theft (7)

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New ID Theft Targets Kids' SS Numbers


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The latest form of identity theft doesn't depend on stealing your Social Security number. Now thieves are targeting your kid's number long before the little one even has a bank account.

Hundreds of online businesses are using computers to find dormant Social Security numbers — usually those assigned to children who don't use them — then selling those numbers under another name to help people establish phony credit and run up huge debts they will never pay off.

Authorities say the scheme could pose a new threat to the nation's credit system. Because the numbers exist in a legal gray area, federal investigators have not figured out a way to prosecute the people involved.

"If people are obtaining enough credit by fraud, we're back to another financial collapse," said Linda Marshall, an assistant U.S. attorney in Kansas City. "We tend to talk about it as the next wave."

The sellers get around the law by not referring to Social Security numbers. Instead, just as someone might pay for an escort service instead of a prostitute, they refer to CPNs — for credit profile, credit protection or credit privacy numbers.

Julia Jensen, an FBI agent in Kansas City, discovered the scheme while investigating a mortgage-fraud case. She has given presentations to lenders across the Kansas City area to show them how easy it is to create a false credit score using these numbers.

"The back door is wide open," she said. "We're trying to get lenders to understand the risks."

It's not clear how widespread the fraud is, mostly because the scheme is difficult to detect and practiced by fly-by-night businesses.

But the deception is emerging as millions of Americans watch their credit scores sink to new lows. Figures from April show that 25.5 percent of consumers — nearly 43.4 million people — now have a credit score of 599 or below, marking them as poor risks for lenders. They will have trouble getting credit cards, auto loans or mortgages under the tighter lending standards banks now use.

The scheme works like this:

Online companies use computers and publicly available information to find random Social Security numbers. The numbers are run through public databases to determine whether anyone is using them to obtain credit. If not, they are offered for sale for a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Because the numbers often come from young children who have no money of their own, they carry no spending history and offer a chance to open a new, unblemished line of credit. People who buy the numbers can then quickly build their credit rating in a process called "piggybacking," which involves linking to someone else's credit file.

Many of the business selling the numbers promise to raise customers' credit scores to 700 or 800 within six months.

If they default on their payments, and the credit is withdrawn, the same people can simply buy another number and start the process again, causing a steep spiral of debt that could conceivably go on for years before creditors discover the fraud.

Jensen compared the businesses that sell the numbers to drug dealers.

"There's good stuff and bad stuff," she said. "Bad stuff is a dead person's Social Security number. High-quality is buying a number the service has checked to make sure no one else is using it."

Credit bureaus can quickly identify applications that use numbers taken from dead people by consulting the Social Security Administration's death index.

Social Security numbers follow a logical pattern that includes a person's age and where he or she lived when the number was issued. Because the system is somewhat predictable, sellers can make educated guesses and find unused numbers using trial and error.

A "clean" CPN is a number that has been validated as an active Social Security number and is not on file with the credit bureaus. The most likely source of such numbers are children and longtime prison inmates, experts said.

Robert Damosi, an analyst with Javelin Strategy & Research, said the crime can come back to hurt children when they get older and seek credit for the first time, only to discover their Social Security number has been used by someone else.

"Those are the numbers criminals want. They can use them several years without being detected," Damosi said. "There are not enough services that look at protecting the Social Security numbers or credit history of minors."

Since the mortgage meltdown of 2008, banks have tightened lending policies, but many credit decisions are still based solely on credit scores provided by FICO Inc. and the three major credit unions: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

Federal investigators say many businesses do not realize that a growing number of those credit scores are based on fraudulent information.

"Lenders don't understand that when they pay money to go through a service, they may be receiving false information," Jensen said. "They think when they order the information from credit bureaus, it must be true."

Without special scrutiny, credit profiles created with the scheme are not immediately distinguishable from other newly created, legitimate files.

Investigators say the businesses clearly know they are selling Social Security numbers, but it's difficult to prove. The sellers use complex disclaimers that disavow illegal activity and warn customers against using their numbers in place of Social Security numbers.

The businesses also instruct customers to provide false information when using the number to apply for credit. Customers are told to use their real name and date of birth, but to avoid listing any addresses or phone numbers they've used in the past. They're also told to avoid any other information that connects the new, clean credit profile with the old, damaged one.

Craig Watts, a spokesman for credit reporting agency FICO Inc., said FICO has tools available for businesses to protect themselves from this type of fraud, but they are not cheap. And many lenders are slow to adopt FICO's new formulas, which are updated every few years.

Some companies that sell the numbers have lavish, high-tech websites. Others run no-frills ads on sites like Craigslist.

Jim Buckmaster, president and CEO of the San Francisco-based Craigslist, recently told the AP in an e-mail that there were "fewer than 200" classifieds on his site that used the word "CPN."

Within an hour of that e-mail exchange, dozens of the ads in cities such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York had been pulled from the site. Many were reposted the next day.

An AP reporter called several of the sites, but got only recordings asking callers to leave a message with contact information.

Experts say the fraud will be difficult to stop because it's so easily concealed and targets such vulnerable people. Other than checking with the credit bureaus to see if there is a credit file associated with your child's Social Security number, spokesmen at FICO, the Social Security Administration and the FTC said there are no specific tools for safeguarding the number.

"This is an invisible crime, with invisible victims who don't have enough support out there to help them," said Linda Foley of the ID Theft Resource Center in San Diego.

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I received the following letter from an email buddy. I felt I should share this with others. Enjoy!Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus,We know as Christians that we live in a dangerous world. However, it is really sad when you see a minister of the Gospel preaching HATE. No matter how we feel concerning the leader of this country who God put in office, I personally don’t like some of President Obama’s policies but I do respect him and his office and don’t wish or pray anything bad on him or his family. We all have a right to our own feelings, opinions and choices no matter who or what we believe in. God made us a free will being. He let us pick and choose our own praying ground. I chose Jesus when I was seven years old. My only grand daughter asked me about a month ago “how do you know we are right about who we picked to worship.” My answer to her was “have you checked out the founders of the other religions” (I named off a few) and I asked her if she knew where their graves were, and later I asked her where was our founder of the Christian faith. She answered me and I asked her “now, since He is the only one that has an empty grave and witnesses saw Him when He departed in His resurrected body and promised to return the same way when He comes back here to get us, wouldn’t you want to worship and serve someone who conquered death and rose again?” You should have seen the light come on in her 11 year old eyes, nothing can describe it! HE LIVES and that is why I can face tomorrow.We as Christians, including myself need to be more aware of who we let influence us. We need to pick the Bible up for ourselves and pray and read it and not rely on someone who is NOT being led by the Holy Spirit. This man who is preaching a hate gospel is not of God, he is preaching the gospel of demons. Can you imagine a so called pastor telling his congregation that he wants the president to die because of abortions and the war issues? I don’t agree with anyone who sides with the abortion issue but I don’t condemn them for their thoughts. As far as the war, well Christ said himself that we will always have wars and rumors of wars, no one can stop that. We have always had warring nations and wars within our own America .I am sickened beyond reason and I know who is behind this hatred….old slew footed satan. I do NOT capitalize its name, too much attention given to the head demon. God said to let the wheat and tares grow together and He would do the sifting. I heard a sermon on Sunday that said we were not to judge people. Well, that is not what the Scripture said. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye measure it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2). There is a difference between judging and Bible definition and sometimes we get that all mixed up.Yesterday and this morning my husband and I went to the lake, didn’t catch many fish but we had a glorious time in the Lord and God was ministering to us while on the lake. I caught some nice legal take home cat fish. My husband caught a lot more fish than I did but they were not big enough. He threw them back in the lake and said “I could get away with this but a man of God is going to obey God and mans laws.” Now me, I knew better and I sure wanted those nice “crappie” fish but I knew that Jerry wasn’t going to do the No No. Sometimes, we as Christians pick out certain passages and laws we want to obey but God don’t see it that way. That is truly a form of stealing if he would have kept those fish. How many ways have all of us at one time or another STOLE FROM GOD? You be your own judge on that one. It is sad when we point out someone else sin and not look at the things we are doing and call ourselves Christians. God wants us to obey all His rules, not just the ones that we like. The game warden may have not been looking but God was. The closest way to have a relationship with God is to OBEY Him and live your lives like HE has given us in the real love book called “THE BIBLE.” With the hatred of Pastor Anderson, he has judged himself and heaped coals of sin and death on himself, his family and those who follow him. That man is preaching a doctrine of demons. Don't walk in the flesh, Galatians 5:16-21. If you and I are powered by the Holy Spirit, our Christian character needs to be like the Scripture says in Galatians 5:22-26. May God Bless each and every one of you.
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Blue Jean Bandits


These crews of bandits are really beginning to hurt small boutique businesses in Atlanta. For the past year, many women’s and men’s boutique in the Atlanta metro area have been burglarized by these bandits, who have stolen designer jeans retailing at $200 and selling them on the black market for as low as $70. Talk about a deeply discounted product.With most boutiques being hit more than once, these thefts are severely affecting the businesses and some boutique owners say if they are hit again by these perpetrators they will have to close their business. Some of the most popular brands targeted are True Religion, Rock N Republic, Citizens of Humanity, Red Monkey and Evisu. In one hit these thieves are getting away with on average about $100,000 in merchandise. Some business owners have had to pay to hire security guards and not mention their insurance premiums have nearly tripled.Since I’m a solution minded person, I came up with a possible solution. Here goes, let me know what you think….· Discontinue the sale of designer jeans in these boutiques and let your customers know that they are Web Exclusive items that can be ordered via your stores website and only keep samples of each size per brand in the store so that your customer will know what size to order via the web. This will also help drive additional business to the stores site and help boost sales in a tech savvy way.I know it’s a great feeling as a customer to actual go into the store and walk away with the merchandise. However, I’m one of those customers that loves to shop online and would rather make my purchase this way.
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