This time in New York; Attorney General Eric Schneiderman charged 7 gang members yesterday with aggravated identity theft and access device fraud. 3 people are from Bronx, 1 person from Pomona and 3 other individuals from Seaford. They managed to break into over 180 personal store credit account opened at retail chains such as Home Depot, Sears, Kmart, Kohl’s. Gang members have been buying merchandise and gift cards for resale. Gang was also manufacturing state ID cards and driver’s licenses so that they could charge a stolen account pretending they forgot the credit card and use driver’s license and social security number at the store to complete a purchase. Gang members have their tasks divided among the members, 1 individual was impersonating victims at the stores, 3 people were producing fake identification documents and 3 other were running sale of fraudulently purchased merchandise and credit cards. Most merchandise was returned back to the stores in return for store credit in the form of gift card. Gift cards were then sold for 60-70% of nominal value. Investigation involved court authorized wire taping of gang members phone conversations which will now be used against defendants as evidence. The loss of all victims of the scheme is estimated for $1 million. Suspects face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said yesterday “Today’s arrests send a strong message to identity thieves in this state: they will be caught and prosecuted.”
Over 50 people from 15 states and Puerto Rico were charged yesterday in a massive scale ID theft ring. The scheme was to steal or buy Puerto Rican identity from a broker and the sell it in the US to illegal immigrant seeking valid US state id cards, driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and passports as well as financial services. US based brokers have been selling sets of Puertorican birth certificate and Social Security card for $700-$2500, charging half of the amount upfront and the other half upon delivery. After taking a first installment broker would contact identity supplier and request appropriate set using simple code, pants or skirt for sex and garment size for age. The documents were sent from PR to various US states with USPS Express Mail.
The suspect are facing 15 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines if convicted.
Investigation started in 2009 when first case was discovered in Rockford, IL but quickly spread to other states. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was working on the case codename Island Express for close to 2 years with joined effort of USPS and local police departments.
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South Carolina as a state with minority discrimination history had to get pre clearance from Department of Justice to apply ammendement to the election laws. Proposed law requires state issued photo identification in order to cast a ballot. Bill sponsors and supporters argued it would improve voting process integrity while preventing fraud. Amendment contesters said fraud have been very rare and insignificant while as many as 600000 registred voters don’t have proper identification. The state offered free photo id cards for voting but the problem of supporting documentation remained as getting a birth certificate might require lawyer’s office assistance which wouln’t be reimbursed by the state.
Based on state’s own data DOJ denied pre clearance on Dec 23rd 2011 based on risk that new legislation would mostly affect minorities and their right to vote.
South Carolina wants to appeal from DOJ decision and the case will most likely have it’s final stage in the US Supreme Court. The case is highly partisan as the legislation was sponsored by Republicans and DOJ is considered a part of Obama administration. Yesterday 3 high profile politicians promised to file a suit against DOJ in few weeks. Attorney General Alan Wilson said “Our intent of the office is to look at this legislation through the litigation process and to ensure that no voter is suppressed in the right to vote and that the integrity of the electoral process is protected, (…) That is of paramount importance that we protect the electoral process and ensure that voter irregularities and potential voter fraud is curtailed, curbed or prevented.” Wilson got support from Gov. Nikki Haley and House Speaker Bobby Harrell.
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Sang-Hyun Park, 45 years old, South Korea native, pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft in Newark court on Monday. He is considered a head of gang as big as 54 members arrested in September 2010 by Federal Authorities. For over 3 years the gang was running a sophisticated identity theft scheme on an unprecedented scale. First the group hijacked Social Security numbers from Chinese immigrants working in oversea American territories such Guam, Saipan and Samoa; then they opened credit card accounts using stolen identities and ran them in perfect standing so the credit card score would get to 700 or more allowing for substantial credit limit increase. Having hefty credit cards on hand as well as potential to get even more debt from financial institutions the gang robbed banks for close to $4 million. Many stores were involved into fake sales allowing direct money transfer from credit card companies, lots of luxury goods have been bought as well. Stolen SS# were also sold to Korean immigrants seeking US state ID cards and driver’s license. These individuals applied for state identification documents in California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Nevada and New York. The gang full scale operation included advertising in Korean press, running shell businesses, hiring identity brokers and credit score boosters; part of the profit is believed to be laundered off shore.
Park immigrated to the US from Seoul in 1999 planning to start a business of raw materials import, after 9/11 attacks when the business slowed down severely he borrowed $100k from his mother to keep cash fluidity. After running out of money he started the id theft scheme claiming it was to pay his mother back.
Under the plea agreement Park faces 12 years in prison for five felony counts: conspiracy to unlawfully produce identification documents and false identification documents; conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting financial institutions and bank fraud; aggravated identity theft; money laundering; and conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service. After serving his sentence Park will most likely get deported to Korea as he’s not US citizen.
Around 2.2 million state photo id cards and driver’s licenses are up for renewal this year in the state of Indiana. This is close to ten times more than 2011 when 260,000 documents were renewed. It’s not single year baby boom and baby boomers are not to blame this time. The spike is due to 2005 Read ID act and they way Indiana decided to implement it. Real ID act is a legislation passed by the Congress on the wave of after 9/11 law corrections to tighten up state identification documents processing. The law is more strict about the documentation to be presented when applying for state id documents as well storing the digital scanned images of the paperwork presented. The state plans is to be Real ID compliant in 2013. In order to enforce that date documents issued in 2007 and 2008 expire in 2012 instead of 2013 and 2014 respectively and hence the spike.
Indiana has been maintaining very high customer satisfaction record (over 90%) for years with short lines at local Bureau of Motor Vehicle locations. Agency robust and convenient website attracted a lot of customers to get their case processed online, as high 44% cases last year and over 70% of license plate renewals. The agency officials are confident that service will be smooth this year but advise not to wait for deadline with renewing documents expiring this year. There have been consumer complaints on scam artists trying to assist with renewal process for a fee. BMV warns customers that all business has to be done directly on the agency web page myBMV.com or at a branch office. Customers can also call BMV customer service at (888) 692-6841
Oman will shortly upgrade its citizens and expatriates id cards to more technology advanced ones. Lieutenant-general Hassan bin Mohsin Al Shuraiqi of Inspector-General of Police and Customs office has signed a contract with French security vendor Gemalto. New cards have double the memory when compare to the old ones, this allows for more data to be stored as well as improved security thanks to encryption, finger print and digital signature integration. Additionally the card will now also hold information on educational background, socio-economic status and passport number. There are also plans to integrate new card into the health care system in the future.
Spokesman of the Royal Oman Police said “The contract comes within the plans of the Royal Oman Police to move to the new generation of civil identity cards, offering easier and safer services to both citizens and residents with guaranteed security and safety of data,”
The card can also be used for payments if a holder signs an agreement with a bank.
Oman is a leader in e-identification in the Middle East. New cards seem to offer a lot of new features and should make Oman residents life easier however significant amount of secure information stored on the card creates a potential risk of data being stolen. Today’s encryption level might be not strong enough in couple of years as computing power increases.
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Starting 2012 Abu Dhabi residents can apply and renew the national id card online. This is not only more convenient but also saves money as applying at EIDA center directly costs Dh30 extra. Unfortunately the new convenient way is not for everyone. As of now only Emiratis can deal with EIDA online and Expatriates would have to wait couple of months. Also around 2% of residents registered with EIDA would have to visit a local center again as their fingerprint images stored in the system don’t meet clarity requirements. Even those who have to visit a local EIDA center now have ability to fill the application and schedule an appointment online. This way the visit to the center would be much quicker.
At the same time EIDA warned authorized typing centers against using the e-form commercially. The following statement was issued “As a typing centre, you are legally accountable and bound to follow the typing centre registration process and procedures. If you attempt to avail this online service for typing centre/commercial use, you will be bound to strict fines and legal charges,”
There is also a limitation of 20 forms filled per person per day. This is to prevent system overload as many institutions does it for its employees to save money and hassle
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Texas new election legislation got more attention recently after US Department of Justice blocked South Carolina voter ID bill just before Christmas. South Carolina and Texas are required to get DOJ pre clearance on election law amendments due to previous incidents of discrimination against minority voter groups. In South Carolina case DOJ argued that according to the state own data about residents without proper identification new bill may discriminate minorities. This verdict proves that DOJ is very sensitive about any law changes that may in any way disadvantage minorities. Texas state data shows 600,000 registered voters who don’t have photo id card cutting for the new law. That is for sure a reason to worry for state law makers as likelihood of DOJ veto rose after South Carolina verdict was announced.
In September DOJ requested additional information on voting data which the state promptly fulfilled. In October however DOJ stated the information provided was incomplete as no racial breakdown in numbers for registered voters without newly required ID cards was provided, The problem is that Texas doesn’t collect racial data during the elections. Data requested by DOJ can be produced with research but this takes time which is already ticking before March primaries. If collected data leaves doubts DOJ is likely to refuse pre clearance.
An interesting story has developed in small town of West Linn, Oregon. Khoi Lai, a 20 years old male was a very active holiday season shopper until he was arrested for identity theft, computer crime and fraudulent use of credit card. He obtained the credit card information from a website that sells such data as it was legitimate merchandise, price depended on credit limit on the account. Price for credit card information started at $2. The website was quickly shut down without the name being disclosed to the public however source of credit card information leak remains unknown at the time. It looks like Alex Ivins from as far as Louisiana was a whistle blower for the case. Mr Ivins noted a $275 charge or his account that was related to a flash memory drive mimicking Swiss Army knife. He called the vendor and obtained shipping address used for the purchase; this lead him to West Linn police department. The arrest happened six weeks later. When the search warrant was executed UPS brought additional merchandise purchased with stolen credit card numbers. Lai spent stolen money on computers, electronics, fragrance and apparel, in his apartment police secured merchandise worth over $10k which brings the charge to felony in Oregon.
This case is another reminder to frequently check your credit card activity. Most premier credit cards offer online activity reports as well as alerts on unusual transactions. The would also alert you if the merchandise was shipped to address that is not on the credit card file.
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Begining 2012 state of Wisconsin joins the family of states which moved towards Real ID program compliance. After testing phase is completed state photo id cards and driver’s licenses will no longer be printed at the local DMV office. Applicant will get a temporary paper based document which will be valid for 45 days and be equal in validity to the plastic card one, paper document has all the data as well as photograph and scannable barcode. Plastic card document should arrive in mail within 10 business days from DMV office visit. Documents are manufactured by California based contractor L-1 Identity Solutions which will cost the state around $1.3 million more per year as the price for residents remains the same while the cost per card rose by $1.15. New documents carry the same graphic design however additional security features have been added to prevent tampering.
Fully compliant Real ID documents are expected to be out early 2013. Real ID act requires storing digitially scanned images of birth certificate and other identity proving documents. Residents will be able to opt out and get ordinary id even after Real ID compliant documents are out. non-Real ID documents however will not be sufficient to access federal premises such airports and administration building.
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