FraudJournal Blog

April 7, 2014

NW Security Breach Creates Nightmare for Seattle Archdiocese Volunteers

Filed under: Uncategorized — fraudjournal @ 2:55 PM

Three of the well-known and national entities, the FBI, the IRS and the Catholic Archdiocese (of Seattle), are now working together to determine the what, why, and how one of the largest security breaches has occurred. This event has become the poster-child for a growing tax fraud problem in the northwest. Victims of the security breach have been alerted to review their credit scores, and to do some research to verify if they are indeed, victims or potential victims of fraudsters using the “tax refund fraud scheme.”

Major news stations have been following this situation; KIRO-TV is quoted as saying that, “as many as 90,000 staff and volunteers in Western Washington” could possibly be vulnerable or actual victims. This is just an estimate and there are no figures from any source to provide an actual number. And the rumor is that there may not be a way to get close to a number.

KING 5 mentioned on their website that their research shows that “at least 80 people from six different parishes across the Puget Sound had their tax returns falsely filed.” One individual stated that due to a name change years ago, and that the IRS had decent filters in place, the false return attempted with her former information was caught quickly. Others may not be as lucky.

While the IRS is referring to this situation as the largest of its kind on the West Coast, the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen states that in 2010 and 2011 this type of fraud took a jump in activity with the epicenters being in Florida, Georgia and Washington D.C. and is now working its way from east to west.

The fraud community is very familiar with identity theft, tax scams and in general, fraudulent behavior. However, even we are shaking our heads at the level and complexity that fraudulent behavior is moving both locally and nationally. The age of digitized information and limited training have resulted in the ability for hackers, data miners and phishers to locate, sell and/or use someone’s information.

While fraud insurance is on the rise as a product of choice, the greatest and most effective method to reduce identity theft is old-fashioned awareness and prompt review of one’s activity.

The March 20th, 2014 posting by KiNG5.com stated that Washington, D.C.’s government watchdog mentioned that the IRS has been dealing with approximately 20,000 tax payers who claimed to have been targeted by fake IRS agents via the phone. Individuals refusing to comply are threatened to be arrested or worst deported and or the loss of a business and/or driver’s license. All of which J. Russell George an IRS Inspector General, stated, “that real IRS agents usually contact people first by mail….and they don’t demand payment by debit card, credit card or wire transfer.”

For those of you in the ‘fight against fraud’ or wanting to stay informed, please take time to help your elderly, friends and family and community at large about the need to diligently protect your information.

I have been targeted by someone looking over my shoulder and memorizing my card number. It is easy to get relaxed and not pay attention to those around you or your information, let alone having it stolen through a security breach.

Here are the links for more information and how to respond if you are concerned about your possibly becoming a victim of this situation.

And to end on a funny, albeit morbid quote from Oregonlive, “As for when the cause and culprit come to light, God only knows.”

May your compass point remain truth-true my friends!

Seattle Archdiocese

OregonLive

IRS Site

April 24, 2013

ZeekRewards – How The Cons Play on Fears and Hope

Filed under: Uncategorized — fraudjournal @ 5:21 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Mitch Weiss, PA Writer at USAToday, posted an article “ZeekRewards scam leaves N.C. town millions poorer“, on March 30th this year to share the pain and embarrassment of the residents of Lexington, North Carolina. In this touching article there are the warnings, voiced anger and frustration, and lessons of how fraudsters repeatedly use various scams on the public. The key word of choice from all victims is “…we trusted…” him or her or the company or the family.

Trust is a word that comes from the source of our soul. It is what we use to describe a direct connection to any person, place or event we choose to open ourselves towards, and here is the caveat, with an anticipated return or reward for this ‘trust’. Unfortunately, the very nature of trust indicates that any return is actually not promised; it is solely in the hand of those or the individual we trust. We trust our family, friends, neighbors, employers or employees and the list go on. Which brings me to my point; why do we do this? Have we become so disconnected from our instincts that we are unable to see the snake in the grass, the odd reflection in the mirror, or the subtle nature of the predator in wait.

Any investigator will tell you that truth is like fake gold; the shimmer albeit indicative of gold is not the promise of gold. Truth requires both patience and quiet of mind to hear it. It is that quiet glint that says to you, wait…you need to check this again. One of the victims in this article thought she had done her due diligence. She drove to the location to verify it was indeed a valid business entity and saw the line outside the door of people willing to offer funds to invest while the getting was good. But here in lies the rub, her first instinct was right, her second action was not based on instinct but on desire to join the crowd. And cons love crowds. Why? Because crowds are easier to control. Because collectively they become the bait-ball that predators can take a run at.

Much like the great Ponzi scams of the century, once the fraudster is caught, they will always say, “…you shouldn’t have let it get this far”. And they are right. But only on that point, they are still accountable for their actions and not our gullibility. However, there is always someone who cries “…the Emperor has no clothes on!” And they are quieted or ignored because we seek the lucky find that changes our lives and makes life easier to live. Its more fun to boast we struck it rich than do the work.

So I ask you then, is a mindful life really that difficult? Are we that fearful of poverty or keeping up with the world or the lack of opportunity that we are driven like lemmings to follow the barker of the carnival of promises and cures? When are we as the general public also responsible for our unwilling to slow down and ask the hard question; what is impulsing me to take this chance? What am I risking? And does the rush of my fellow friends and family a good thing or a fear of missing out.

It is sad that when we are down in the spirit, hurting and in need of hope that some group or individual offers the promise of false hope at the cost of our hearts. However, in times of broken hearts or wishful thinking, this is the most important time for us to stop, look, listen to our heart of hearts and ask the hard question…what impulse am I following.

Be safe my colleagues and friends. There are no promises of fame and fortune. What we sow we shall surely reap. It may take time if we dawdle here and there, but the universe can only send us what our hearts ask for – an easy ride with no foundation or the gradual and stable building of a future.

 

April 10, 2013

Stealing From the Dead – Time for Change?

Filed under: Uncategorized — fraudjournal @ 1:04 PM

The Annual ID Theft Season

Tis the season to file  your taxes РHooray. Just kidding. Most of us try hard to avoid this process until the last-minute. This year, Congress took so much time to act that the IRS had to actually rewrite forms, software codes and delay the initial processing of tax returns. This in turn resulted in tax preparers becoming challenged to meet the deadline of April 15th after having lost nearly a month of preparation time; not to mention the allowed delay of brokerages and financial institutions to get out their documents to their clients.

So what has this to do with “stealing from the dead” you ask? If you ask any Enrolled Agent (EA) or Certified Public Accountant (CPA) preparing the annual tax return, they will roll their eyes and become flush with anger that the social security numbers of deceased clients are available to the public for ten dollars from the Social Security Administration.

An Attempt to Stop Fraud Begets Fraud

Unfortunately, what was started to help fight identity fraud has resulted in aiding and abetting fraud. Fraudsters, who seem to hold a wealth of creative talent, have realized that for a nominal fee they can get the social security number of recently deceased individuals, file a fraudulent tax return with a sizable refund and then disappear. Once the spouse or family get around to filing the return, the IRS is unable to honor the second, albeit true taxpayer, the refund of taxes paid. The return is processed but without the final step of refund money. And this happens each year and has become a growing problem. It will take an act of Congress, literally, to change this process and you can help. Contact your representatives and congressional representatives to enact the removal of this easily accessible master list from the general public. Sound off!  Make it a grass-roots action!

Here are some links to review for more information.

http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-02-2012/tax-refund-scam-alert.html

http://www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection

http://www.cpapracticeadvisor.com/news/10917938/id-theft-and-tax-fraud-prevention-act-proposed-to-protect-taxpayers

April 3, 2013

Pursuit Magazine’s “Thirty Rules to Live by for Private Investigators”

Filed under: Uncategorized — fraudjournal @ 12:44 PM

I find great delight in sharing insights and ‘lessons learned’ from those out in the field. Private Investigators deal with a multitude of information and people on a daily basis. Dealing with clients often requires keen insight into the psychology of emotions and motivation not to mention education of the realistic process of investigation and the costs involved.

Much like their government counterparts, detectives and agents, the process of investigation requires careful attention to detail. The devil is in the details is an often made statement regarding how important it is to be mindful of our policies and procedures during any case of investigation and engagement we encounter. And mindful of how we present our selves to the world. Most business owners often learn the hard way that they must wear multiple hats and not doing so can result in burn-out and worst of all, mistakes.

Please take time to read this list of “Thirsty Rules to Live by for Private Investigators” from Pursuit Magazine as it contains some important information, most of which many of you have already learned the hard way, but if not you have a chance to gain knowledge before any hard knocks hit you from the sidelines. Take care and always be mindful of your choices in life. And thanks to my friend K. Paxton in Oregon for sharing this with me today.

 

 

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