Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How Identity Theft Can Affect You

How Identity Theft Can Affect You
By: Ellen Fogarty Vice President Security Office at Pioneer Savings Bank

Identity thieves frequently open new accounts in your name. They often apply for new credit cards using information, make charges, and leave the bills unpaid. It is also common for them to set up telephone or utility service in your name and not pay for it. Some victims have found that identity thieves applied for loans, apartments, and mortgages, or print counterfeit checks in a victim's name.

Thieves also often access your existing accounts. They may take money from your bank accounts, make charges on your credit cards, and use your checks and credit to make down payments for cars, furniture, and other expensive items. They may even file for government benefits including unemployment insurance and tax refunds.

Four out of five victims have no idea how an identity thief obtained their personal information. Among those who think they know what happened, many believe the identity theft occurred when their purse of wallet was stolen or lost. Thieves also steal identities from the trash, and it can occur at home, at work, or at a business.

Group identity theft has become a major problem for consumers. A thief gains access to a place that keeps records for many people. Targets have included stores, fitness centers, car dealers, schools, hospitals, and even credit bureaus. Thieves may either use the stolen identities themselves or sell them to other criminals.

"Pretexting" is a method of identity theft that is on the rise. The identity thief poses as a legitimate representative of a survey firm, bank, Internet service provider, employer, landlord, or even a government agency. The thief contacts you through the mail, telephone, or e-mail, and attempts to get you to reveal your information, usually by asking you to "verify" some data.

Victims of identity theft often find that someone they know has committed the crime. Roommates, hired help, and landlords all have access to private information. Identity theft within families is also fairly common.

Identity theft often goes undetected. Within a month of being committed, half of the crimes still remain unnoticed. One in ten stays hidden for two or more years. Identity thieves may change "your" address on an account so that you won't ever receive the bills with the fraudulent charges on them. They will often pay the minimum balances on accounts they have opened, so as to avoid calling attention to the account and having it cut off.

Steps to Prevent Fraud

In the home, keep personal information safe, especially if you have roommates or are having any work done in your home. Don't keep Personal Identification Numbers (PIN's) near your checkbook, ATM card, or debit card. Shred any papers with confidential information before you throw them out, even the junk mail. Anything with an account number can be used in identity theft.

Since many identity thefts are traced to having a purse or wallet stolen, carry as few cards with identification and personal information as possible. Don't take your social security number, and bring as few credit cards as you can. You should be wary of any mail, telephone, or Internet request for information, it could be "pretexting". Unless you initiated the contact with a business, don't give out any confidential information such as your credit card number, social security number, PIN, birth date, or even your mother's maiden name. Check your banking and credit statements soon after you receive them and make sure there is no unexplained activity. Keep track of when in the month each of your bills usually arrives. If a bill does not arrive on time, call the company to make sure no changes have been made to your account. Be particularly wary of giving out your social security number. Few institutions, businesses granting you credit, employers filling out tax forms for you or government agencies, have any reasonable cause to know your social security number. However, a business may refuse to serve you if you do not give them the information they request. It is up to you if you still want to do business with the company.

Many people don't realize they are victims of identity theft until long after the initial crime occurred. To stop the crimes as soon as possible make sure you carefully check you credit reports regularly. Contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies to order a copy of your credit report at least once each year. Consider canceling credit cards you haven't used in a long time. You can also consider adding a "fraud alert" to make it harder for thieves to open new accounts without your knowledge. With a fraud alert, the credit agency has to call you to confirm any request it receives to open a new account in your name. If you decide you want this service, just contact the credit reporting agencies. The three agencies to contact are as follows: Equifax - ..:NAMESPACE PREFIX = SKYPE /> (800) 525-6285 , Experian (800) 397-3742 , TransUnion

(800) 680-7289 .

Reduce the circulation of your information through the mail. Stop receiving credit offers by calling 1-888-5OPTOUT . You can also reduce direct mail marketing and telemarketing by contacting the Direct Marketing Association.

Identity Theft "Article from the FTC website"

Identity Theft "Article from the FTC website"

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft. The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn't make-or until you're contacted by a debt collector.

Identity theft is serious. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record. Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.

How do thieves steal an identity?

Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold. Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:

Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.

Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.

Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.

Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.

Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.

Pretexting. They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.

Mission Possible Investigations can help you sort through one of the most agonizing experiences in the world. Even something as simple as running a full background check on yourself can help you start to uncover the any red flags pop up about your personal or financial background. Investigators can help you find the person who stole your identity and help you get back on track.

What Thieves do with a stolen identity. "From the FTC"

What Thieves do with a stolen identity.

(from the FTC)

Once they have your personal information, identity thieves use it in a variety of ways.

Credit card fraud:

They may open new credit card accounts in your name. When they use the cards and don't pay the bills, the delinquent accounts appear on your credit report.

They may change the billing address on your credit card so that you no longer receive bills, and then run up charges on your account. Because your bills are now sent to a different address, it may be some time before you realize there's a problem.

Phone or utilities fraud:

They may open a new phone or wireless account in your name, or run up charges on your existing account.

They may use your name to get utility services like electricity, heating, or cable TV.

Bank/finance fraud:

They may create counterfeit checks using your name or account number.

They may open a bank account in your name and write bad checks.

They may clone your ATM or debit card and make electronic withdrawals your name, draining your accounts.

They may take out a loan in your name.

Government documents fraud:

They may get a driver's license or official ID card issued in your name but with their picture.

They may use your name and Social Security number to get government benefits.

They may file a fraudulent tax return using your information.

Other fraud:

They may get a job using your Social Security number.

They may rent a house or get medical services using your name.

They may give your personal information to police during an arrest. If they don't show up for their court date, a warrant for arrest is issued in your name.


Ten people were indicted by a federal grand jury in Seattle in connection with a scheme to illegally obtain confidential information on more than 12,000 citizens across the country. To obtain confidential tax, medical and employment information, workers at BNT Investigations in Belfair, Washington, would pose as another individual to get government agencies including the IRS, the Social Security Administration, and various state employment security offices to provide confidential information. The year-long investigation dubbed, "Operation Dialing for Dollars," also revealed that some workers posed as representatives of doctors' offices to get medical or pharmacy records.

"This indictment alleges that private investigators across the country illegally obtained confidential information and sold it to the clients who hired them," said United States Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan. "This is a very serious matter, the investigation is continuing and it is our intention to go after these 'clients' if we can prove that they knew this information was obtained illegally."



Monday, November 12, 2007

Evidence for Attorneys Dvd Vs. HI 8 Video

DVD vs. HI 8 Video

Often attorneys must decide what format of video evidence would they prefer.

As long as the video is admissible in court one is not better than the other, however here are a few things to think about.

For the last 20 Years Hi 8 Video was the way to go for recording video evidence and has worked well in court cases across the country. As technology propels us into the future, we are faced with new technology that will enhance our lives and make our jobs easier.

DVD's have many great aspects such as being able to play them in your desktop computer, laptop, home DVD player and portable DVD players. DVDs are a quick and easy way to store video information that can also be sent via email from one colleague to another.

As a private investigator I think of a few things when choosing what to shoot my video with. 1. Does the video camera have adequate night vision. 2. Does the camera have quality zoom control where I can be far enough away to not blow my cover but close enough to make out details about the subjects. 3. How long will my battery last 4. How much recording can I complete on 1 DVD vs High 8 cassette.
As an attorney, if you don't have the equipment to review and convert a High 8 video, DVD is probably the way to go. DVD gives your firm that professional look and feel. As technology moves forward, Hi 8 cassette will become the dinosaurs of technology and DVD will be the mainstream technology to use.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Services Descriptions

Attorney Services ~ Full services for all litigation needs including but not limited to background checks, witness location and interviews, and surveillance using video and photographic technology

Civil and Criminal Litigation Services ~ Similar type work to our attorney services but also available to individuals seeking a private investigator

Insurance Fraud ~ Evidence collection using video and photographic technology for disability, workers compensation and other fraudulent insurance claims

Missing Persons/ Heir Locate/ Witness Locate ~
For those seeking a loved one, family member, old friend, heir location, witness location and others

Personal Injury ~ Services to those that have been injured in an accident or with malicious intent and need the evidence for litigation or attorneys representing such persons

Pre-employment Screening ~Extensive background investigation for large and small employers including investigative interviews if needed. Pre-employment screening can include but not limited to the following records ~ Name, Address & SSN Verification, Bankruptcy Filing Search, Character Reference Interviews, Corporate Search, Character Investigation, Credit History, Criminal Conviction Search, Current Warrant & Wants Search, Civil Court Record Search, DBA Ownership Search, Drivers License Search, Driving Record Search, Earnings Verification, Education Verification, Job Performance Interviews, Professional Licensing Verification, Prior Employment Verification, Telephone Number Verification, Worker’s Compensation Claims Search

Surveillance ~ Used in any type of private investigation case as needed with video and photographic evidence. Typically our clients need evidence in cases such as Matrimonial, Domestic, Child Custody, Elder & Child Abuse, Personal Injury, Insurance Fraud, Civil and Criminal cases. Hi8 and DVD formata are available for your video needs. MPI also uses 35mm or digital photography to assist you with your photographic needs. We want to tailor your investigation down to the photographic or video detail.

Background Checks ~ We offer several background check packages based on your needs our background investigations include; Internet Search, Public Records, Interviews, Surveillance, Arrest Records, Alias Names, Bankruptcy Filings, Criminal Records, Convictions, Corporate Ownership, Driving Records, Domain Name Ownership, Judgments, Relatives, Lawsuits, Military Background, Past & Present Addresses, Prisoner Information, Property Ownership, Phone Numbers, Professional Licenses, Real Age, Sex Offenders, Tax Liens, U.C.C. Filings, Vehicle Ownership.

Elder / Child Abuse & Neglect ~Available for both elder and child abuse cases, child custody, in-home, nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities and individuals who suspect abuse and neglect may be occurring. The following are the types of elder abuse~neglect investigations conducted. Bruises/Welts, Cut/Puncture/Bites, Burns/Scalds, Sprain, Dislocation, Bone Fractures, Internal Injuries, Asphyxiation/Suffocation/Drowning, Injury with Deadly Weapon, Decubitus, Physical Injury, Sexual Battery, Sexual Molestation, Sexual Exploitation/Lewdness, Harrassment/Belittlement/Ridicule, Inappropriate/Excessive restraints, Inappropriate/Excessive isolation, Confinement/Bizarre Punishment, Mental or Psychological Injury, Inappropriate or Excessive drugs given, Poisoning, Inadequate supervision, Conditions Hazardous to Health, Inadequate Shelter, Inadequate clothing, Inadequate food, Malnutrition/Dehydration, Self Neglect, Death due to Abuse/Neglect
Financial Exploitation/ Identity Theft ~ Individuals who have been exploited out of their money including suspected identity theft

Matrimonial/ Domestic Cases/ Child Custody ~ Mission Possible Investigations conducts Infidelity/cheating spouse type cases. We collect information about the subject of the investigation day and night activities and who they interact with. MPI uses high quality surveillance video and photographic equipment to gather evidence for our clients. Database search engines that sift through millions and millions of web sites and documents that can be found online that are not always available to the public are frequently used. When necessary, discrete interviews to gather information regarding your case may also be conducted. MPI will also identify other individuals that may be relevant to your case. If needed, investigators will meet with your attorneys, provide evidence as needed and can also testify in your case. MPI also conducts investigations into other circumstances including elder and family law cases.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Overview on Elder Abuse

It’s no secret that the Baby Boomer generation is bringing aging issues to the forefront more so than ever before. One of these critical issues is the growing concern of elder abuse. While this is a relatively new field, there is some available research and an understanding of the scope of the problem.

According to the Elder Abuse Center “some 10 percent of people age 70+ have mild to severe cognitive impairment, and prevalence rises sharply with age.” There is a whole body of growing evidence showing that cognitive decline and depression are strong independent risk factors for abuse and neglect. Education about elder abuse is a key factor in prevention.

While specific laws vary state to state elder abuse is defined as any knowing, intentional, or negligence by a caregiver or other persons that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. The term “vulnerable adult” is typically defined as any person 18 years plus that has a physical or psychological or developmental disability. While younger adults with a disability can be victims of abuse, the rate of abuse of elderly persons happens at a much higher rate. Elder abuse has been and continues to be grossly underreported. Elder abuse can include any physical, sexual and emotion abuse, financial exploitation and neglect. Some of the most significant risk factors are social isolation and mental limitations such as dementia making it almost impossible for alleged victims to disclose abuse and seek the help they need.

More information about elder abuse and steps to keep the elder community safe can be found at http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/psa/

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Choosing a Private Investigator

You've heard the stories, heck I've heard the stories. A woman goes to a private investigator because she thinks her spouse is cheating. The PI barely listens to her, condescends to her and then tells her he has got it covered. All he needs is for her to hand over $500 or $1000 or possibly more and sign the retainer agreement. Flash forward three weeks and he's calling her because he's used up the retainer funds, he's investigated and still he doesn't have the "goods" but he suspects the guy is cheating. He tells her he needs more time. She looks at her dwindling bank account and is mixed with dread and the emotion of not knowing if her spouse is really cheating. We've all been there, the nagging doubt, the suspicion and the absolute dread. Always we hope against hope that we are just being paranoid. She hands over more money, what can she do. She's in this far and she NEEDS to know. The PI has got her hooked. Maybe after more hours and more money, he finally gets the poor woman what she needs or maybe she just gets tired of handing over the cash with no results and cuts ties with the PI. She's then left with the same nagging doubt and far less money in her bank account. How do I know this happens? It happened to my mom and I've heard countless other stories from clients, co-worker and friends.

I'm going to let you in on a few secrets most won't tell you. Do your research first! If you need a PI and will be working within the legal system, speak with your attorney for recommendations or requirements for choosing a PI. The same is true for all marital, custody or civil cases. Often your attorney will already be working with a PI that they can refer you to.

Make sure the private investigator has a license to investigate. The requirements for investigators vary from state to state. Here in New York there is an extensive background check, a test you must pass and a certain level of hands-on experience you must have. The following link will allow you to check your state requirements. Don't assume because someone has a sign that says they are licensed that they are in fact licensed. Ask to see a copy of their license. State License Requirements http://www.pimall.com/nais/nais.lic.list.html Use the free confidential assessment if one is offered. This is a way for both you and the PI to get to know one another and assess your case. Investigative firms often have specialties but that doesn't mean they don't also do general investigations. Make sure they can do what you are asking and they have experience doing it. Ask questions about their background and experience. Listen to what they are telling you, questions they are asking you. How will this person come across if they have to testify for you in court? This is the time for you to evaluate the PI as much as they are evaluating you and your case.

Take a look at their website if they have one or other markting materials. Is it well done? Are there spelling and grammar errors. Remember this is the public face of their company and it's important and could be reflective of later work.

Make sure you feel comfortable with the private investigator. Ask if they will be working on your case of if it will be someone else in the office. Always remember you are an important witness in whatever case you have. The same level of attention to detail they give to the information you have to offer will often be reflective of the level of attention to detail they will give the entire case. The more they ask you questions and obtain your knowledge, the better prepared they will be to investigate. You are one of the most important interviews they will do.

Always ask up front about hidden fees. Yes they may have an hourly rate of $60.00 but then there could be a charge for video, a per picture charge, possibly mileage and my favorite charge "supplies." Make sure you receive an estimate on the overall charges for your case? Make sure you have a written contract that is clear and easy to understand. Some PI firms like Mission Possible Investigations charge a flat hourly rate inclusive of all these fees to keep it simple for you and for us. We simply have a different bottom line than other firms.

Assess what kind of equipment is used for surveillance. Is it newer technology or something that looks like it was dragged out of grandpa's attic? How computer tech savvy is the PI? These are important factors to consider.

Read all documents carefully. Never feel pressured to sign a contract. This is an important decision for you and you need to have all the facts about the firm you hire. Talk to the PI about what you want and make sure you understand what they are telling you. Often clients have an unclear expectation of what PI is allowed to do within the law. Make sure you discuss with them what you are hoping for and what it is they can really offer you. Make sure it's a good fit.

Does the PI have any references from attorneys or other clients? Always ask. How will they keep you up to date with information they find? This is important to know from the beginning.

Use your gut instinct. If you don't feel like you can trust or that you feel comfortable with the PI in front of you, keep looking until you find a good match. These are just some of the ways to choose a PI. It's important to always do your homework and a little research prior to choosing your PI or really any of kind of service you may need.