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Identity theft and phone fraud in 2016

Ken Kleinlein

Ken Klein­lein

By Ken Klein­lein
Crime Scene

An Engle­wood res­i­dent queried me about what scams to look out for in 2016. Engle­wood com­puter guru George Mar­riott (474−3177) (gmarriott@gmail.com) offered the fol­low­ing information:

David Dewey, direc­tor of research at Pin­drop Secu­rity, a firm that pro­vides anti-fraud detec­tion tech­nol­ogy for call cen­ters and phone users, offers the lat­est trends in iden­tity theft and phone fraud.

Uncle Sam Imper­son­ators
2015 was the year of the IRS scam: Crooks imper­son­at­ing the IRS and intim­i­dat­ing con­sumers into pay­ing penal­ties for back taxes accounted for nearly a quar­ter of all scams reported to the Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau. Expect worse in 2016.

Buried in the Con­gres­sional bud­get bill was a pro­vi­sion allow­ing debt col­lec­tors to use robo­call tech­nol­ogy to pur­sue any­one owing gov­ern­ment debt. Until now, con­sumers were advised – cor­rectly – that the gov­ern­ment would never ini­ti­ate con­tact by phone, and just this past June the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion strength­ened pro­tec­tions against debt col­lec­tors call­ing a cell phone to dun late-paying loan hold­ers. In 2016, that will no longer be true.

We expect to see a spike in scams tar­get­ing over­due stu­dent loans, Fred­die Mac and Fan­nie Mae mort­gage debt other than just taxes.

Tip: Don’t trust the num­ber that shows up on your caller ID. If some­one calls to col­lect money, tell the caller you want to con­duct the trans­ac­tion in per­son and you will come to the office. If it’s legit­i­mate, he’ll give you an address.

Polit­i­cal Cons
Amid the onslaught of polit­i­cal phone spam con­sumers can expect this elec­tion year are new scams that Pindrop’s researchers have never seen before.

The basic scam starts with crooks spoof­ing a candidate’s phone num­ber so that the call seems to come from cam­paign head­quar­ters invit­ing you to join a vir­tual town hall meet­ing with the can­di­date. The meet­ing sounds legit­i­mate because the scam­mers have patched together por­tions of pre­vi­ous town halls or use a voice actor to imi­tate a can­di­date. At a cer­tain point, the call is inter­rupted and you’re asked to press #1 to make a dona­tion. To sup­port your can­di­date you give your credit card num­ber. Not only have you handed over money to an unknown entity, you have opened the door to iden­tity theft.

Tip: Never donate to a polit­i­cal cam­paign dur­ing an unso­licited phone call. There is no way to authen­ti­cate the per­son mak­ing the call.

Data Breaches

Last year’s data hacks at extra-marital match­maker Ash­ley Madi­son and toy maker V Tech proved that scam­mers are after more than your credit card num­ber. Instead, they glean per­sonal infor­ma­tion to build detailed pro­files that can be used for sophis­ti­cated forms of iden­tity theft that may not be imme­di­ately obvious.

The [hacked] infor­ma­tion is not directly finan­cially related but becomes a step­ping stone to a finan­cial moti­va­tor.
Crooks exploit the V Tech data breach, which com­pro­mised the pro­files of 6.4 mil­lion kids around the world. Because kids have no credit his­tory and their par­ents gen­er­ally don’t check their credit reports reg­u­larly, the theft might not be noticed until the kids grow up and apply for a credit card or finan­cial aid for college.

Tip: This type of data breach could affect you even if your tastes don’t run to toys or hanky-panky. The health care indus­try is a rich tar­get for new scams, as are pop­u­lar shar­ing econ­omy sites, such as Uber and AirBnB.

Mobile Wal­let Pickpockets

Scam­mers thwarted by the added pro­tec­tion of chip-embedded credit cards have a promis­ing alter­na­tive: mobile wal­lets. Thieves increas­ingly tap funds by tap­ping into the accounts of oth­ers through Apple Pay, Google Wal­let, Sam­sung Pay, Android Pay, and Pay Pal, among others.

I received an email allegedly from Pay Pal request­ing that I update my account or access will be lim­ited. It included charges to my account with a case ID num­ber. My instruc­tions were to click on the but­ton below, log in my pass­word and e-mail address, and ver­ify my information.

I do not have a Pay Pal account! If you receive such an email and do have an account, notify Pay Pal and ver­ify before doing any­thing. It’s amaz­ing how easy it is to add some­body else’s info to a Pay account.

Take care, be care­ful, and I’ll see you at the next Crime Scene.

God bless and pro­tect our mil­i­tary, law enforce­ment, fire fight­ers, and EMT’s.

Ken Klein­lein is a for­mer detec­tive with the NYPD spe­cial frauds squad coor­di­nat­ing with local, state, and fed­eral law enforce­ment, and cer­ti­fied secu­rity com­pa­nies on mat­ters of crime pre­ven­tion and pub­lic information.

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