Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Wash Checks


By Greg Wright
MBA, CFE, CFP®, CLU, ChFC
Certified Fraud Examiner 
Certified Financial Planner
National Speaker

Mail thieves use a process called check washing to erase the ink on a check by using common household chemicals.  They then re-write the check sometimes in amounts far more than the original check was written.


The actual process of washing a check is relatively simple and can be accomplished with basic solvents you have around your home such as acetone or rubbing alcohol.

A few weeks ago, I asked a middle-age, middle-income Hamilton County audience to complete a “theft risk survey.”  Over half said that they mailed check payments from their home mailbox – 56% to be more precise.

Never, never post outgoing mail in the mailbox outside your home.  Never! When you put that red flag up, it is an invitation to a fraudster to steal your check, wash out the payee and substitute their name. 

Various steps can be taken by the writer of the check to reduce the possibility of falling victim to check washing. The most important is to mail check payments by placing them in secured big blue USPS mailboxes.  Also, you can use secure ink dispensed from a gel, rollerball, or fountain pen, filling in all lines on the check.   Always carefully scrutiny your bank statements.

If you need a speaker for your group, contact me.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Lost Driver’s License Leads to Wrongful Arrest


By Greg Wright
MBA, CFE, CFP®, CLU, ChFC
Certified Fraud Examiner 
Certified Financial Planner
National Speaker

Kristen Parr is out of jail after spending four days behind bars in Hancock County for a crime she didn't commit. 

Someone used her ID to test drive a car, and when the car wasn't returned, a warrant was issued for Parr's arrest.  She was arrested at her home and was taken into custody on a Thursday.  Because the county offices were closed the very next day for a county festival, Parr wasn't able to see the judge until Monday morning.  

She spent four days in jail for a crime she did not commit.

As explained in my Greg’s Talk titled “Electronic Home Invasion,” your identity can be stolen and an arrest warrant issued.  You could experience the same four days in jail. 

Also, as I suggested in this blog this past July 24, 2019, do not let anyone photocopy your driver’s license.  Your driver’s license in the hands of a fraudster is more dangerous than them having your Social Security number. 
If you have your identity stolen, file a police report, and keep a copy with you at all times.  

If you let someone copy your driver’s license and they use it for nefarious purposes, it becomes much more difficult to prove your innocence.  Attend one of Greg’s Talks to learn how to protect your identity. Many don't know that 30 % of SSNs have been compromised.  Check yours out with a PI or CFE.  

Parr says she left her wallet in February while celebrating her birthday at Circle Center Mall. After she realized she left it there, she returned, but it was not there.  She then filed a police report with IMPD and obtained a new driver’s license. 

After four days in jail, all charges against Parr were dropped by the Greenfield police.  They have video from the car dealer and are still looking for the person who used Parr's ID to test drive the car. 

The mug shot was a screengrab from RTV6.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Flipping Houses


By Greg Wright
MBA, CFE, CFP®, CLU, ChFC
Certified Fraud Examiner & Certified Financial Planner


“Get rich quick by using other people’s money to flip houses” seminars seemed too good to be true? Well, it turns out, according to the FTC, they may be too good to be true.


The Federal Trade Commission is charging one company with lying to consumers to convince them to attend the company’s supposedly free real estate seminars. 

The company promised to give away the secrets to making money flipping houses at the event, but actually, they charged thousands of dollars for the “secrets.”

The “free” real estate claims that attendees can learn how to flip houses to make money. However, the FTC claim is that this Utah operation is a scam, with the company allegedly using “deceptive promises of big profits to lure consumers into real estate seminars costing thousands of dollars.”

The FTC claims that one company uses celebrities in its advertisements to lend credibility to the seminars, including endorsements from HGTV’s “Flip or Flop,” and Dave Seymour from A&E’s “Flipping Boston.”  The three-day workshop that they are likely to earn thousands of dollars in profit, often with little risk, time or effort, regardless of their credit history.  Sign me up!

According to the FTC, the ads convinced consumers to attend free events that would teach consumers how to make large profits by flipping “using other people’s money.”  However, the FTC claims that the “free” seminar is actually a sales presentation for a three-day workshop that cost as much as $2,000.
One firm, according to the FTC, says “It backs up these representations with a money-back guarantee – consumers who do not make ‘a minimum of three times’ the price of the three-day workshop within six months will receive their money back.” The seminar will “teach them everything they need to know to make substantial income from real estate.”

However, in the FTC complaint, the three-day workshop doesn’t stop the fraudsters from separating even more money from the shill. The three-day workshop is “merely a beginner course,” then the fraudsters upsell gullible consumers additional products and services that can cost as much as $41,297.  

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Bill O’Reilly’s New Gig


By Greg Wright
MBA, CFE, CFP®, CLU, ChFC
Certified Fraud Examiner & National Speaker

It appears that Bill O’Reilly has a new job selling internet security services.  Is this service needed today?  Maybe Bill needs the money.

"I saw this crime firsthand when a close friend had his home's title stolen by online thieves. I was shocked how easy this crime is. The scammers found the online title to his home, forged home sale documents, and refiled his home under an alias…I encourage all homeowners to get Home Title Lock.” -- Bill O’Reilly

The implied promise is that $14.99 per month paid to Home Title Lock, will protect your home.  We don’t know about Bill’s cut. I’ve asked about his compensation; but, have not had a response.

This type of fraud has been around for a long time. There was an FBI warning about it as far back as 2008; but, experts in internet security I contacted haven't heard anything recently to indicate that it's a current problem. 

Everybody should realize that their personal information has already been stolen.  Monitor your data, freezing all of your credit accounts, and adding multi-factor authentication can reduce the risk considerably. These days, because almost every data is being stored digitally and the amount of data being collected and stored is growing exponentially, the risks of a data breach are greater than ever. Until we demand better security and actually send people to prison when they (or their company) allow our personal data to be stolen, internet frauds will only continue. 

If you have a credit freezes in place and use a credit monitoring service, it makes it  difficult for a fraudster to take out loans in a person’s name even with forged documents. It seems to me that the a better use of your financial resources would be to have the basic internet security toolbox and avoid risky behavior including banking online.

The value of the “home title lock” service seems dubious to me.  Here is their website.  Talk it over with your internet advisor. See www.hometitlelock.com

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Driver's License Fraud

By Greg Wright
MBA, CFE, CFP®, CLU, ChFC
Certified Fraud Examiner & National Speaker

Recently, I visited a dentist recommended by a friend.  After filling out the standard paperwork, the receptionist asked to see my driver’s license.  She was getting ready to scan it into the office system when I told her that I did not want her to copy it.  She said that it was their policy.  I said that she could look at it to verify my identity, but she was not to copy it because it could lead to identity theft.  Further, since I was a cash-paying customer, and dental insurance was not involved, the dental practice had no obligation to copy it.  She called the practice manager into the conversation.  I refused to budge, and the dentist refused to budge.  I left and went back to my old dentist. 
In my opinion, you should not allow (never allow) your driver’s license to be copied or the DL number to be recorded by anyone other than law enforcement or events surrounding a traffic accident. You might be required to prove your identity, and that is okay to show it to appropriate individuals.
The really important information on your driver’s license is the ID number itself. With that number, someone could write a check using a facsimile of your check, or (seriously) give that number to law enforcement at the time of their traffic incident while claiming that they don’t have the physical card with them.
Criminal identity theft might occur when a fraudster has an incident with law enforcement - may be a traffic violation or a DUI felony - and someone claims to be you. They might leave you with unpaid parking tickets, a court date that you know nothing about, or an outstanding warrant for your arrest. Once “you” fail to pay the ticket or fail to appear in court, your real problems begin.  You could find yourself in county lockup making new friends.
If you file your taxes electronically, you might be asked for your driver’s license number so the IRS can verify that you are actually you.  Someone using your driver’s license number could spend your tax refund.  Try getting that corrected.
Protect your driver’s license.  In some ways, it is more important than your Social Security number.
Note: the driver's license shown above is a sample furnished by the BMV.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Email continues to be the weakest area of security for the average consumer.

By Greg Wright
MBA, CFE, CFP®, CLU, ChFC
Certified Fraud Examiner
National Speaker

The number of U.S. data breaches reported last year decreased from 2018’s all-time high, but the number of consumer records exposed containing sensitive information more than doubled!
An important observation is the number email-related credentials stolen.  Because a majority of consumers use the same username/email and password combinations to access multiple accounts, this creates serious vulnerability. 
This increased hacking of consumer email related data is very serious and, with even more consumer information in the hands of fraudsters, the identity theft risk to consumers continues to increase.

Email continues to be the weakest area of security for the average consumer. As indicated in my Greg’s Talk, “Electronic Home Invasion” consumers should avoid using their email address as their user name.  

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Marriott Data Breach & Stolen Passport

By Greg Wright
MBA, CFE, CFP®, CLU, ChFC
Certified Fraud Examiner
National Speaker

Just ten days ago, my wife and I returned from a trip outside the U.S. where our lodging included a Marriott.  When we read about their data breach, we were concerned.  The data breach included passport numbers.

If you traveled outside the U.S., you know how important it is to safeguard your passport.  US passports are a target of thieves and pickpockets and can be sold for over $2,000.  A British or EU passport is worth even more – over $3,000.  Most passport pictures do not look like the holder and can be used by criminals or terrorists.  How many of you look the same as your passport photo? Mine is nine years old. 

Every hotel or condo where we stayed wanted a copy of our passport.  Except when traveling, we kept a color scanned picture of our passport with us at all times.  The actual passport was secured in the room safe (along with most of our cash). 

If you were a victim of the Marriott Data Breach and you want to report your passport number compromised, you may decide to report the incident.  Once your passport has been reported lost or stolen it is invalid and cannot be used again. You will need to apply for a new passport by filling out Form DS-11: Application for a U.S. Passport. That may take a month.  Sometimes two months.  If you use an "identity monitoring service" (I highly recommend them), notify the service.

Passports numbers can be used in conjunction with other pieces of personally identifiable information (PII) to commit criminal identity theft. 

If your passport number was stolen in a data breach, but you still have your passport in your possession, there is no way to flag your passport to alert authorities.  You can contact the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 or email them at NPIC@state.gov for more information about the steps that can be taken if you are concerned your passport number may be used by someone other than you.  

If your passport is stolen, here are the steps you should take:
1. Call the State Department’s office with any questions at 1-877-487-2778.  If you are outside the U.S., contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  They can help you with the documents necessary for you to exit the country you are visiting and to enter the U. S.  You will need to visit them in person.
2. File a police report. A crime has taken place and should be reported to the local police. This will help you prove that it was stolen.
3. You will need to fill out Form DS-64: Statement Regarding Lost or Stolen Passport.  This is incredibly important to do as soon as possible after the discovery of theft or loss in order to avoid the use of your passport for illegal activities.

4. You will need new passport photos, some type of identification (driver's license), airline tickets, and evidence of US citizenship. Also, your application for a passport and statement regarding your lost or stolen passport.
If you are out of the U.S., it certainly will dampen your vacation.