households had at least one member, age 12 or older, who became a victim of identity theft. Children are, in fact, 51 times more likely to have their identity stolen than adults.

As a member of the Assembly’s Codes Committee, I recently helped to pass legislation (A.7872-A), which would protects a students’ right to privacy. The bill gives parents of students – and students age 18 or older – the opportunity to opt out of the state Education Department’s disclosure of personal identifiable information to a third party. A child’s personal information should never be compromised.

Unfortunately, this growing trend of child identity theft has led to nightmare scenarios that are becoming increasingly problematic to correct. While a 12-year-old child cannot sign a mortgage agreement, child identity theft can occur when a child’s Social Security Number and other personal information is stolen and used by someone to assume that identity.

Because children rarely carry debt at such an early age, and they are essentially “blank slates,” they unfortunately also represent the perfect targets for unscrupulous identity thieves. These false identities can be used to acquire credit cards, set up bank accounts, obtain driver’s licenses and even take out loans for car and house purchases. Oftentimes, because children do not have credit reports, the identity theft is not discovered until significant financial damage has been done.

Parents must remain vigilant in protecting their children from identity theft. The following useful steps can be taken to avoid the devastating effects of child identity theft:

  • Keep an eye out for mail addressed to your child, especially credit card offers or debt collection materials;
  • Don’t share your child’s Social Security Number unless it’s necessary and ask what it’s needed for and how it will be protected;
  • Speak to your child about the importance of keeping their personal information safe;
  • Acquire a credit report with your child’s personal information by contacting the three credit agencies below or visitingwww.annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to a free credit report once a year from each agency. If activity is discovered, immediately report findings with the three credit agencies and file an identity theft report with local police.

For more information regarding child identity theft or to file a complaint, contact the State’s Division of Consumer Protection at 518-474-8583 orwww.dos.ny.gov .

Please feel free to share your thoughts with me on this and any other matter. My district office can be reached at (718) 743-4078 and we’re located at 1800 Sheepshead Bay Road. We’re open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m.to 5:30 p.m. and Fridays until 3 p.m. during the summer. Of course, you may always email me at cymbros@assembly.state.ny.us.

Source: wmfawmfa/Flickr

Petr Murmylyuk,  a.k.a. Dmitry Tokar, who we’ve written about before for engaging in a conspiracy to defraud customers of online stock trading websites as well as setting up a fraudulent employment website to scam the IRS of phony tax returns, has pleaded guilty to a new round of charges.

Murmylyuk stole a cool million by hacking retail brokerage accounts, plagiarizing customers’ identities, and executing sham trades, prosecutors say. A press release put out by the US District Attorney’s office says that Murmylyuk has now pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He previously pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft and tax fraud.

Previously we had written about Murmylyuk’s initial indictment on the charges listed above, as well as the phony tax return scheme. The U.S. District Attorney’s office described what Murmylyuk admitted to as well as the extent of his crimes:

Murmylyuk admitted that he participated in a conspiracy to steal from online trading accounts at Scottrade, E*Trade, Fidelity, Schwab and other brokerage firms. Members of the conspiracy first gained unauthorized access to the online accounts of brokerage firm customers. The conspirators then used stolen identities to open additional accounts – referred to in the Information as “Profit Accounts” – at other brokerage houses. They then caused the victims’ accounts to make unprofitable and illogical securities trades with the Profit Accounts, leading to losses in the victims’ accounts and gains in the Profit Accounts. One version of the fraud involved causing the victims’ accounts to sell options contracts to the Profit Accounts, then to purchase the same contracts back minutes later for many times the price.

The members of the conspiracy recruited foreign nationals visiting, studying, and living in the United States to open bank accounts into which illegal proceeds could be deposited. The conspirators then caused the proceeds of the sham trades to be transferred from the Profit Accounts into those accounts, where the stolen money could be withdrawn. The scheme caused combined losses to Scottrade, E*Trade, Fidelity, Schwab and other affected brokerage firms of approximately $1 million.

Sentencing is scheduled for November 12, where Murmylyuk could face the maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

fraud

City Council candidate Chaim Deutsch is tired of people dealing with the nightmare of identity theft, and is hoping that tougher penalties will deter future ripoff artists from pulling scams. In a press release, Deutsch also wants to root out bank card skimmers who use sophisticated tricks to steal people’s PIN numbers at ATM machines.

Deutsch pointed to the fact that no matter how alert you are, anyone can fall victim to a scammer, citing his own experience.

“With 22 years of involvement in law enforcement issues, I thought that I was well aware of bank card skimming tricks. I never thought that I would fall prey to one of these scams. But it recently happened to me and unfortunately, it’s a real threat and an everyday occurrence. Don’t think that you are immune to scams, no matter how savvy and alert you may be,” Deutsch said.

Deutsch’s release explained how people fall victim to bank card scams, which are increasing in sophistication:

The scam involves a device that is placed over or in an ATM’s card slot. The device reads your card number and sends the information to the thief. Deutsch explained that the methods that bank card skimmers use to steal your credit or ATM bank card information are becoming more sophisticated.

“People may not notice when a skimming device is placed over the card reader slot at an ATM machine. The device may be so tiny that it can be placed inside of the slot where it cannot be seen or over the existing card slot. Sometimes a tiny camera is also placed in a pamphlet holder near the ATM machine. The camera or skimmer then records your PIN number as you type it in,” said Deutsch.

The card holder has no idea that he or she has been victimized until a check bounces or they see unauthorized activity on their bank or credit card statement.

According to recent statistics, almost 80% of Americans have an ATM card and 60% of those people use it at least eight times a month. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that nine million Americans a year are the victims of identity theft. Many of these cases involve bank or credit card skimming.

Deutsch was impassioned when describing the frustration fraud victims experience and the disruption that the crime wrecks on their lives.

“A victim of identity theft has to spend a great deal of time and effort to get their lives back on track. ATM and credit cards need to be replaced. Numerous phone calls have to be made. You can’t make purchases or pay bills, because money is missing from your account and it may take several days for the bank to investigate the matter and issue a new card,” said Deutsch. “I am calling on our federal legislators to enact stricter penalties for those who are convicted of bank or credit card skimming and identity theft so that we may send a strong message to these scam artists that there are serious consequences for these crimes.”

Speaking from personal experience, I can attest to the fact that identity theft is a terrible ordeal to go through. My bank called me at work to inform me that someone was buying expensive jewelry in Baltimore using my ATM card information. My card was immediately canceled. Luckily, I just had enough cash in my wallet an on my MetroCard to make it home. Because it was a Friday, I had to wait until Monday to get it all straightened out, having to borrow money from friends to buy food for the weekend. Once I dealt with the bank, and extracted enough spending money, it took a week and a half before I received my new ATM card. While my experience wasn’t as bad as it could have been, it was an experience I don’t care to go through again in the future. Anyone else have identity theft nightmare stories?

Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein

The New York State Assembly passed the Consumer Credit Fairness Act, a bill designed to protect low-income and elderly New Yorkers from aggressive debt collection practitioners.

According to a report by the Post Star News, the primary purpose of the Consumer Credit Fairness Act, introduced by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, is to curb abusive debt collection lawsuits by the following means:

  • Requiring notice of a pending consumer credit action to be mailed to the defendants by the clerk of the court;
  • Requiring court filings to include more information about the debt targeted in a lawsuit, such as identifying the debt or account and providing proof that the debt is owed to the plaintiff;
  • Lowering the statute of limitations for consumer credit transactions from six years to three years, and eliminating the right to collect the debt once the statute of limitations is expired; and
  • Terminating the ability of debt buyers to sue on expired debt.

Weinstein explained the importance of the legislation as well as its impact on domestic violence victims.

“Abusive debt collection lawsuits exploit gaps in our state’s laws. This bill takes important steps to close these loopholes to protect consumers and helps to address the long-term impact of economic abuse, including identity theft, which is often suffered by domestic violence victims at the hands of their abusers.”

Weinstein’s work on the bill received high praise from Claudia Wilner, an attorney at NEDAP (Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project) who expressed hopes that it will be passed in the New York State Senate.

“We now call upon the Senate to pass the CCFA this legislative session to put an end to abusive debt collection practices. New Yorkers, particularly those who are low-income, elderly, disabled or domestic violence survivors, have been harassed by these unscrupulous debt collectors for far too long.”

Source: wmfawmfa/Flickr

The alleged leader of a tax fraud ring employing Kazakh student visa-holders and a phony job placement website pleaded guilty on Tax Day yesterday, the Manhattan District Attorney announced.

We first wrote about Petr Murmylyuk last year, when he was charged in Newark as the alleged leader of a $1 million securities fraud scheme that involved hacking into the online trading accounts of unsuspecting individuals, and forcing them to engage in losing trades that benefited a network of phony accounts he and his cohorts set up. Later that day, Manhattan prosecutors expanded an earlier indictment of Murmylyuk, 31, charging him with stealing the identities of more than 300 unemployed people and collecting phony tax returns in their names.

According to the DA’s press release:

 He recruited a network of eleven Kazakh student visa-holders, typically holders of J-1 Visas, to open bank accounts to receive the unauthorized refunds. MURMYLYUK pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Money Laundering in the Second Degree, and is expected to be sentenced on May 6, 2013.

…  According to his guilty plea, MURMYLYUK created a fake employment-related website with the address www.jobcentral2.net. The site offered fictitious job placement services through a program it claimed was “sponsored by the government and intended for people with low income.” MURMYLYUK sent e-mails with a link to his fake website through legitimate job search forums and college listservs and, in the weeks that followed, hundreds of people visited his site and submitted personal identifying information.

MURMYLYUK collected the information submitted to his website, and used it to forge tax returns in victims’ names. Using an e-filing vendor, the defendant claimed fraudulent refunds ranging from approximately $3,500 to $6,500 each. MURMYLYUK successfully obtained refunds in the names of 108 of the approximately 300 different victims who had visited www.jobcentral2.net, yielding more than $450,000 in stolen taxpayer funds.

MURMYLYUK recruited a group of students from Kazakhstan, many located on Russian-language social networking sites, to open accounts at banks across the country and provide their account numbers, online passwords, and other data to MURMYLYUK for use in the scheme. Many of the students returned to Kazakhstan shortly after opening the accounts for MURMYLYUK, were charged in the indictment in absentia.

 

We received the following press release from the Flatbush Shomrim:

In response to recent reports from local and federal law enforcement agencies that Identity Theft is at all time high in our community, Flatbush Shomrim has arranged a FREE on-site shredding event before Pesach.

The FREE shredding event is scheduled for this Sunday, March 17th from noon to 4pm, rain or shine. A LionCage Shredding truck will be parked across from HASC – 1221 East 14th Street between Ave. L and Locust Ave.

Organizers have advised that this free service is available for residence only and not for businesses. Limit 1-2 boxes/bags per family. Items to bring include old tax returns, expired IDs, credit cards, sensitive documents etc. Paper only. No metal, plastic or general trash. No need to remove paper clips or staples.

Many of you will have documents that you no longer need. That doesn’t mean you should throw them out in the regular trash. “Identity theft is real” explains Mark from LionCage Shredding. “Especially in this economy, a trash can is a gold mine for ID thieves.”

This event is endorsed by Flatbush Shomrim. “With identity thefts at an all time high, you cannot afford to miss this event” explains Chaim Deutsch. “Taking advantage of this free on-site shredding event is one more easy step to prevent yourself from becoming the next victim,” he warned.

A special thanks to Chaim Deutsch for arranging this free event.

For more information about LionCage Shredding for your business, please call 718.575.LION (5466) or visit them online at: www.LionCage.com

This event is not paid with taxpayer funds.

Joe Reisman, real life superhero.

Local Sanitation workers, the head of Community Board 15 and Sheepshead Bites’ own tax columnist, Joseph Reisman, all went above and beyond the call of duty on Friday, mobilizing to secure hundreds of documents containing names, addresses, Social Security numbers, bank account information and other information coveted by identity thieves that were accidentally strewn across a busy Sheepshead Bay intersection.

The incident was sparked by a tip sent to us by Sheepshead Bites reader Penny, who informed us at approximatly 6:00 p.m. on Friday that hundreds of papers were blowing in the wind on Avenue Z, between East 16th Street and East 17th Street. Upon closer inspection, Penny wrote, the papers were tax records from a local accountant, and contained some of the most sensitive private information about clients – the kind of info that makes ID thieves drool.

We checked it out, and, indeed, it appeared hundreds, if not thousands, of individual’s identities were at risk.

First, we called the accountant listed on the papers, and even knocked on his office door. But no one was in.

Then we called our own tax guru, Reisman, to see if there was a city or state agency able to respond and quickly clean up the mess and possibly notify the accountant and his clients. Reisman wasn’t aware of any, and advised us to call the city.

We then called 311, but the uniqueness of the complaint baffled operators. After being transferred around a couple of times, an operator said all they could do was file a complaint, and, in time, the Sanitation Department would dispatch someone to check out the location and issue the accountant a fine for littering. However, it wasn’t clear if they could get someone to the location within 24 hours.

That wasn’t good enough. With so much personal information so easily accessible to passers-by, we knew every second it remained on the street, people’s credit and identities remained at risk.

Keep reading to find out what happened next.

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