White-Collar Crime: Helen Renee Ballard and Robert S. Ballard Plead Guilty In Nepotism Scheme

White-Collar Crime

Former GSA Official and Husband Plead Guilty In Nepotism Scheme

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A former senior official with the General Services Administration and her husband pleaded guilty today to engaging in a nepotism scheme in which they conspired to fraudulently obtain employment from the U.S. government and private federal contractors.

According to the statement of facts filed with their plea agreements, Helen Renee Ballard, 51, and Robert S. Ballard, 56, both of Brandywine, Maryland, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements to the United States.

Helen Renee Ballard (aka Renee Ballard) was the Director of the Central Office Contracting Division of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) from May 2006 to May 2011 and worked for GSA until 2016. From 2010 through July 2014, Renee Ballard and her husband, Robert S. Ballard (aka Steve Ballard), engaged in a scheme to enrich themselves by obtaining employment with federal contractors and the U.S. government through false and misleading statements concerning Steve Ballard’s relation, education, and qualifications. As part of the more than $200,000 scheme, Renee and Steve Ballard fraudulently induced a federal contractor located in Arlington to hire Steve Ballard. The Arlington based contractor then placed Steve Ballard on a federal contract awarded by GSA and supervised by Renee Ballard. Later, Renee Ballard attempted to hire Steve Ballard for a position within GSA under her supervision.

According to the statement of facts, Renee and Steve Ballard caused over 139 false employment applications to be submitted to federal agencies, including the FBI, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, U.S. State Department, U.S. Transportation and Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Education, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Labor, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and the Internal Revenue Service. These applications falsely misrepresented Steve Ballard’s education and qualifications, including that he had earned or taken classes toward a master’s degree and was certified in government contracting at Levels I, II, and III. In order to corroborate these false representations, Renee and Steve Ballard obtained and submitted fake certification documents. In addition to these fraudulent applications, the Ballards sent Steve Ballard’s false resume to the Executive Office of the President in an attempt to obtain employment there. Subsequently, Steve Ballard submitted false applications to at least six different private contractors who worked, at times on-site, with the federal agencies, including GSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The Ballards each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison sentenced on July 28. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Carol Fortine Ochoa, Inspector General, GSA, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by Senior U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Uzo Asonye and Katherine Wong are prosecuting the case.

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White-Collar Crime: General Kenneth A. Blanco Speaks at the American Bar Association National Institute on White Collar Crime

White-Collar Crime

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco Speaks at the American Bar Association National Institute on White Collar Crime

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Introduction

Good morning, and many thanks for that kind introduction.  Thank you for the invitation to address you today, and congratulations for hosting the 31st annual American Bar Association (ABA) White Collar Crime conference.

Twenty-eight years ago, I started as a prosecutor at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, and almost a decade later, I joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.  I was fortunate as a young lawyer to work and learn in these two offices.  I learned from the best trial lawyers in the country, not only how to try cases, but how to make good decisions, to be a good lawyer, and to understand the true role of a prosecutor.  There is no way I can repay all those wonderful people for teaching me so much.  I am proud to be an alumnus of both of those offices, and I am excited to see some of those people I worked with during that time here today.

This morning, I want to tell you a little bit about the Criminal Division – who we are, and some of the things we are doing in the areas of white collar crime and corruption in the international arena.

About the Criminal Division 

Today, I have the honor and the privilege of speaking with you as the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.  For more than a decade, I have served in the Criminal Division as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General with a portfolio that included, through the years, the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, the Organized Crime and Gang Section, the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and my portfolio also included responsibilities over matters in Colombia, Afghanistan, Mexico and Panama.

Many of you in this room are well acquainted with the work of the Criminal Division and its roughly 600 attorneys spread across 17 sections and offices, mostly in Washington D.C., but some stationed in offices around the country and many stationed in offices overseas and around the world.  As you all know, the Criminal Division’s investigations and prosecutions run the gamut of white collar crime cases – fraud, bribery, public corruption, organized crime, trade secret theft, money laundering, securities fraud, government fraud, healthcare fraud and computer and internet fraud – to name a few.

You are also well aware that the already substantial international aspects of the Criminal Division’s white collar criminal enforcement efforts—and in particular its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and Kleptocracy efforts, to cite just three examples – are only becoming more pronounced with each passing year.  Whether uncovering a multinational bribery scheme or seeking to recover illegally derived assets associated with investment funds owned by a foreign government, or protecting our financial system from harm, many of our biggest investigations have an increasingly substantial international component, and they often involve multiple foreign jurisdictions.

As cross-border crime continues to proliferate – and it is most certainly proliferating – the department’s efforts to combat the most sophisticated white collar criminals require our prosecutors and the agents with whom they work to go all over the world to seek the evidence and witnesses necessary to build their cases, and to collaborate with our foreign counterparts.  Because crimes against the United States are more frequently being committed from beyond our U.S. borders, and overseas criminal actors are availing themselves of our financial system, we have to be nimble in order to coordinate quickly, effectively and fluently with our counterparts abroad.  This reality, which is probably not new to those of you attending this conference, requires the department to make frequent and effective use of the various mechanisms of international cooperation with our foreign partners that permit for evidence exchange and fugitive apprehension.

Before I discuss some concrete examples of the ways in which the Criminal Division is working with our international partners to bring significant multi-jurisdictional cases, I wanted to provide as a backdrop to that discussion a recent notable development in the department’s – and indeed the entire U.S. government’s – efforts to combat transnational crime.  This past December, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – an independent inter-governmental body that develops and promotes policies to protect the global financial system against money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – issued its mutual evaluation report on the United States.  I am proud to say that the headline of that report is that the United States has “a well-developed and robust anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regime through which it is effectively investigating and prosecuting” transnational criminal actors and the money launderers who help them conceal their ill-gotten gains.  The report also noted the effectiveness of our efforts to work cooperatively with our international law enforcement partners.  Frankly, I think the United States has always been one of the leaders and trail blazers in this area.

The report did raise concerns about the U.S. government’s continued work to prevent the abuse of legal entities – shell companies – to “obfuscate the source, ownership, and control of illegal proceeds,” essentially, continuing to look at and understand and get behind beneficial ownership.  We at the department – and in the Criminal Division in particular – remain sharply focused on understanding the ownership structure and the apparent ease with which criminal organizations and individuals use shell companies to move and ultimately conceal criminal proceeds.  This is a global problem requiring a vigorous response.  Piercing the corporate veil to determine the true owner of bank accounts and other valuable assets more often than not requires us to undertake a time-consuming and resource-intensive process.  Grand jury subpoenas, witness interviews, and even foreign legal assistance requests are sometimes required to get behind the outward facing structure of these shell companies.

The department therefore views the customer due diligence final rule announced by the U.S. Treasury Department last May as a critical step toward greater transparency and a reporting system, which makes it harder for sophisticated criminals or kleptocrats to hide their identities and their illicit proceeds behind opaque corporate structures.  And we will be taking a hard look at compliance with this rule in the course of our future investigations.

The law enforcement benefits of gathering this information are substantial and, in my view, indisputable – especially in the kinds of large, international white collar investigations that the Criminal Division’s prosecutors are pursuing, and those being pursued by our international partners.

Multi-Jurisdictional Prosecutions

In light of the increasingly international scope of the Criminal Division’s white collar enforcement efforts, that last point is critical.  To obtain timely and substantial beneficial ownership information or evidence that will lead to understanding these complex corporate structures requires international cooperation.  And just as we receive significant assistance from our foreign partners in our investigations and prosecutions, so too do we provide significant assistance to them.  This balanced model of reciprocity in information sharing is a vital tool in the modern prosecutor’s toolbox – whether the prosecutor is sitting in the United States, Europe, South America or elsewhere.

This reality – reciprocal information sharing – is giving rise to a developing trend, especially as it relates to international enforcement of criminal laws in the white collar space.  And the emerging trend is this: due in part to the significant assistance we provide to our foreign partners, there has been an increase in multi-jurisdictional prosecutions of criminal conduct, particularly when that conduct is transnational in nature and when several countries have prosecutorial authority over it.

This is no longer the future, it is the here and now of global criminal investigations.  Countries around the world have strengthened their domestic laws and central authorities, and prioritize white collar prosecutions.  This means – and many of you have likely already noticed this – a company operating in country X whose employees bribe a public official in violation of the FCPA, may be investigated and prosecuted by the United States, but also by several other countries with jurisdiction over the conduct that gave rise to the prosecution.  Indeed, and especially in the area of bribery of foreign officials, countries around the world are strengthening their laws, investigating and bringing impactful cases.  As part of our cooperation with our international partners, where appropriate, we seek to reach global resolutions that apportion penalties between the relevant jurisdictions so that companies seeking to accept responsibility for their prior misconduct are not unfairly penalized for the same conduct by multiple agencies.

I spent the first part of this week meeting with counterparts in Bogota, Colombia.  Last week, I met with our Mexican counterparts, spoke with the Dominicans for over an hour via phone, and before that, with the Panamanians just a few weeks ago.  At the end of this month, I am hosting our Argentine counterparts in Washington D.C. to collaborate and coordinate on financial crime and corruption matters.  All these meetings are at the highest levels of government, and at all levels of government.  Meetings such as these – among an international community of prosecutors, investigators, public security personal and government financial investigative and regulatory institutions – are not rare anymore; at least not with us.  Generally, prosecutors in much of the world understand that investigating and prosecuting transnational crime necessitates transnational cooperation.  Indeed, just as crime is increasingly transnational, so must be its enforcement.  And just as criminals seek to exploit geographical boundaries to protect themselves and their illegally derived assets, so must the mechanisms of international cooperation serve to disrupt their ability to do so.

In the area of evidence gathering the past several years, I have witnessed the significant increase in incoming requests for legal assistance from our foreign partners.  Countries are making more and more efforts to affirmatively prosecute international corruption in their own countries.

Of course, formal assistance pursuant to bilateral or multilateral treaties are not our only tools.  The United States and countries around the world also share evidence and information with one another pursuant to the principle of reciprocity, or through various informal mechanisms.  Indeed, the Department of Justice and its investigative agencies post attachés in embassies all over the world.  One of the primary goals of the attachés is to provide and receive information related to ongoing investigations and prosecutions.  Such information may provide significant leads to us or our counterparts.  The department recognizes that communicating with these foreign counterparts must keep pace in the age of instantaneous communication.

Just as your client’s businesses span the globe, the Criminal Division’s approach to large, complex transnational and white collar investigations is truly global in nature and the results that we have obtained demonstrate and reinforce the importance of working with and maintaining true partnerships with our counterparts aboard.

U.S. v. Odebrecht

One example I will begin with is a FCPA case, Odebrecht, a case that squarely demonstrates how the world is partnering to investigate and prosecute corruption.  Among the most useful tools in the department’s arsenal to prosecute corruption is the enforcement of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.  These prosecutions are necessary to combat global corruption that stifles economic growth, creates an uneven playing field for businesses and corporations, and threatens the national security of the United States and other civilized nations.  Often, however, the principal acts of criminality are committed in foreign countries and often by foreign actors.

In December of last year, Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht and Brazilian petrochemical company Braskem pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a combined total penalty of around $3.5 billion to resolve charges with the United States, Brazil and Switzerland—three jurisdictions – arising out of their schemes to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world.  Odebrecht and Braskem engaged in a world-wide bribery scheme designed to improperly obtain and retain business contracts in 12 countries: Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Mozambique, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.  As part of the scheme, Odebrecht and its co-conspirators created and funded an elaborate, secret financial structure within the company that operated to account for and disburse bribe payments to foreign political parties, foreign officials, and their representatives, including through U.S. financial institutions and offshore shell companies set up from within the United States.

Multiple other countries have opened investigations and prosecutions of Odebrecht and individuals allegedly involved in the scheme.  It has been reported that more than 10 additional countries have publicly confirmed their own investigations into the corruption at Odebrecht.

Indeed, in some countries, domestic legislation mandates the immediate initiation of criminal investigations when confronted with evidence of public corruption.  Many of our foreign partners have been acting swiftly to bring corrupt officials to justice in their countries.  For example, Brazil has already charged more than 70 individuals just in this one case.

As a general matter, the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, in coordination with the Office of International Affairs, is able effectively to share information and evidence with foreign authorities.  Also, it is often the case that plea agreements with companies require them to cooperate by continuing to provide evidence and information to the prosecution team.  The combination of those two phenomena often position our prosecution teams with the ability to assist our foreign counterparts to advance their work.  Ideally, of course, the consequence of the enforcement efforts of the department is to encourage voluntary compliance with the FCPA and other applicable domestic laws that disallow conduct, such as bribery to foreign officials.

Let me just add that, as it relates to the FCPA, from a policy perspective, we like to see more countries enforcing anti-bribery laws.  Since the 1980s, there has been a growing international recognition that all countries should aim to disrupt corrupt payments in order to create an even playing field for global business.  In the absence of effective domestic anti-corruption laws or resources to prosecute violators of those laws, we would be left with geographical gaps to a collective global effort to halt corruption in its tracks.  Allow me to move on to another case example to highlight a few other points.

1Malaysia Development Berhad 

In 2016, the department filed the largest single action ever brought by the Kleptocracy Initiative, marking a significant milestone in the department’s ongoing fight against global corruption, involving two bond offerings in 2012 through which 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) raised money that was siphoned off by the corrupt officials and their associates.

The stated purpose of the 2012 bond offerings was to allow 1MDB to invest, for the benefit of the Malaysian government, in certain energy assets.  But almost immediately after receiving the proceeds of these two bond issues, roughly 40 percent of the funds raised –approximately $1.37 billion – was transferred out of 1MDB’s accounts.  The money went into the Swiss bank account of a shell company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.  The complaint alleges that the name of this shell company was intended to suggest an affiliation with a legitimate company involved in the bond offering but, in fact, the Swiss bank account was controlled by corrupt officials.

This case is yet another example of what happens when individuals and criminal organizations are able to use shell companies to move, and ultimately conceal, the proceeds of crime and kleptocracy.  Gaps in the legal regimes across the globe – including, as I have already noted, here in the United States  – allowed these criminals to avoid disclosing the ultimate beneficial owners of the accounts to which 1MDB funds were diverted.  The significant assistance we received from our international partners was critical in identifying and restraining assets in this case.

Other Examples 

Additionally, in our prosecution of Rolls Royce, the UK-based company paid the United States about $170 million as part of an $800 million global resolution of anti-corruption-related investigations in three countries – the United States, United Kingdom and Brazil.  Rolls Royce entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) in the United States, as well as a DPA in the United Kingdom, the first time the U.S. and UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) entered into such a coordinated resolution.

In our prosecution of Netherlands-based VimpelCom, one of the largest telecom companies in the world, a global $800 million resolution was reached to resolve $114 million dollars of illegal bribe payments.  That resolution, which involved a guilty plea by VimpelCom’s Uzbek subsidiary and DPA with VimpelCom, also included settlements with the Public Prosecution Service of the Netherlands, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  As you can see, the trend is a global effort to prosecute corruption, and that trend is not slowing down.

I want to underscore the extent of our international cooperation in white collar enforcement by noting that, in kleptocracy cases, one of our goals is to return the proceeds of the kleptocrat’s crimes to those harmed by their criminal conduct.  Just last year, for example, the department returned $1.5 million to Taiwan that constituted proceeds from the sale of a forfeited New York condominium and a Virginia residence that the United States alleged were purchased with bribe money paid to the family of Taiwan’s former President Chen Shui-Bian.  Our ability to identify and forfeit those properties was the result of extensive cooperation with the Taiwan Supreme Prosecutor’s Office, and it is our hope that the return of the funds to the Taiwanese people sends a strong message about our commitment to vigorous and effective cooperation in international criminal enforcement.

Conclusion

Before I conclude, I would be remiss if I did not comment on the Fraud Section’s “Pilot Program.”  Last year, the Fraud Section implemented a one-year “Pilot Program” for FCPA cases, to provide more transparency and consistency for our corporate resolutions.  The “Pilot Program” provides our prosecutors, companies and the public clear metrics for what constitutes voluntary self-disclosure, full cooperation and full remediation.  It also outlines the benefits that are accorded a voluntary self-disclosure of wrongdoing, full cooperation and remediation.  The one-year pilot period ends on April 5.  At that time, we will begin the process of evaluating the utility and efficacy of the “Pilot Program,” whether to extend it, and what revisions, if any, we should make to it.  The program will continue in full force until we reach a final decision on those issues.

In closing, let me just say a few things:

It is clear that global investigations of corruption are on the rise.  We are seeing that often within a close temporal proximity of our prosecutions, other countries are also taking action.  It is no longer just us and a few other countries.

Something is happening in the world today; you can feel it.  It is a global movement, getting stronger and stronger each day with every case we make.  Countries, all the ones I mentioned earlier, and many others, are all moving in the same direction, more together than ever, pursuing corruption.

The Criminal Division remains committed to doing its part by vigorously investigating and prosecuting international crime when it violates U.S. laws, and by remaining committed to international collaboration in our nations’ shared struggle to safeguard our citizens, our markets and financial systems, and our networks.

As I said last year at a corruption and white collar crime forum in Bogota, Colombia, the current trend of international cooperation among our counterparts who are all fighting transnational financial corruption and other white collar crimes reminds me of the 1960s song made popular by the singing group Martha and the Vandellas – the lyrics of which are the appropriate message for all the corrupt officials and bad actors, foreign and domestic: Nowhere to run baby, Nowhere to hide.

Thank you for your time today.  Have a wonderful rest of the day.

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Stopping Identity Theft Against Seniors!

White-Collar Crime

The Federal Trade Commission has reported identity theft as the top consumer complaint, affecting millions of Americans each year. Seniors are particularly vulnerable, and identity theft affecting seniors rose 200%. Seniors are appealing targets because they generally have higher credit lines, home equity, and more savings than young people. Seniors are also easy targets for e-mail fraud, and charity fraud. Internet scams will often instruct a senior to access their bank account online in order to “correct an error”. Most of the time, seniors will be asked to click on a link inside the e-mail, and they will be taken to a site that looks like their bank’s or credit card’s own site. They will be asked for pin numbers, account numbers and personal information. After that, the identity thief gains access to their accounts, open new credit cards, and steal funds.

Never release this type of information over the internet, unless you are absolutely sure that you are on the correct website. The best way to be sure is to log into a website directly, or call your bank’s customer service department. Most banks and credit cards have a 24-hour toll-free number for customer service and identity theft victims. If you suspect identity theft, immediately contact your bank and credit cards companies. Cancel everything-if you are wrong, then you may experience a little inconvenience while you wait for your new credit cards to arrive. If you are right, and identity theft has occurred, you can save yourself thousands of dollars and lots of headaches if you act quickly.

Seniors are instructed to carry Medicare cards at all times. Their Medicare cards, in turn, have social security numbers printed plainly on the front. If possible, always leave social security cards and Medicare cards at home. If you are going to a new doctor, take it with you, and then return it to a safe place when you come home.

If a business requests your social security number without a legitimate reason, refuse to give it. Health care providers, the social security administration, and the IRS are a few of the organizations that have a legitimate reason for requesting your social security number. Small businesses, such as your veterinarian, handyman, or grocery store clerk should not ask for your social security number.

5 Easy Tips to Help Protect Your Identity

1. Print checks with as little information as possible. Use only your first initial, last name, and address. If you have a business address, use it in lieu of your home address. That way, if your checks are ever stolen, your home address is protected. This is especially important for female seniors, who may live alone. Do not print your phone number or social security number on your checks.

2. Get a copy of your credit report every year. It’s free, and if you find errors on your report, you can continue to get free reports until the errors are corrected. All three credit reporting agencies are required to give you a free report if you have been denied credit, or you suspect fraud on your account.

You can contact all three credit reporting agencies directly. The contact numbers for the three credit reporting agencies are: Equifax (800) 525-6285 Experian (888) 397-3742 Trans Union (800) 680-7289)

3. Protect your mail. Do not leave mail in your box overnight. Get a locking mailbox from your local hardware store. They are relatively expensive, and well worth the investment. Deposit mail in US post offices, or US mailboxes. Do not leave mail out for your postman to pick up, especially if your mail contains personal checks!

4. Shred all important documents. Use a paper shredder to destroy all important financial documents. Identity thieves often use trash bins to “troll” for personal information. This technique is called “dumpster diving”, and is one of the most common methods that thieves use to steal financial information.

5. Never give personal information over the phone unless you initiated the phone call. A common scam is for a thief to call you, and claim to be calling from your doctor’s office. They ask to “confirm” your insurance information, and social security number, which most people supply without thinking. Don’t become a victim of this scam! Call your doctor’s office directly, and ask them if they require the information. If the call was fraudulent, contact your insurer, and the police.

If you are still a victim of identity theft, don’t panic. Go to your local police station, and file a police report. Your bank and credit cards cannot make you legally responsible for crimes committed in your name by an identity thief. Contact the credit reporting agencies, and place a fraud alert on your account. If creditors begin calling, tell them that you are the victim of identity theft, and that you request to be contacted in writing. That way, you can respond with a copy of the police report and a letter. DO NOT PAY CREDITORS FOR FRAUDULENT CHARGES! Many collection agencies purposely intimidate and bully identity theft victims. This is sad, but true. After consulting multiple identity theft victims, I am constantly shocked by how many are also victims of creditor abuse. If you become a victim of creditor harassment, report the credit card company or creditor to the Federal Trade Commission.

The address to report creditor abuse is Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection 55 East Monroe Street, #1437 Chicago, IL 60603 312-353-4423

Violence and Violent Crime – The Gender Consideration

Violent Crime

Women and men both commit, and are victims of, crimes but are their perspectives, understandings and interpretations of crime (either as victim or perpetrator likely to be different)? How and why – or even if – is a matter of debate; theorising on these matters is difficult depending on the perspective of the researcher.

Men and women also commit violence but their motivations are likely to be different; men may do so to assert their dominance over a situation, a territory, or person; to ensure that their masculinity is not in doubt. Women may do so in defence of their children, themselves, family, friends and perhaps even their property. However, if women are becoming as violent as men for the same reasons as men, does this mean we are moving in a direction which is irreversible? Would such a trend, if it truly existed, necessarily be a perilous one? More importantly, why does the notion of women becoming violent (or becoming more violent) cause such consternation in society whilst violence by, and towards, men is accepted as part of their masculinity?

Women are statistically less likely to commit crimes, particularly crimes of violence; however, numbers of women being arrested, cautioned and imprisoned for violent offences are rising. Media reports and government statistics all appear to show that women are increasingly involved in crime, particularly violent crime. In England and Wales, the number of females in custody was 4,445 (24 November 2006) with the highest number being attributed to drugs offences whilst violence was second. In Scotland, the figure was 326 (24 November 2006), though ambiguous as it does not specify the gender of (i) ‘lifers’ who have been recalled (ii) those convicted but awaiting sentence/deportation (iii) those under sixteen years of age. Williams states that, in a nine year period, there was a rise of 140% for female offenders incarcerated (1993-2001) despite the fact that offending rates remained relatively stable. In the United States, figures show that although incarceration rates were rising, violent offences by women were going in the opposite direction; women’s involvement in violent offences showed a minimal rise (from 10.8% to 12.3%). This may, however, be reflective of changes in recording, prosecuting and incarcerating female offenders rather than any actual increase in the rate of female offending itself.

Violence is often fuelled by substance abuse, via alcohol or drugs or both and this is the case both for men and women. Males perpetrate the highest numbers of crimes, violent or otherwise, and they also account for the highest number of victims of violent assaults; women, however, as perpetrators of violent crimes in particular are on the however women are apparently working hard to catch up. Certainly, the media portrays young women as being ‘as bad as boys’ when it comes to violence, particularly when fuelled by alcohol; city centres across the UK have a large problem with violence but this is possibly due to an increasing culture of binge-drinking. Indeed, as recently as December 2006, reports of violence fuelled by alcohol were in the news again; this time, however, the focus was not the violence as such, but that the perpetrators of the violence were female.

A BBC article quotes Dr Jon Cole of Liverpool University who believes that, whilst it does not cause aggression, alcohol stops sensible choices being made “You make the easiest choice, which is often aggression”. The same article refers to a study by The Glasgow Centre for the Study of Violence which showed that women were involved in almost half of all the pub fights observed. Further, medical research shows that testosterone levels in women rise by fifty percent in females, but is lower in males when they become drunk.

Violence however is a term which can be interpreted in many ways: one particular study shows females’ understanding and interpretation of violence is unusual (see Burman below). There are accepted definitions of violence or aggression: crime is “an action which constitutes a serious offence against an individual or…state…”; violence: “behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill; strength of emotion or of a destructive natural force”. Aggression: “hostile or violent behaviour or attitudes; the act of attacking without provocation…”.

In the study undertaken by Burman et al, verbal abuse and the spreading of rumours was seen as ‘violent’ or more aggressive than physical violence (such as being punched). If verbal, rather than physical, violence causes more concern girls, should we take this as an indication that girls consider violence to be a psychological rather than physical problem? Why do some girls have a greater fear of violence which is spoken whilst most people, and particularly boys, are more inclined to class violence as a physical assault?

Fear of violence is often more potent as it is the ‘unknown’; the precise time and place of being the recipient of violence is unknown with domestic violence victims, but they are kept on alert because they know it is going to occur at some point. However, from a legal point of view, violence and violent crime, is where physical injury is inflicted and only in recent years was psychological trauma accepted as a ‘violent offence’ (see Protection from Harassment Act 1997).

Given the low numbers of women who offend, both historically and in recent times, it is unsurprising that studies into female criminality were either ignored or undertaken in relation to their interaction with, and response to, male violence and criminality. It is also unsurprising that female criminologists found the need to fill this gap. In the past, women were classified into two types: mad or bad. Most female offenders convicted of violent crimes were seen as women who fought back against domestic violence or who protected their children; others were considered ‘evil’ and historically, were considered witches or concubines of the devil. We may now have a better understanding of criminality, but this has not stopped the ‘bad’ or ‘mad’ viewpoint from being represented by the media, the public and in some quarters of the criminal justice system when females are involved.

Women are viewed as more deviant than their male counterparts as they have not only offended against the criminal code but also against social convention. Whereas social rules and convention have changed over time, women are still considered to be mothers, wives, lovers and workers but not offenders; rarely do we expect women to commit violent offences. Those who do are vilified for years possibly serving longer terms than male counterparts, particularly when they offend against those they are supposed to protect.

Myra Hindley and Beverley Allit both murdered children; Allit did so as a nurse so could be again seen as doubly deviant as her occupation – as well as her gendered role – was one of carer.

It is difficult of course to do a proper comparative analysis without knowing the details of the ‘violence against the person’ offences committed by both men and women. There are a number of ‘assaults’ committed by women which may well not have been prosecuted had they been committed by men; it is impossible to say without knowing more about both the offence and the offender (regardless of gender). Obtaining goods for sale (to provide money to pay bills/food) or obtaining goods – such as shoplifting food/clothing is more common among female offenders than males. Analysis of current statistics shows that the highest number of female offenders committed ‘drugs offences’ with the second highest being for ‘violence against the person’ followed by ‘theft and handling’. For many, women who commit violence do so mainly in self-defence or protection of a child; females are not seen as inherently violent. But is this perception false or misleading?

Most studies of the culture and phenomenon of gangs tend to focus on males (though some do mention ‘girl gangs’ or girls in gangs as a peripheral but distinctly intricate part of a predominantly male gang). However, a problem arises which is twofold: firstly and perhaps obviously, not all female offenders – violent or otherwise – are in gangs. Secondly, there is a danger that the study will produce results more likely to provide an insight into gang culture rather than any comparative study of female and male criminality.

Current statistics show the highest number of female offenders committed ‘drugs offences’ with the second highest for ‘violence against the person’ followed by ‘theft and handling’. For many, women who commit violence do so mainly in self-defence or protection of a child; females are not seen as inherently violent. But is this perception false?

One of the possible reasons behind women committing fewer ‘serious’ offences could be their role as mother/carer. Given that a large proportion of children are either brought up by single mothers or by mothers due to fathers working longer hours (or being the sole breadwinner) women generally have the main, if not sole, responsibility for child rearing. Therefore, the ability for women commit crimes – unless they left their children elsewhere, or were childless – was severely restricted. The risk of being caught and sent to prison – and violent offences generally attract higher tariffs – meant that any benefit of committing a crime seemed unattractive. Of course, this assumes that women who commit offences chose to do so for pragmatic/rational reasons; classicists will be jumping for joy!

In terms of victimisation, women are largely accountable for rape or other sexual assaults but even here the amount of disproportionate statistical analysis is difficult given that male rape and male sexual assault is under-reported and (in some countries) legally ignored. Stigma attached to victims of sexual assault is horrendous for female victims but this is more so when victims are male. This is largely due to men being perceived as (i) the aggressors or (ii) physically able to fight off an assault.

In England and Wales, legislation is quite specific in terms of the crime of rape in that a penis must be inserted into either a vagina or the anal passage (or mouth); so whilst a victim may be either male or female, the perpetrator must be male. In Scots law, the act of rape can only be committed by a man on a woman; male on male sexual assault is just that – sexual/indecent assault but not rape. Where victim and perpetrator are one and the same (e.g. an abused wife retaliates against her husband) there are inconsistencies between the genders. According to CEDAW, women are more likely to ‘to be killed than to kill’ but the legal system discriminates; women who kill their [often abusive] husbands are convicted of murder whilst men who kill their wives are convicted of manslaughter. Thus, if convicted of murder which women are, the only sentence available is life; even when convicted of murder, men and women are still treated differently with tariffs higher for women than men.

Male perpetrators may be more selfish in their approach to crimes; committing offences which are directly of benefit and which give an immediate sense of gain. In violence, men use violence as a first, rather than last resort, as it on two levels it gets them what they want: the first is the object of their attention, the second is status and self-belief in their own ability. Violence for many men seems to be a way to [re]assert their masculinity. Violence committed by women – on the whole – appears to be a last resort; there was no other way to get either in or out of a situation and thus violence was used.

Of course, there are criminal couples: men and women who work together – though not necessarily in harmony – to make financial and other gains. Prostitutes have for many years used (and been used by) male pimps. The men offer protection, security from harassment whether this is from other working women, volatile clients and other pimps who want to ‘muscle in’ on the money earned by the prostitute.

The pimp will use violence as a means of asserting his status has being in control of both the woman and the environment within which they work. Of course, the prostitute herself is committing a criminal offence in soliciting on the street and may herself use violence against her client and other working women. The implied consent that women give to men who pimp them is that violence is acceptable: they will not want nor like the violence used against them but most accept it as part of their lives and also want the volatility of the pimp to be known to others as a way of protecting themselves from other females and clients.

Theorising about the motivations which drive offenders, male and female, tends to mean that we encapsulate whole groups of people by defining them on the basis of individual psycho-social profiles. This may be applicable for instances where groups commit crimes on a large scale, over periods of time, such as ethnic cleansing (which often entails the mass slaughter of males and systematic rape and impregnation of females – as seen in Bosnia for example).

Of course, systematic rape of females – and occasionally males – is a form of violence often used by groups of individuals sanctioned by the state (as seen in war situations) and also individuals in a domestic setting (the husband who forces his wife, girlfriend, etc.) and sexual violence is almost unique in that women – particularly in Scots’ Law – are not convicted of rape. There are cases where accomplice of facilitation of rape is conducted by a female against another female but these tend to be rare. One example would be the sexual abuse of young women by Fred West who raped and abused women with his wife; even here, however, the case showed that Fred West has systematically abused his wife and thus she may have complied and committed these acts to reduce her own victimisation.

Crime in general, whether violent or otherwise, may be more easily identifiable as a male characteristic in society rather than female simply because of historical social conventions. Women had to care for their homes and families; opportunities for women to offend were minimal in that they had limited access to places which would allow them to commit crimes. Men, on the other hand, were often the workers, the drinkers, the socialisers (women entertained their friends, but this was often in homes rather than public houses, etc.) and thus opportunity was greater for them. If nothing else, in historical times, the clothing a woman wore would make burglary (e.g. entering a house via a window and then removing goods) quite difficult though perhaps not impossible! Even in more recent times, women were seen to steal for ‘good’ rather than ‘bad’ reasons: they stole food from supermarkets rather than goods to be sold for hard cash.

Those who were caught may cry and reduce themselves to the ‘helpless desperate female’ and an invariably male security guard or store manager, may find himself torn between chivalry or sympathy towards the woman and his job. If a man was caught in the same act of theft, it is possible that (if denial did not work) then aggression would result in a negative reaction from staff and thus prosecutions of males were more likely.

Given that males generally appear to be more confrontational – and this may be anthropological in origin – whereas woman appear to take the path of least resistance, it is possible that perpetrators of crimes (particularly non-violent crimes) are likely to find that their gender reflects their culpability in the eyes of the law and any enforcement officers.

Over the last few years, and in particular in relation to younger offenders, females are less likely to be able to use their gender to escape punishment (though there may be some instances were this still applies, for instance speeding in cars). Whereas historically women might have been viewed as immoral, but not necessarily criminal, recent years have seen a shift so that they are not only immoral but most definitely criminal and thus should be treated equally by the criminal justice system. Inevitably, however, the public will view the criminal female as more criminal or more deviant than her male counterpart.

Women may also have a more pragmatic approach to criminal activity, violent or otherwise. It might be that they are more careful about exposing themselves to temptation for certain crimes (such as theft, fraud, etc.) or are so careful that they may go undetected. Men may well approach crime with a more arrogant attitude and feel their ability to escape detection is greater than male or female counterparts.

What theories therefore can be applied, if any whether partially or wholly, to violence and the men and the women who use it? It is difficult to state which ‘criminological theory’ can actually be applied completely to criminality without being considered either aligned to one discourse or another even if the intention is to avoid this. It may be impossible to apply the same theories of criminality for men and women given that attempts thus far have failed to provide any conclusive answer into the causation of criminality in female or male crimes.

The problem with analysing the comparison between male and female offenders is that whilst their motives might appear different, this is not necessarily the case. Influences such as biology, psychology, economic and education as well as society in general will have an impact on each individual’s behaviour and their understanding of what is acceptable. Violence is so often used as a means for dispute resolution – particularly in the younger generation – that we may be on an irreversible path.

As seems common within criminology, in order to explain criminality, attempts are made to encompass causation with one particular ideal or theory; it is due to this attempt to treat theories as mutually exclusive which results in failure.

Women are different in terms of their responses to crime and in particular violence, their use of violence against others and their understanding of violence and crime in general. Women have been dominated for so long and now they choose to fight back, they are regarded as more dangerous. They are altering perceptions held over a long period of time; that is not to say women will turn into Amazonian women ready to dominate the world and make men submissive creatures! However, if we – as women – want equality, it seems we have to fight twice as hard (even if that fight turns physical).

The criminal justice system now deals with far more women offenders than previous decades, but this is also likely to be in part attributable to the medicalisation of female offenders in the past. Now that this is no longer the case, women are identified as criminal not [mentally] ill and thus greater numbers are being included in criminal offending statistics. Greater reporting to the police, due to insurance requirements among other things, means that whereas those offences which may have been overlooked for being petty no longer are treated as inconsequential.

Whether one looks at the lack of implementation of equality for women, or whether men’s masculinity is eroded by women’s empowerment, whether abuse victims abuse others so they can gain control and power over another, many individuals commit crimes for reasons understood only by them – and perhaps not even then. Theories of crime, causation and criminality will be at ever increasing odds as elements of classicism, positivism, strain theory or a ‘pick-and-mix’ approach to all three are rejuvenated depending on the year or decade.

Advances in sciences (natural and social) may also play a part in the future of how criminality is considered; genetic or even social predisposition for criminality is not something which is seen on the movie screen, it is a reality which will be hitting us very soon if indeed it has not already done so.

Indeed, September 2006 saw the Labour Government publish their plans to improve families’ potential for achievement by the possible local or even governmental intervention for ‘problem families’. Critics were reported as fearing that the Government was entering the dangerous field of eugenics (so fatally but effectively seen during the Holocaust) or by creating ASBOs for children who were yet to be born on the basis of their parents’ socio-economic status.

Where does this leave the field of criminology? Governments may look to criminologists and other social scientists to address the question of crime and criminality and causes thereof but they may give limited terms of reference for research projects.

Criminology seeks to provide a definitive, exact answer to an inexact and (at times) inexplicable question: why do people (whether male or female) commit crime? Perhaps this is its failure and why, despite a growth of writers on the matter, nobody has arrived at an answer (which I argue is not possible in any event). Sociological, economical, psychological and biological factors all have to be considered and taken into account when dealing with any offender, male or female. Many treat criminal causation theories as mutually exclusive.

Criminological theory – even when considering all the elements therein – seeks to find a definitive answer where it is likely that none exist. Lack of a definitive answer, however, does not necessarily mean criminology has failed; it needs to evolve again. Perhaps for criminological theory, answers to questions are as fluid as the times in which they are considered. Evolution of criminology and the theories therein mean criminologists will have to choose the most logical and pragmatic elements, and discard elements which are obviously flawed (whether in whole or in part). This may be the way forward.

 

Stock Fraud Lawyer: How it Works, Prevention and Schemes

Stock Fraud Lawyer; Financial Fraid; Investment Fraud;

Investment Fraud is a personal financial action executed by a broker without your consent, and you can denounce it, with the help of a lawyer.

Preventing Securities Fraud – How to Protect Yourself

Investment fraud is not limited to stock frauds and securities fraud. Instead, it spans a wide spectrum of scams that include invention scams and rare item investment scams. The scope of investment scams has reached epic proportions with millions of dollars being fraudulently stolen from consumers each year.

If you want to protect yourself from investment frauds and scams that you need to learn how to identify the warning signs of a potential scam. The first warning sign is that the offer sounds too good to be true. The second warning sign is that the seller of the offer is using high-pressure sales tactics such as forcing you to make a decision to invest right now. Another warning sign is that you are contacted via phone without requesting information about the investment opportunity. The scam artist may also ask for your social security number or credit card information over the phone. These are all signs that you are being targeted by a scam artist. There are several federal documents and pamphlets that you should read through that tell you what to look for and what scams are currently circulating. You can request fraud education materials from the Federal Trade Commission, the SEC, and from your state’s securities regulator.

If you find that you have been victimized by a securities fraud or some other type of investment fraud then you need to take immediate action to correct the situation. First, you need to report your victimization to the authorities. Try to provide them with as much information as you can about who contacted you, how they contacted you, how you funded your investment and any other information that you have. You will also want to contact a SEC lawyer, a securities fraud attorney or an investment fraud lawyer. They will be able to help you develop a case against the company or person who victimized you, they will be able to answer your questions, and they will help you to win your lawsuit against the perpetrators of the fraud in question.

Laws and Stocks: Bringing Transparency to the Economy

Every business has an original capital invested at the time of business launch. It is different from property and assets. The value fluctuates from time to time. This stock of a business is divided into shares. Based on the total amount of stock, every share is assigned a particular value.

Shares represent a fraction of ownership to the business. The ownership of this asset is determined by issuing a stock certificate. It’s a legal document that authenticates the number of shares owned by a shareholder. A private, as well as a public company, can have shareholders.

Shareholders are people or another organization owning shares of a company. The largest shareholders aren’t retail buyers. They are rather corporate entities or other large mutual funds. Owning even fifty percent or more shares doesn’t entitle them to use property, equipment, etc of that company. This is because the company is considered as a legal entity.

In this regard, a stock exchange holds an importance place. It is a marketplace where a company with shares has to get enlisted in order to sell shares to several prospective buyers. Famous stock exchanges are BSE, NSE, NASDAQ, etc which can be cited as examples.

There are big and small companies whose shares are traded every day on several stock exchanges across the world. The market value of several large international corporations like Oracle, Microsoft, Siemens, etc. runs into millions of dollars. As a result, there is a scope of stock related frauds too.

These frauds run into millions or even billions of dollars worth. Crimes related to stocks are labeled under white collar crimes. This is because of the financial knowledge required to commit these crimes. Since these types of frauds affect not only large-scale stockholders but also retail share traders. Class action lawsuit is the obvious option to get relief legally.

Broker Fraud and Class-Action Lawsuits

Broker fraud is the illegal act of deceiving an investor or violating his or her instructions in order to benefit the broker or the brokerage firm. Stockbrokers have a responsibility to act sensibly with clients’ money and to avoid unnecessary or unreasonable risk. When they fail to do so, they may not only be in violation of the law, but they may also be liable for any financial damages caused to the client.

If you suspect your broker of committing fraud and hurting your investments, consider consulting with a securities fraud class-action lawyer as soon as possible.

Types of Broker Fraud

This type of fraudulent activity can be found at all levels of investing. There are many ways that a broker may commit fraud, including:

  • Unauthorized trading: Acting without the client’s permission or violating his or her explicit instructions
  • Misrepresentation or omission: Misrepresenting or omitting facts regarding investments
  • Unsuitability: Making investment suggestions that are not suitable for an investor’s needs or accepted level of risk
  • Churning: Unnecessarily buying or selling stock to gain greater commission payments
  • Overconcentration: Overconcentrating an investor’s stock portfolio in a single stock or a few stocks

Any of these acts of fraud can cause significant damage to investors’ finances. Not only is this type of fraud a violation of the law, but it is also a violation of clients’ trust that can qualify as grounds for a class-action lawsuit. If you are an investor and suspect or have evidence of broker fraud, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your financial losses.

Rio Olympics Cyber Crime: Top Mobile News And Security Edition

Cybercrime Mobile Security

Rio Olympics Cyber Scams, Hacking Election Polls: This Week’s Top Mobile News, Security Edition

A Rio Olympics mobile travel advisory is in effect.

Travelers to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, be on the lookout for free Wi-Fi network scams and malicious apps. Mobile security company Skycure identified fake Wi-Fi networks in Rio and fake Olympics apps that are ready to steal your data. Read about it at Slate.

Cybercriminals now want your health records.

What’s worth more than stolen credit card information? Stolen social security numbers from health records. In 2015, more than 100 million health records were compromised, and most came from just three attacks, reports The Boston Globe.

That’s one reason the healthcare industry, now a huge target for cybercriminals, is embracing a new technology, called the digital workspace. Enterprise-grade security and centralized control over data give healthcare IT a huge advantage to combat the growing threats. Learn more at Computerworld.

Could your vote get hacked?

Cybersecurity experts warn that ballots submitted electronically in the upcoming presidential election could be tampered with by hackers. Experts say voters can use email and web portals with poor security in the 31 states that allow absentee ballots to be returned online. MIT Technology Review has more details.

Big banks are forming a security squad.

Last year, financial services IT spent $459 billion globally, and 80% of that was spent on compliance, security, risk, infrastructure and data, according to our newest infographic. Now, eight huge U.S. banks plan to collaborate on security and exchange threat data in order to form a greater, united defense against cyberattacks. Find out more in The Wall Street Journal.

Cars, drones, bots—Black Hat 2016 proved hackers can use it all against you.

A hub for all things scary security threats, the Black Hat conference just wrapped up a week of showcasing advances in threat detection and major vulnerabilities. From Apple’s bug bounty program to a man-in-the-middle attack on 35,000 devices at the event, PCMag.com rounds up “The Good and the Terrifying Things at Black Hat 2016.”

Samsung one-ups fingerprint authentication.

The new Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone strengthens security down to the core (literally, Knox 2.7 security better fends off kernel attacks) and enables you to scan your iris to unlock the Knox container.

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Email Scam: Cyber Security Desk – Tech Support Scams

Tech Support Scams

From 2014 to 2015, tech support scams increased by 200%, according to cybersecurity leader Symantec in their 2016 Internet Security Threat Report.

Throwing around scary cybersecurity terms like “malware,” scammers try to frighten victims on the phone and convince them that their computer and personal information are at risk. Acting like an expert from a trusted organization, the caller then persuades the victim to download an application or visit a site to resolve the issue, actually delivering ransomware to the unaware victim’s computer.

Here’s an example of a tech support scam I recently experienced during the workday (and how I gracefully handled it).

About 10 minutes before our all-hands team call ends, I get a phone call from “private number.” I never know who these callers are. I’m always worried that it is some relative of a Nigerian prince needing to borrow thousands of dollars so I can become really, really wealthy and rent the red Porsche that the car rental company keeps wanting me to drive when I come to the VMware AirWatch office in Atlanta.

The gentlemen on the other end of the phone identifies himself as Smith Hamilton from the Network Security Department. He tells me that there has been a great deal of network traffic attempting to get into my computer. Faraway computers from Georgia, North Carolina and Iowa have been trying to maliciously access the private information on my computer, he says.

I tell him my girlfriend is calling me and ask if I can put him on hold. I walk over to the kitchen and make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (I really need that Nigerian prince’s family member to call me). After cleaning up my mess, I walk back and take Mr. Hamilton off hold. He is patiently waiting. This guy must really want to protect my personal information for me. What a saint.

We start talking, and he asks me to go to “the Google website” and search for a certain online meeting software. I ask him what browser I should be using: Dolphin or Opera? I tell him my wife prefers Opera, and my girlfriend says that Dolphin is the best. He can’t believe I have both a wife and a girlfriend and suggests that I should leave one of them. (I never tell him that they are the same person.) He lectures me about wedding vows and says that I should search my soul and do the right thing. This guy is a saint.

I ask if I can put him on hold because the doorbell rang. I say if I’m not back in five minutes then it means that my girlfriend is at the door and that he probably should hang up because no good things happen when she’s at the door. I review the PowerPoint slides that my colleague sent. After four and a half minutes, I reconnect with Mr. Hamilton.

He stops lecturing me, and guides me through installing the business application I searched for on my “Windows machine.” I read an email from my boss asking me to get back to work. I tell Mr. Hamilton that he can call me back tonight after 10 p.m. when my wife goes to sleep, and we can talk more about his qualms with my personal life.

Handle Tech Support Scams like a Cybersecurity Champ

Now, I’m off to see if I can find an application for him to install on his computer to help make my “Windows machine” faster. I’ll have a clean virtual machine set up and waiting for Mr. Hamilton if he calls me back. I’ll waste his time all night long if I need to, because it keeps him from calling and abusing someone else.

If you find yourself on the phone with a Mr. Hamilton, hang up. You should never accept the help of these “altruistic helpers.” No one is ever going to call you and help you remove malware from your computer. No one is ever going to call you and help you speed up your computer for free.

 

Microsoft offers some sound advice on avoiding tech support scams here. You can also log a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) here.

INTERNET OF THINGS: OPPORTUNITIES FOR CYBER CRIME

INTERNET OF THINGS POSES

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to any object or device which connects to the Internet to automatically send and/or receive data.

As more businesses and homeowners use web-connected devices to enhance company efficiency or lifestyle conveniences, their connection to the Internet also increases the target space for malicious cyber actors. Similar to other computing devices, like computers or Smartphones, IoT devices also pose security risks to consumers. The FBI is warning companies and the general public to be aware of IoT vulnerabilities cybercriminals could exploit, and offers some tips on mitigating those cyber threats.

What are some IoT devices?

  • Automated devices which remotely or automatically adjust lighting or HVAC
  • Security systems, such as security alarms or Wi-Fi cameras, including video monitors used in nursery and daycare settings
  • Medical devices, such as wireless heart monitors or insulin dispensers
  • Thermostats
  • Wearables, such as fitness devices
  • Lighting modules which activate or deactivate lights
  • Smart appliances, such as smart refrigerators and TVs
  • Office equipment, such as printers
  • Entertainment devices to control music or television from a mobile device
  • Fuel monitoring systems

How do IoT devices connect?

IoT devices connect through computer networks to exchange data with the operator, businesses, manufacturers, and other connected devices, mainly without requiring human interaction.

What are the IoT Risks?

Deficient security capabilities and difficulties for patching vulnerabilities in these devices, as well as a lack of consumer security awareness, provide cyber actors with opportunities to exploit these devices. Criminals can use these opportunities to remotely facilitate attacks on other systems, send malicious and spam e-mails, steal personal information, or interfere with physical safety. The main IoT risks include:

  • An exploitation of the Universal Plug and Play protocol (UPnP) to gain access to many IoT devices. The UPnP describes the process when a device remotely connects and communicates on a network automatically without authentication. UPnP is designed to self-configure when attached to an IP address, making it vulnerable to exploitation. Cyber actors can change the configuration, and run commands on the devices, potentially enabling the devices to harvest sensitive information or conduct attacks against homes and businesses, or engage in digital eavesdropping;
  • An exploitation of default passwords to send malicious and spam e-mails, or steal personally identifiable or credit card information;
  • Compromising the IoT device to cause physical harm;
  • Overloading the devices to render the device inoperable;
  • Interfering with business transactions.

What an IoT Risk Might Look Like to You?

Unsecured or weakly secured devices provide opportunities for cyber criminals to intrude upon private networks and gain access to other devices and information attached to these networks. Devices with default passwords or open Wi-Fi connections are an easy target for cyber actors to exploit.

Examples of such incidents:

  • Cyber criminals can take advantage of security oversights or gaps in the configuration of closed circuit television, such as security cameras used by private businesses or built-in cameras on baby monitors used in homes and day care centers. Many devices have default passwords cyber actors are aware of and others broadcast their location to the Internet. Systems not properly secured can be located and breached by actors who wish to stream live feed on the Internet for anyone to see. Any default passwords should be changed as soon as possible, and the wireless network should have a strong password and firewall.
  • Criminals can exploit unsecured wireless connections for automated devices, such as security systems, garage doors, thermostats, and lighting. The exploits allow criminals to obtain administrative privileges on the automated device. Once the criminals have obtained the owner’s privileges, the criminal can access the home or business network and collect personal information or remotely monitor the owner’s habits and network traffic. If the owner did not change the default password or create a strong password, a cyber criminal could easily exploit these devices to open doors, turn off security systems, record audio and video, and gain access to sensitive data.
  • E-mail spam attacks are not only sent from laptops, desktop computers, or mobile devices. Criminals are also using home-networking routers, connected multi-media centers, televisions, and appliances with wireless network connections as vectors for malicious e-mail. Devices affected are usually vulnerable because the factory default password is still in use or the wireless network is not secured.
  • Criminals can also gain access to unprotected devices used in home health care, such as those used to collect and transmit personal monitoring data or time-dispense medicines. Once criminals have breached such devices, they have access to any personal or medical information stored on the devices and can possibly change the coding controlling the dispensing of medicines or health data collection. These devices may be at risk if they are capable of long-range connectivity.
  • Criminals can also attack business-critical devices connected to the Internet such as the monitoring systems on gas pumps. Using this connection, the criminals could cause the pump to register incorrect levels, creating either a false gas shortage or allowing a refueling vehicle to dangerously overfill the tanks, creating a fire hazard, or interrupt the connection to the point of sale system allowing fuel to be dispensed without registering a monetary transaction.

Consumer Protection and Defense Recommendations

  • Isolate IoT devices on their own protected networks;
  • Disable UPnP on routers;
  • Consider whether IoT devices are ideal for their intended purpose;
  • Purchase IoT devices from manufacturers with a track record of providing secure devices;
  • When available, update IoT devices with security patches;
  • Consumers should be aware of the capabilities of the devices and appliances installed in their homes and businesses. If a device comes with a default password or an open Wi-Fi connection, consumers should change the password and only allow it operate on a home network with a secured Wi-Fi router;
  • Use current best practices when connecting IoT devices to wireless networks, and when connecting remotely to an IoT device;
  • Patients should be informed about the capabilities of any medical devices prescribed for at-home use. If the device is capable of remote operation or transmission of data, it could be a target for a malicious actor;
  • Ensure all default passwords are changed to strong passwords. Do not use the default password determined by the device manufacturer. Many default passwords can be easily located on the Internet. Do not use common words and simple phrases or passwords containing easily obtainable personal information, such as important dates or names of children or pets. If the device does not allow the capability to change the access password, ensure the device providing wireless Internet service has a strong password and uses strong encryption.

Original PressReleases…

Business E-Mail Compromise and Fraud Statistics From FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

BUSINESS E-MAIL COMPROMISE

BUSINESS E-MAIL COMPROMISE: THE 3.1 BILLION DOLLAR SCAM

This Public Service Announcement (PSA) is an update to the Business E-mail Compromise (BEC) information provided in Public Service Announcements (PSA) 1-012215-PSA and 1-082715a-PSA. This PSA includes new Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) complaint information and updated statistical data.

DEFINITION

BEC is defined as a sophisticated scam targeting businesses working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments. The scam is carried out by compromising legitimate business e-mail accounts through social engineering or computer intrusion techniques to conduct unauthorized transfers of funds.

Most victims report using wire transfers as a common method of transferring funds for business purposes; however, some victims report using checks as a common method of payment. The fraudsters will use the method most commonly associated with their victim’s normal business practices.

STATISTICAL DATA

The BEC scam continues to grow, evolve, and target businesses of all sizes. Since January 2015, there has been a 1,300% increase in identified exposed losses. The scam has been reported by victims in all 50 states and in 100 countries. Reports indicate that fraudulent transfers have been sent to 79 countries with the majority going to Asian banks located within China and Hong Kong.

The following BEC statistics were reported to the IC3 and are derived from multiple sources to include IC3 victim complaints and complaints filed with international law enforcement agencies and financial institutions:

Domestic and International victims:22,143
Combined exposed dollar loss:$3,086,250,090
The following BEC statistics were reported in victim complaints to the IC3 from October 2013 to May 2016:
Domestic and International victims:15,668
Combined exposed dollar loss:$1,053,849,635
  • Total U.S. victims:
14,032
  • Total U.S. exposed dollar loss:
$960,708,616
  • Total non-U.S. victims:
1,636
  • Total non-U.S. exposed dollar loss:
$93,141,019

 

BACKGROUND

The victims of the BEC scam range from small businesses to large corporations. The victims continue to deal in a wide variety of goods and services, indicating a specific sector does not seem to be targeted.

It is largely unknown how victims are selected; however, the subjects monitor and study their selected victims using social engineering techniques prior to initiating the BEC scam. The subjects are able to accurately identify the individuals and protocols necessary to perform wire transfers within a specific business environment. Victims may also first receive “phishing” e-mails requesting additional details regarding the business or individual being targeted (name, travel dates, etc.).

Some individuals reported being a victim of various Scareware or Ransomware cyber intrusions immediately preceding a BEC incident. These intrusions can initially be facilitated through a phishing scam in which a victim receives an e-mail from a seemingly legitimate source that contains a malicious link. The victim clicks on the link, and it downloads malware, allowing the actor(s) unfettered access to the victim’s data, including passwords or financial account information.

The BEC scam is linked to other forms of fraud, including but not limited to: romance, lottery, employment, and rental scams. The victims of these scams are usually U.S. based and may be recruited as unwitting money mules. The mules receive the fraudulent funds in their personal accounts and are then directed by the subject to quickly transfer the funds to another bank account, usually outside the U.S. Upon direction, mules may open bank accounts and/or shell corporations to further the fraud scheme.

SCENARIOS OF BEC

Based on IC3 complaints and other complaint data , there are five main scenarios by which this scam is perpetrated. BEC victims recently reported a new scenario (Data Theft) involving the receipt of fraudulent e-mails requesting either all Wage or Tax Statement (W-2) forms or a company list of Personally Identifiable Information (PII). This scenario does not always involve the request for a wire transfer; however, the business executive’s e-mail is compromised, either spoofed or hacked, and the victims are targeted in a similar manner as described in Scenario 2 of the BEC scam.

Scenario 5 (New): Data Theft

Fraudulent requests are sent utilizing a business executive’s compromised e-mail. The entity in the business organization responsible for W-2s or maintaining PII, such as the human resources department, bookkeeping, or auditing section, have frequently been identified as the targeted recipient of the fraudulent request for W-2 and/or PII. Some of these incidents are isolated and some occur prior to a fraudulent wire transfer request. Victims report they have fallen for this new BEC scenario, even if they were able to successfully identify and avoid the traditional BEC incident. The data theft scenario (Scenario 5) of the BEC first appeared just prior to the 2016 tax season.

Scenario 1: Business Working With a Foreign Supplier

A business, which often has a long standing relationship with a supplier, is requested to wire funds for invoice payment to an alternate, fraudulent account. The request may be made via telephone, facsimile, or e-mail. If an e-mail is received, the subject will spoof the e-mail request so it appears very similar to a legitimate account and would take very close scrutiny to determine it was fraudulent. Likewise, if a facsimile or telephone call is received, it will closely mimic a legitimate request. This particular scenario has also been referred to as “The Bogus Invoice Scheme,” “The Supplier Swindle,” and “Invoice Modification Scheme.”

Scenario 2: Business [Executive] Receiving or Initiating a Request for a Wire Transfer

The e-mail accounts of high-level business executives (CFO, CTO, etc) are compromised. The account may be spoofed or hacked. A request for a wire transfer from the compromised account is made to a second employee within the company who is normally responsible for processing these requests. In some instances, a request for a wire transfer from the compromised account is sent directly to the financial institution with instructions to urgently send funds to bank “X” for reason “Y.” This particular scenario has also been referred to as “CEO Fraud,” “Business Executive Scam,” “Masquerading,” and “Financial Industry Wire Frauds.”

Scenario 3: Business Contacts Receiving Fraudulent Correspondence through Compromised E-mail

An employee of a business has his/her personal e-mail hacked. This personal e-mail may be used for both personal and business communications. Requests for invoice payments to fraudster-controlled bank accounts are sent from this employee’s personal e-mail to multiple vendors identified from this employee’s contact list. The business may not become aware of the fraudulent requests until that business is contacted by a vendor to follow up on the status of an invoice payment.

Scenario 4: Business Executive and Attorney Impersonation

Victims report being contacted by fraudsters, who typically identify themselves as lawyers or representatives of law firms and claim to be handling confidential or time-sensitive matters. This contact may be made via either phone or e-mail. Victims may be pressured by the fraudster to act quickly or secretly in handling the transfer of funds. This type of BEC scam may occur at the end of the business day or work week and be timed to coincide with the close of business of international financial institutions.

CHARACTERISTICS OF BEC COMPLAINTS

The IC3 has noted the following characteristics of BEC complaints:

  • Businesses and associated personnel using open source e-mail accounts are predominantly targeted.
  • Individuals responsible for handling wire transfers within a specific business are targeted.
  • Spoofed e-mails very closely mimic a legitimate e-mail request.
  • Hacked e-mails often occur with a personal e-mail account.
  • Fraudulent e-mail requests for a wire transfer are well-worded, specific to the business being victimized, and do not raise suspicions to the legitimacy of the request.
  • The phrases “code to admin expenses” or “urgent wire transfer” were reported by victims in some of the fraudulent e-mail requests.
  • The amount of the fraudulent wire transfer request is business-specific; therefore, dollar amounts requested are similar to normal business transaction amounts so as to not raise doubt.
  • Fraudulent e-mails received have coincided with business travel dates for executives whose e-mails were spoofed.
  • Victims report that IP addresses frequently trace back to free domain registrars.

SUGGESTIONS FOR PROTECTION AND BEST PRACTICES

Businesses with an increased awareness and understanding of the BEC scam are more likely to recognize when they have been targeted by BEC fraudsters, and are therefore more likely to avoid falling victim and sending fraudulent payments.

Businesses that deploy robust internal prevention techniques at all levels (especially targeting front line employees who may be the recipients of initial phishing attempts), have proven highly successful in recognizing and deflecting BEC attempts.

Some financial institutions reported holding their customer requests for international wire transfers for an additional period of time, to verify the legitimacy of the request.

The following is a compilation of self protection strategies provided in the BEC PSAs from 2015.

  • Avoid free web-based e-mail accounts: Establish a company domain name and use it to establish company e-mail accounts in lieu of free, web-based accounts.
  • Be careful what is posted to social media and company websites, especially job duties/descriptions, hierarchal information, and out of office details.
  • Be suspicious of requests for secrecy or pressure to take action quickly.
  • Consider additional IT and financial security procedures, including the implementation of a 2-step verification process. For example –
    • Out of Band Communication: Establish other communication channels, such as telephone calls, to verify significant transactions. Arrange this second-factor authentication early in the relationship and outside the e-mail environment to avoid interception by a hacker.
    • Digital Signatures: Both entities on each side of a transaction should utilize digital signatures. This will not work with web-based e-mail accounts. Additionally, some countries ban or limit the use of encryption.
    • Delete Spam: Immediately report and delete unsolicited e-mail (spam) from unknown parties. DO NOT open spam e-mail, click on links in the e-mail, or open attachments. These often contain malware that will give subjects access to your computer system.
    • Forward vs. Reply: Do not use the “Reply” option to respond to any business e-mails. Instead, use the “Forward” option and either type in the correct e-mail address or select it from the e-mail address book to ensure the intended recipient’s correct e-mail address is used.
    • Consider implementing Two Factor Authentication (TFA) for corporate e-mail accounts. TFA mitigates the threat of a subject gaining access to an employee’s e-mail account through a compromised password by requiring two pieces of information to login: something you know (a password) and something you have (such as a dynamic PIN or code).

Significant Changes: Beware of sudden changes in business practices. For example, if a current business contact suddenly asks to be contacted via their personal e-mail address when all previous official correspondence has been through company e-mail, the request could be fraudulent. Always verify via other channels that you are still communicating with your legitimate business partner.

  • Create intrusion detection system rules that flag e-mails with extensions that are similar to company e-mail. For example, legitimate e-mail of abc_company.com would flag fraudulent e-mail of abc-company.com.
  • Register all company domains that are slightly different than the actual company domain.
  • Verify changes in vendor payment location by adding additional two-factor authentication such as having a secondary sign-off by company personnel.
  • Confirm requests for transfers of funds. When using phone verification as part of the two-factor authentication, use previously known numbers, not the numbers provided in the e-mail request.
  • Know the habits of your customers, including the details of, reasons behind, and amount of payments.
  • Carefully scrutinize all e-mail requests for transfers of funds to determine if the requests are out of the ordinary.

Additional information is publicly available on the United States Department of Justice website www.justice.gov publication entitled “Best Practices for Victim Response and Reporting of Cyber Incidents”.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE A VICTIM

If funds are transferred to a fraudulent account, it is important to act quickly:

  • Contact your financial institution immediately upon discovering the fraudulent transfer
  • Request that your financial institution contact the corresponding financial institution where the fraudulent transfer was sent
  • Contact your local Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office if the wire is recent. The FBI, working with the United States Department of Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, might be able to help return or freeze the funds
  • File a complaint, regardless of dollar loss, at www.IC3.gov

When contacting law enforcement or filing a complaint with the IC3, it is important to identify your incident as “BEC”, provide a brief description of the incident, and consider providing the following financial information:

  • Originating Name:
  • Originating Location:
  • Originating Bank Name:
  • Originating Bank Account Number:
  • Recipient Name:
  • Recipient Bank Name:
  • Recipient Bank Account Number:
  • Recipient Bank Location (if available):
  • Intermediary Bank Name (if available):
  • SWIFT Number:
  • Date:
  • Amount of Transaction:
  • Additional Information (if available) – including “FFC”- For Further Credit; “FAV” – In Favor Of:

Filing a complaint with IC3

Victims should always file a complaint regardless of dollar loss or timing of incident at www.IC3.gov and, in addition to the financial information, provide the following descriptors:

  • IP and/or e-mail address of fraudulent e-mail
  • Date and time of incidents
  • Incorrectly formatted invoices or letterheads
  • Requests for secrecy or immediate action
  • Unusual timing, requests, or wording of the fraudulent phone calls or e-mails
  • Phone numbers of the fraudulent phone calls
  • Description of any phone contact to include frequency and timing of calls
  • Foreign accents of the callers
  • Poorly worded or grammatically incorrect e-mails
  • Reports of any previous e-mail phishing activity

Original PressReleases …

Cyber Crime: Leonid Momotok to Computer Hacking And Trading Scheme

Cyber Crime

Georgia Trader Pleads Guilty To Largest Known Computer Hacking And Trading Scheme

More Than 150,000 Press Releases Stolen from Three Major Newswire Companies Used to Generate Approximately $30 Million in Illegal Trading Profits

Earlier today, Leonid Momotok, of Suwanee, Georgia, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in an international scheme to hack into three business newswires and steal yet-to-be published press releases containing non-public financial information that was then used to make trades that generated approximately $30 million in illegal profits.  The guilty plea was entered before United States Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes, Jr. at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York.  When sentenced, Momotok faces up to 20 years in prison, as well as restitution, criminal forfeiture, and a fine.

The guilty plea was announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.

“Using non-public press releases stolen by overseas hackers, Momotok and his group of traders engaged in a brazen scheme that was unprecedented in its scope, impact and sophistication,” stated United States Attorney Capers.  “Today’s guilty plea demonstrates our steadfast commitment and preparedness to combating the ever-evolving threat of cybercrime and to protecting the integrity of our financial markets.”  Mr. Capers thanked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs (OIA) for their cooperation and assistance in the investigation.

“In one of the most sophisticated insider trading cases we’ve seen to-date, Momotok and other traders used information to trade on from not yet released press releases obtained by hackers from newswire services.  The scheme profited the traders approximately $30 million in ill-gotten profits.  Today’s guilty plea should send a message to others who seek to cheat the system for a lucrative payday- these schemes only end with prison time and forfeiture of those profits,” stated Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez.

According to court filings and facts presented at the plea hearing, between February 2010 and August 2015, computer hackers based in Ukraine gained unauthorized access into the computer networks of Marketwired L.P., PR Newswire Association LLC (PRN), and Business Wire (collectively, the “Newswire Companies”).  The hackers used a series of sophisticated cyber-attacks to gain access to the Newswire Companies’ computer networks.  Once in the computer networks, the hackers stole press releases about upcoming announcements by public companies concerning earnings, gross margins, revenues, and other confidential and material financial information.  At one point, one of the hackers sent an online chat message in Russian to another individual stating, “I’m hacking prnewswire.com.”  In another online chat, the hackers stated that they had compromised the log-in credentials of 15 Business Wire employees.

To capitalize on this stolen information, the hackers shared the stolen press releases with Momotok and other traders through overseas servers.  In a series of emails, the hackers provided the traders with credentials and instructions on how to access and use the overseas servers.  To assist the hackers steal the most valuable information, the traders created “shopping lists” or “wish lists” for the hackers listing desired upcoming press releases from Marketwired and PRN for publicly traded companies.  Once Momotok and the other traders received the stolen press releases, they used that information to execute trades ahead of the issuance of the press release.  In order to execute trades before the press releases were made public, Momotok and the other traders sometimes had to execute trades in extremely short windows of time.  Frequently, all of this illegal trading activity occurred on the same day.  Momotok and the other traders traded on stolen press releases containing material nonpublic information about publicly traded companies that included, among hundreds of others: Align Technology Inc.; Caterpillar Inc.; Hewlett Packard; Home Depot; Panera Bread Co.; and Verisign Inc.

Momotok and his co-conspirators’ gained more than $30 million from their illegal trades.  In exchange for providing Momotok and the other traders with the stolen press releases, the hackers received a percentage of the illegal proceeds, which were transferred to them through foreign shell companies.

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The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud and National Security and Cybercrime Sections.  Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher A. Ott, Christopher L. Nasson and Richard M. Tucker are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance provided by Assistant United States Attorneys Brian D. Morris and Tanisha Payne of the Office’s Civil Division, which is responsible for the forfeiture of assets.

The charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations.  Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit ww.StopFraud.gov.

The Defendant:

LEONID MOMOTOK
Age:  48
Residence: Suwanee, Georgia

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15-CR-381 (RJD)

 

Original PressReleases …

Cyber Crime: Ramon Batista, Edwin Fana and Jose Santana Charged For Cell Phone Fraud Scheme

International Cell Phone Fraud Scheme

Defendants Charged with Participating in Sophisticated International Cell Phone Fraud Scheme

Criminal charges were unsealed against multiple defendants relating to their participation in a sophisticated global cell phone fraud scheme, involving the takeover or compromise of cell phone customers’ accounts and the “cloning” of their phones to make fraudulent international calls.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office made the announcement.

Ramon Batista, aka Porfirio, 49, of Orlando, Florida; Edwin Fana, 36, of Miami Gardens, Florida; and Jose Santana, aka Octavio Perez, 52, of Royal Palm Beach, Florida, made their initial appearances in court this week after being arrested or self-surrendering.  Batista, Fana and Santana were each charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud; access device fraud; the use, production or possession of modified telecommunications instruments; and the use or possession of hardware or software configured to obtain telecommunications services, as well as additional counts of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

According to the indictment, the defendants and their co-conspirators participated in a scheme to steal access to and fraudulently open new cell phone accounts using the personal information of individuals around the United States.  The conspirators then trafficked in the cell phone customers’ telecommunication identifying information, using that data as well as other software and hardware to reprogram cell phones that they controlled to transmit thousands of international calls to Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and other countries with high calling rates.  The calls were billed to the victims’ compromised accounts.

Moreover, according to allegations in the indictment, as part of the scheme, the conspirators used the reprogrammed cell phones and additional telecommunications equipment to run illegal call-termination businesses—contracting with calling card companies, Voice over Internet Protocol providers and other telecommunications companies nationwide—in which the defendants routed international calls for payment and then transmitted those calls through the reprogrammed phones without paying for access to the phone companies’ networks.  In so doing, they pushed costs from themselves to cell phone customers around the country and those customers’ cell phone providers, which typically absorbed the costs for the fraudulent international calls, according to the indictment.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations.  The defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The FBI investigated the case, dubbed Operation Toll Free, which is part of the bureau’s ongoing effort to combat large-scale telecommunications fraud.  Senior Counsel Matthew A. Lamberti of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared M. Strauss of the Southern District of Florida are prosecuting the case.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Healthcare Fraud: SAJID JAVED Charged With Participating in a Health Care Fraud Scheme

Healthcare Fraud

New York City Pharmacy Owner Arrested For $8.5 Million Fraud As Part Of Largest National Medicare Fraud Takedown In History

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Diego Rodriguez, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Scott J. Lampert, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Department of Health and Human Services, announced today that SAJID JAVED was charged with participating in a health care fraud scheme that used nine pharmacies in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, through which JAVED submitted more than $8.5 million in fraudulent claims to Medicaid and Medicare.  JAVED’s arrest is part of an unprecedented nationwide sweep led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, resulting in criminal and civil charges against 301 individuals, including 61 doctors, nurses, or other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving approximately $900 million in false billings.  Twenty-three state Medicaid Fraud Control Units also participated in today’s arrests.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) also suspended a number of providers using its suspension authority provided in the Affordable Care Act.  This coordinated takedown is the largest in the history of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, both in terms of the number of defendants charged and loss amount.

JAVED was arrested earlier today and is expected to be presented in Manhattan federal court later this afternoon.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, Sajid Javed induced others to forego their prescription medications for a kickback, and then fraudulently billed Medicare and Medicaid more than $8 million for the drugs that were never actually dispensed.  This alleged scheme not only put patients at risk, it also contributed to the multibillion-dollar pillaging of federally funded public health care subsidies.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego Rodriguez said: “These alleged criminals arrested around the country today and here in New York City are stealing money meant to help people seeking medical assistance.  It’s not a visible theft in public view, but the victims of the crime suffer greatly when they can’t get the assistance they need.  We are asking anyone who sees this sort of crime and fraud taking place to be vigilant, and report it to us at 1-800-CALL-FBI.”

HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert said: “Prescription drug scams, such as the one alleged in this case, work to undermine our nation’s health care system.  Today’s arrests coordinated with our law enforcement partners serve as a stern warning to those who attempt to plunder government health programs meant to care for our most vulnerable citizens.”

As alleged in the Complaint and in other documents filed in Manhattan federal court:

While owning and operating nine different pharmacies located in Brooklyn and Queens, SAJID JAVED conducted a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid programs by seeking reimbursement for prescription drugs that were not distributed to customers.  Specifically, from January 2013 through December 2014, JAVED obtained more than $8.5 million in reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid for prescription drugs that his pharmacies never actually dispensed.  JAVED defrauded Medicare and Medicaid into providing him with these reimbursements by obtaining prescriptions from other individuals, who were willing to forego delivery of the medications in exchange for a share of the reimbursed proceeds, in the form of kickbacks.  JAVED offered to pay, and did actually pay, kickbacks in furtherance of this scheme.

Including today’s enforcement actions, nearly 1,200 individuals have been charged in national takedown operations, which have involved more than $3.4 billion in fraudulent billings.  Today’s announcement marks the second time that districts outside Strike Force locations participated in a national takedown, and they accounted for 82 defendants charged in this takedown.

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (“HEAT”), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.  The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operates in nine locations and since its inception in March 2007 has charged over 2,900 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $8.9 billion.

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JAVED, 45, of Fresh Meadows, Queens, is charged with one count of health care fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and one count of illegal remuneration in connection with a federal health care program, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI and HHS-OIG.

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher DiMase and Sarah Paul are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Original PressReleasess…

Health Care Fraud Report 2016

Health Care Fraud

National Health Care Fraud Takedown Results in Charges against 301 Individuals for Approximately $900 Million in False Billing

Most Defendants Charged and Largest Alleged Loss Amount in Strike Force History

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced today an unprecedented nationwide sweep led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force in 36 federal districts, resulting in criminal and civil charges against 301 individuals, including 61 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving approximately $900 million in false billings.  Twenty-three state Medicaid Fraud Control Units also participated in today’s arrests.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is suspending payment to a number of providers using its suspension authority provided in the Affordable Care Act.  This coordinated takedown is the largest in history, both in terms of the number of defendants charged and loss amount.

Attorney General Lynch and Secretary Burwell were joined in the announcement by Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, FBI Associate Deputy Director David Bowdich, Inspector General Daniel Levinson of the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), Acting Director Dermot O’Reilly of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), and Deputy Administrator and Director of CMS Center for Program Integrity Shantanu Agrawal M.D.

The defendants announced today are charged with various health care fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes, money laundering and aggravated identity theft.  The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes involving various medical treatments and services, including home health care, psychotherapy, physical and occupational therapy, durable medical equipment (DME) and prescription drugs.  More than 60 of the defendants arrested are charged with fraud related to the Medicare prescription drug benefit program known as Part D, which is the fastest-growing component of the Medicare program overall.

“As this takedown should make clear, health care fraud is not an abstract violation or benign offense – It is a serious crime,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “The wrongdoers that we pursue in these operations seek to use public funds for private enrichment.  They target real people – many of them in need of significant medical care.  They promise effective cures and therapies, but they provide none.  Above all, they abuse basic bonds of trust – between doctor and patient; between pharmacist and doctor; between taxpayer and government – and pervert them to their own ends.  The Department of Justice is determined to continue working to ensure that the American people know that their health care system works for them – and them alone.”

“Millions of seniors depend on Medicare for essential health coverage, and our action shows that this administration remains committed to cracking down on individuals who try to defraud the program,” said Secretary Burwell.  “We are continuing to put new tools and additional resources to work, including $350 million from the Affordable Care Act, for health care fraud prevention and enforcement efforts.  Thanks to the hard work of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, we are making progress in addressing and deterring fraud and delivering results to help ensure Medicare remains strong for years to come.”

According to court documents, the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare and Medicaid for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided.  In many cases, patient recruiters, Medicare beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were allegedly paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could then submit fraudulent bills to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never performed.  Collectively, the doctors, nurses, licensed medical professionals, health care company owners and others charged are accused of submitting a total of approximately $900 million in fraudulent billing.

“The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is a model of 21st-Century data-driven law enforcement, and it has had a remarkable impact on health care fraud across the country,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “As the cases announced today demonstrate, the Strike Force’s strategic approach keeps us a step ahead of emerging fraud trends, including drug diversion, and fraud involving compounded medications and hospice care.”

“These criminals target the most vulnerable in our society by taking money away from the care of the elderly, children and disabled,” said Associate Deputy Director Bowdich.  “The FBI is committed to working with our partners and the public to stop fraud and ensure that healthcare dollars are used to help the sick, and not line the pockets of criminals.”

“While it is impossible to accurately pinpoint the true cost of fraud in federal health care programs, fraud is a significant threat to the programs’ stability and endangers access to health care services for millions of Americans,” said Inspector General Levinson.  “As members of the joint Strike Force, OIG will continue to play a vital role in tracking down these criminals and seeing that justice is done.”

“DCIS, in partnership with our fellow federal investigative agencies, will continue to uncompromisingly investigate and bring to justice the people who perpetrate these criminal acts,” said Acting Director O’Reilly. “Their actions threaten to cripple our vital national health care industry, and place our citizenry at risk.  We will remain vigilant.”

“Taxpayers and Congress provided CMS with resources to adopt powerful monitoring systems that fight fraud, safeguard program dollars, and protect Medicare and Medicaid,” said Deputy Administrator and Center for Program Integrity Director Agrawal.  “The diligent use of innovative data analytic systems has contributed or led directly to many of the law enforcement cases presented here today.  CMS is committed to its collaboration with these agencies to keep federally-funded health care programs safe and strong for all Americans.”

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.  The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operates in nine locations and since its inception in March 2007 has charged over 2,900 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $8.9 billion.

Including today’s enforcement actions, nearly 1,200 individuals have been charged in national takedown operations, which have involved more than $3.4 billion in fraudulent billings.  Today’s announcement marks the second time that districts outside of Strike Force locations participated in a national takedown, and they accounted for 82 defendants charged in this takedown.

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For the Strike Force locations, in the Southern District of Florida, a total of 100 defendants were charged with offenses relating to their participation in various fraud schemes involving approximately $220 million in false billings for home health care, mental health services and pharmacy fraud.  In one case, nine defendants have been charged with operating six different Miami-area home health companies for the purpose of submitting false and fraudulent claims to Medicare, including for services that were not medically necessary and that were based on bribes and kickbacks.  In total, Medicare paid the six companies over $24 million as a result of the scheme.

In the Southern District of Texas, 24 individuals were charged in cases involving over $146 million in alleged fraud.  One of these defendants is a physician with the highest number of referrals for home health services in the Southern District of Texas.  This physician has been charged with participating in separate schemes to bill Medicare for medically unnecessary home health services that were often not provided.  Numerous companies that submitted claims to Medicare using the fraudulent home health referrals from the physician were paid over $38 million by Medicare.

In the Northern District of Texas, 11 people were charged in cases involving over $47 million in alleged fraud.  In one scheme, a physician allowed unlicensed individuals to perform physician services and then billed Medicare as if he performed them.  Additionally, the physician certified patients for home health care that was often medically unnecessary.  Home health companies submitted approximately $23.3 million in billings to Medicare based on the physician’s fraudulent certifications.

In the Central District of California, 22 defendants were charged for their roles in schemes to defraud Medicare of approximately $162 million.  In one case, a doctor was charged with causing almost $12 million in losses to Medicare through his own fraudulent billing, including performing medically unnecessary vein ablation procedures on Medicare beneficiaries.

In the Eastern District of Michigan, 19 defendants face charges for their alleged roles in fraud, kickback, money laundering and drug distribution schemes involving approximately $114 million in false claims for services that were medically unnecessary or never rendered.  Among these are owners of a physical therapy clinic who lured patients through the payment of cash kickbacks and medically unnecessary prescriptions for Schedule II medications for the purpose of stealing more than $36 million from Medicare.

In Tampa, Orlando and elsewhere in the Middle District of Florida, 15 individuals were charged with participating in a variety of schemes including compounding pharmacy fraud and intravenous prescription drug fraud involving $17 million in fraudulent billing.  In one case, the owner of several infusion clinics allegedly defrauded the Medicare program of over $8 million through a scheme involving reimbursement claims for expensive intravenous prescription drugs that were never purchased and never administered to patients.

In the Northern District of Illinois, six individuals were charged in cases related to three different schemes involving bribery and false and fraudulent claims for home health services and disability benefits.  The charged defendants include individuals who owned or co-owned the fraudulent providers and a medical doctor.  In total, these schemes resulted in over $12 million being paid to the defendants and their companies.

In the Eastern District of New York, 10 individuals were charged in six different cases, including five individuals who were charged for their roles in a scheme involving over $86 million in physical and occupational therapy claims to Medicare and Medicaid.  In that case, the defendants are alleged to have filled a network of Brooklyn clinics that they controlled with patients by paying bribes and kickbacks.  Once at the clinics, these patients were subjected to medically unnecessary therapy.  The defendants then laundered the proceeds of the fraud through over a dozen shell companies.

In the Eastern District of Louisiana, three defendants were charged in connection with a health care fraud and wire fraud conspiracy involving a defunct home health care provider.  This scheme centered on the payment of kickbacks through patient recruiters in exchange for patients who oftentimes never received nor qualified for home health care as billed.  Once admitted, patient medical records were routinely fabricated and altered to support false and fraudulent claims to Medicare.

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In addition to the Strike Force, today’s enforcement actions include cases brought by 26 U.S. Attorney’s Offices, including the unsealing of search warrants in investigations being conducted by the Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern District of Georgia, District of Columbia, Eastern District of Texas, Southern District of West Virginia, Middle District of Louisiana, District of Minnesota, and the Northern District of Alabama.

In the Northern District of Georgia, nine defendants were charged for their roles in two health care fraud schemes involving $7 million in fraudulent billings.  Eight defendants were charged in a scheme where bribes and kickbacks were allegedly paid to a state of Georgia official in exchange for falsifying applications and licensing requirements and recommending the approval of unqualified mental health providers.

In the Middle District of Alabama, two defendants were charged for their roles in a mental health services scheme allegedly involving $246,000 in fraudulent billings.

In the Middle District of Tennessee, a doctor was charged for his role in an illegal kickback scheme under which he allegedly referred patients to a certain DME supplier in exchange for cash kickbacks.

In the Western District of Kentucky, a business entity was charged for its role in a health care fraud scheme.

In the Southern District of Ohio, two defendants were charged for their roles in a $7.5 million home healthcare fraud scheme.

In the Western and Eastern Districts of Pennsylvania, three defendants were charged for their roles in drug diversion and embezzlement schemes.

In the Southern District of New York, a pharmacist was charged for his role in a scheme involving over $51 million in fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid billings.

In the Districts of Maine, Alaska, Kansas, Connecticut and Vermont, five defendants were charged for their roles in Medicaid-related schemes.

In the Eastern District of Missouri, four defendants, including a doctor and pharmacist, were charged for their roles in schemes involving over $3 million in billings.

In the Southern District of California, eight individuals were charged in health care-related cases.  In one case, five individuals, including a doctor and a pharmacist, were charged in a scheme to pay bribes and kickbacks to doctors in exchange for prescribing expensive durable medical equipment and compound pain creams that were not medically necessary.  The indictment alleges that approximately $27 million in false and fraudulent claims were submitted to insurers.

In the District of New Mexico, two defendants were charged for their roles in a Medicaid fraud scheme.

In the Northern District of Iowa, a settlement agreement was reached with a corporate entity for its role in a health care fraud scheme in a juvenile residential treatment facility.

In the District of Oregon, one defendant was charged for his role in a $1.7 million optometry services scheme.

In the District of Puerto Rico, civil demand letters were issued to six individuals for their roles in a scheme to defraud the Medicaid program.

In addition, in the states of Florida, Iowa, South Dakota, Indiana, New York, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Oregon, Kentucky and Alaska, 49 defendants have been charged in criminal and civil actions with defrauding the Medicaid program and 57 sites were searched, pursuant to search warrants.  These cases were investigated by each state’s respective Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

The cases announced today are being prosecuted and investigated by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices nationwide, along with Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams from the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the Southern District of Florida, Eastern District of Michigan, Eastern District of New York, Southern District of Texas, Central District of California, Eastern District of Louisiana, Northern District of Texas, Northern District of Illinois and the Middle District of Florida; and agents from the FBI, HHS-OIG, Drug Enforcement Administration, DCIS and state Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

A complaint or indictment is merely a charge, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The court documents for each case will posted online, as they become available, here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/documents-and-resources-june-22-2016-medicare-fraud-strike-force-press-conference.

The Affordable Care Act has provided new tools and resources to fight fraud in federal health care programs.  The law provides an additional $350 million for health care fraud prevention and enforcement efforts, which has allowed the department to hire more prosecutors and the Strike Force to expand from two cities to nine.  The act also toughens sentencing for criminal activity, enhances provider and supplier screenings and enrollment requirements and encourages increased sharing of data across government.

In addition to providing new tools and resources to fight fraud, the Affordable Care Act clarified that for sentencing purposes, the loss is determined by the amount billed to Medicare and increased the sentencing guidelines for the billed amounts, which has provided a strong deterrent effect due to increased prison time, particularly in the most egregious cases.

Since January 2009, the Justice Department’s Civil Division, along with U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country, has recovered a total of more than $29.9 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $18.3 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

Cyber Crime – A Threat to Every Internet User

Cyber Crime

According to the Federal trade Commission (FTC), there are around 10 million reported cases of identity theft each year in the United States. A recent report by Eugene Kaspersky, founder and head analyst of Kaspersky Labs (a leading internet security company), indicates that the level of criminal activity on the internet has doubled in the past year, and there is reason to believe this trend will continue to grow exponentially in the future.

Cyber crime has become a serious problem for everyone who uses the internet. The biggest threats to all internet users are malicious software programs known as crimeware and social engineering schemes, often referred to as phishing and pharming scams.

Although computer viruses have always presented a big problem regarding potential loss of data or damage to our computers, spyware and phishing scams are where the real danger is. These forms of internet crime don’t hurt our computers – they cause personal damage.

What Are The Formulas Used n Cyber-Crime

Spyware

Cyber Crime
Cyber Crime

The most common form of crime-ware comes in the form of spyware, which is a small program or piece of code that is designed to “spy” on your online activity and/or personal information. There are many types and forms of spyware and new versions are introduced into the internet every day.

Although not all spyware is used for illegal purposes, much of it can be very dangerous due of its ability to record keystrokes, take snapshots of our PC screen, and monitor everything we do online. Spyware usually installs without anyone’s knowledge and runs silently in the background.

The information gathered by spyware is secretly transmitted to the person who planted it. It is sometimes sent out via email without our knowledge, but more often it is relayed to a hijacked “slave” computer, where it is picked up by the criminal who installed it. He/she will either use it to access bank accounts or credit cards, sell it to another thief, or perhaps steal our identity altogether.

Some spyware is used to “hijack” computers, turning them into “slaves” that are used to collect and store data that was obtained illegally. The computer’s owner rarely knows that his PC is being used to house illegal information. Many “slave” computers are also used to help social engineers collect data via Pharming scams.

Phishing Scams

One of the most popular criminal activities on the internet is Phishing. In fact, this type of scam is so prevalent that an estimated 99% of email users have seen at least one phishing scam in their inbox. Phishing is mostly done via email, and is usually performed in conjunction with Pharming. Social engineers often send email letters that appear to come from your bank or other financial institution. The message urges you to click the link, log in, and verify your credentials. These emails sound and look very legitimate, and this is why so many people follow through by clicking the link.

Pharming

Once a person has clicked a link in a fraudulent Phishing email, they are taken to a website that appears to be legitimate. This is because the social engineer has copied the home page of the financial institution. What most victims don’t realize is that the website they are on is really in some third world country, or on a “slave” computer that has been hijacked by spyware. The Pharming occurs when the person enters his/her credentials to “log on” to their account. This provides the Pharmer with all the information he needs to quickly wipe out the account or charge up a fortune on the associated credit card.

How to Protect Yourself Online

There are several things you can do to protect yourself from cyber-crime. The most obvious is to use good internet security products. At minimum, everyone who uses the internet should be using a good personal firewall, anti-spyware software, and anti-virus software.

The easiest, most effective way for most home computer users to stay protected is to purchase an internet security suite. A suite will include antivirus, anti-spyware/anti-adware, software firewall, and possibly some extras like a spam filter and password protection software. Suites are easy to use because everything is controlled via one interface.

There are many “free” things you can and should do to protect yourself from cyber-crime, such as keeping your computer’s operating system and all applications up-to-date. This combined with the implementation of cautious browsing and email habits will have a big impact on your safety.

Cyber-crime Goes Social and Mobile

Cyber-crime‘, a word most of us know; but a better clarification on the same is good before we begin. Cyber-crime holds a broad array of activities or incidents, some of which include computer viruses or malicious software, forging, spoofed/fake email or website which captures personal details, online bullying/ stalking, hate crime or other form of online harassment, hacking into personal profile/account, scams, online credit card fraud, identity theft, an unsolicited SMS text messages, and so on.

As above, Cyber-crime can be anything, which includes data theft or breach, without the owner’s permission. As consumers go mobile, so do criminals. Hence, compared to the earlier attempts of cyber-crime over Desktops, now attackers are more oriented on mobile and social networking. A mixture of socially engineered and blended attacks is what attackers are now using.

Cyber-crime over Mobile device News like ‘iPhone 5 Pre-Orders Top Two Million in First 24 Hours’ displays how indispensable mobile devices have become for us today. According to the ‘2012 Norton Cyber-crime Report’, every 2 of 3 adult uses a mobile device to connect to the internet today. The increase on mobile usage is also realized by the Cyber-criminals.

The bait that attracts cyber-criminals is not the vast usage of mobiles but also the numerous hidden vulnerabilities in them. Mobile vulnerabilities doubled in 2011 over 2010. That in itself is alarming. But apart from these facts, the matter to worry more is the fact that 44% people aren’t even aware that security solutions exist for mobile devices. Every 2 out of 3 persons don’t have security for their mobile devices. Using unsecured Wi-Fi connections is yet another source of vulnerabilities.

Socially engineered Cyber-crime Apart from Mobile, with increasing usage of social media, cyber-criminals are also going social now. Figures say that, every 4 people out of 10 people have been a victim of cyber crime through social sites. While some complain their accounts have been hacked, others are concerned about their accounts being eyed upon. Apart from this, 1/3rd of the population using social networking sites have fallen victim to the scams on such sites.

The major reasons behind most attacks through social platforms are:

1/3rd of the users don’t log out from one session 1/5th among the users don’t check the link before clicking on it 1/6th people aren’t aware about their privacy settings, and lastlyLess than half don’t use any security measures to protect their accounts.
Apart from these issues, 36% users accept friend requests from strangers, increasing their vulnerabilities.

What can be done? Social sites are taking a toll on our personal lives. Numbers say 16% would end a relationship, as a reason of something they didn’t like about the person online. Hence being on your marks and taking measures to ensure good privacy settings is helpful. Measures like deleting suspicious mails/comments/links, use a basic anti-virus, avoid opening attachments from unknown senders, and so on; can be highly useful.

Take pro-active steps to secure you personal data online. If you won’t; no one would. If something is too good to believe, then you may be right; I am talking about advertisements and applications appearing on social sites, which trick users, with lucrative statements and promises. Be on your guard by staying informed. Use strong passwords, and make it a habit to change them often. Efforts taken by you to protect your data will surely increase the difficulty levels for criminals to attack you. Fear of attacks should never deprive anyone of the huge benefits of using internet through mobile devices and networking socially.

Hence ensure security measures and reap the benefits to your fullest.

Note: Majority of figures/statistics used in this article are from 2016 Norton Cybercrime Report

Talking about solutions, to such Cyber-crime attacks, Cyberoam Unified Threat Management appliances offer comprehensive security to small, medium and large enterprises through multiple security features integrated over a single platform. It is the first UTM that embeds user identity in the firewall rule matching criteria, offering instant visibility and proactive controls over security breaches and eliminating dependence on IP Addresses. Its, Layer 8 [Identity-based security] Technology platform makes security simple, yet highly effective. Cyberoam, with its Extensible Security

It’s Called Sexting and It’s a Crime

Sexting

The cell phone has revolutionized the way communications take place in today’s culture.The world of Star Trek has reached beyond the big screen to become a modern day technological tool that has made wireless communication a common day occurrence for millions of people. No longer are consumers bound to hard-wired telephones of years past, the cellular phone has made it possible to communicate with just about anyone, anywhere.Advances in technology have taken cell phones from the size of a brick to the size of a credit card, and now incorporates a host of new features, including Internet-enabled cameras that capture images and record video that can be uploaded to the Web.

No longer just a tool for business, cell phones are now used to link individuals together, and are increasingly being used by teens and pre-teens to communicate with one another.Thousands of text messages travel wirelessly from phone to phone as a new generation of cell phone users chat endlessly back and forth.These next generation phones also share text, video and digital images quickly and efficiently.

But it’s not just pictures of Fido and Calico that are being shared one with another.A recent study shows that 1 in 5 teen and pre-teen cell phone users are using their wireless phones to send inappropriate or nude pictures (or video) of themselves with other cell phone users.Often sent from girlfriend to boyfriend (following a trend set by two of the stars of High School Musical), these pictures are often shared with others without the sender’s knowledge or consent.Whether forwarded to others to brag, or as a means of retaliation in the event of an argument, the end result is often humiliation, embarrassment, or degradation of the person featured in the shared image.

Teens Sexting
Teens Sexting

The practice is called “Sexting” and it’s a crime. Yet few juveniles (and fewer parents) know this is the case.In some states, sexting is a misdemeanor, but in a growing number of others it is a felony. An increasing number of states view this as the transmission of child pornography (and prosecute it as such) if the images are of someone under the age of 18 (or if inappropriate images are sent to someone under age 18). And the courts are not just “slapping the wrist” of offenders any longer; as the proliferation of cases are filtering into the courts.

In a recent case in Florida, a 17-year old girl sent a nude picture of herself to her 18-year old boyfriend. After an argument, the 18-year old boy sent the nude picture to everyone in the girl’s “friends” list, which unbeknownst to him included her teachers, parents, and close friends.The young man was arrested, charged and convicted of transmitting child pornography via an electronic medium and was ordered to register as a sex offender. He lost his job, was kicked out of college, and is unable to live with his Father because his dad lives too close to a school. He was also ordered to go through a sex offender’s rehabilitation class, and will remain on the registered sex offender’s list until the age of 45. His picture is featured on the state’s website, and has to daily deal with the humiliation and embarrassment for his actions.

The young girl who sent him the picture also faced embarrassment, ridicule and humiliation from friends and others who heard about the high profile case. The lives of two families were forever damaged because a young girl thought it “cool” to send naked pictures of herself to her boyfriend and subsequently having those images forwarded (without her knowledge or consent) to others by her boyfriend after a fight. Both actions were wrong, and both individuals (as well as their families) have had to deal with the consequences of wrong choices… and for the young boy, those consequences will follow him for the next 25-30 years.

In Pennsylvania, three girls who sent nude or partially nude pictures of themselves to three boys in their school now face felony charges of distributing child pornography. A Texas eighth grader was jailed for sending a nude picture of himself to another student. In Virginia, two boys (ages 15 and 18) have been charged with solicitation and possession of child pornography with intent to distribute after law enforcement learned the teens sought nude pictures from three juveniles, one in elementary school. According to a report issued by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, of the 2100 children who were identified as victims of online porn, 1 in 4 initially sent the images to themselves. Some did it for fun, and others were tricked by adults they met online.

In another case in Pennsylvania, a 15-year old girl has been charged for sending nude pictures of herself over the Internet to a 27 year old she met online. The intent was not to jail her, but to help her get counseling and other help she needs, according to the District Attorney handling the case. He added the 27 year old has been sentenced to 10 years for having sex with the juvenile. In Ohio, 8 teens have been arrested for trading nude pictures of themselves with others.One of the girl’s fathers found the images and reported authorities.

Yet every day this practice continues, and is proliferating at an alarming rate among today’s youth.

Cyber-bullying is the use of any electronic medium to humiliate, ridicule, intimidate, embarrass, threaten or abuse another person. In a culture that uses sex to sell everything from underwear to toothpaste, today’s teens and preteens often have no sense or morality when it comes to decency standards.In the 1960’s, TV censors would not permit open-mouthed kisses to be shown, and even married couples slept in separate twin beds on many TV shows. A generation later, little (if anything) is left to the imagination…even in prime time. Music videos, movies, soap operas, and even (so-called) family television shows continue to push the decency boundaries to the point that few, if any, moral standards are enforced by the FCC. Today’s teens and pre-teens see so many sex acts on TV, they have accepted the lack of decency standards as normal.

Coupled with a growing lack of parental supervision and guidance, today’s youth lack moral restraint and see no problem with sending inappropriate or nude pictures of themselves to others (or posting them online). What they don’t understand is that once an image is posted on the Internet, it is forever there and can’t be removed. Today’s technology archives virtually all email, as well as postings to social networking (and other) websites. And images sent to another person’s cell phone are now outside their control and can be posted to a website or shared with others without their knowledge or consent. Once forwarded to other cell phones by a third party, those images can be forwarded to countless others anywhere in the world.

But it’s not just teens and pre-teens who are engaging in this activity. A small but growing number of adults, including married spouses, are sending inappropriate or nude pictures of themselves over cell phones. Those who should know better (and be setting a positive example for the younger generation to follow) are sadly illustrating a disturbing lack of conscience and moral fortitude by engaging in sexting.

The saddest part of sexting is that the act of cyber-bullying starts with the individual who actually sends a picture of himself (or herself) to another person. Sexting is humiliating to the person who sends his or her picture to another, whether they realize it or not…and this is compounded when those images are shared with others either by cell phone or posting online. The young girl who takes an inappropriate picture of herself and sends it to her boyfriend is just as guilty of cyber-bullying as the boyfriend who shares it with others. Both acts are immoral, and could be considered a crime.

What many teens and pre-teens don’t consider now is the long term implications of impulsive, foolish choices made today. Imagine the shock when a prospective employer conducts a background check on a recent high school or college graduate only to find inappropriate or nude pictures posted in a number of Internet archives. As previously stated, these images, once posted, are there forever and can be accessible to anyone who has Internet access. As these teens and pre-teens marry in the future, and their children begin to search online, how will these parents explain the fact their suggestive, inappropriate, or naked images are there?

A question that deserves to be asked is why do children need cell phones in the first place? While they do provide a measure of convenience (and security), the vast majority of children use cell phones solely for pleasure and not for other purposes. Parents spend hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars each year to provide cell phones almost exclusively so they can talk to their friends, play games, or engage in web-based activities using their phones. And if the child is given a phone primarily for communication purposes with their family (or emergencies), do they really need a gadget-laden phone with all the bells and whistles (including Internet access or image capture capabilities)? Would not a basic cell phone suffice? How many instances are there where a landline is not readily available that a cell phone is a necessity, and not a luxury? If children are given a cell phone, are they mature enough to use it appropriately?

Plus there are no studies on the long-term health risks associated with cell phone use by children into adulthood.

It is important to note that if a parent is providing a cell phone to a child, and paying for the service, they should understand they could be held liable in any civil action taken by others as a result of an inappropriate use of the cell phone by their children. Some federal legislators are even considering a measure that would hold parents criminally liable if the child’s phone is used for sexting or other inappropriate uses.

Parents should talk to their children about cell phone use (and etiquette). They should also regularly check their children’s cell phones (and social networking sites, like Facebook, Orkut and MySpace) to make sure that there are no inappropriate images or content therein. As parents could be held liable for the content stored on or transmitted by their children’s cell phones, they have a vested interest in actively monitoring that phone’s usage. Children should understand the potential ramifications of posting inappropriate or nude pictures of themselves or others on cell phones or the Internet (including email), and that the consequences of these wrong choices can be devastating to themselves and others.

It’s called “sexting”, and it’s a crime.

 

Identity Theft -10 Ways To Save Your Identity

Save Your Identity

Identity theft is on the increase. Fraudsters are continuously looking for ingenious ways to steal your identity and use this for fraudulent purposes. Sometimes without even realising, you might find yourself in circumstances and situations that put your identity at risk. Having someone else use your personal details, assume your identity, steal your money, and / or commit fraud in your name is not a position you want to find yourself in. Having your identity stolen can be both financially and emotionally devastating. Therefore, it is in your best interest to be protected and we have provided you with some simple steps you can take to help save your identity.

1. Social Networking Sites

All too often people are just too willing to put all of their personal details onto Social Networking Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace etc. Often these sites are plastered with personal information such as a person’s date of birth, employment details, education history, contact numbers, email addresses etc. People also freely post up personal photos which can be easily copied. All of these very personal details recorded on your profile can be used by fraudsters who could build up enough information to pass themselves off as you and use your identity for criminal activities.

I have been amazed with Facebook. I set up a Facebook profile and contacted random people to ask if I could be their friend. Within a couple of weeks, I had amassed over 500 friends who have all let me into their personal profiles and whom freely invite me to parties and events. I have no idea who these people are, but most importantly, they have no idea who I am and what my intentions are from being a cyber friend of theirs. Luckily for them I am of good character with no untoward intentions.

2. Paperwork

All of us get inundated with paperwork and at some stage we need to do a cull and throw some of it away. This might be old bills, obsolete letters, receipts, employment contracts, rental agreements, loan contracts, bank statements etc. It is important that you are very careful how you dispose of your personal paperwork, as most of it will have sufficient information on it to allow someone to steal your identity.

Ensure you never throw anything into the bin unless it has been torn up in millions of tiny pieces. The best way to do this is to invest in a simple paper shredder. The shredding can then be thrown out or alternatively you could mulch or compost it.

3. Passwords and PIN’s

These days we need passwords and PIN’s for all sorts of things and coming up with new and innovate ones can be quite difficult. You need to ensure you don’t use simple passwords and PIN’s that someone might be able to guess such as your date of birth, phone number, pets name, partners name, licence plate etc. Choose passwords that are a combination of letters and numbers and don’t use the same password / PIN for all purposes. You wouldn’t want your PIN to hire your videos to be the same as your internet banking password.

Never disclose your passwords and PIN’s to anyone, even your closest friend / relative / partner. Never ever under any circumstance provide passwords / PIN’s to callers on the phone or in reply to an email. A legitimate organisation would never call / email you and ask you for this sort of information. Remember to change your passwords and PIN’s regularly. Memorise them instead of writing them down. Don’t copy them onto paper and tuck this into your wallet / purse or leave in your top drawer.  What happens if you lose your wallet / purse or someone breaks into your home?

4. Lock Your Mail Box

Putting a lock on your mail box will stop people stealing your personal letters and obtaining your information or getting access to cheque books, credit cards etc which might be mailed out to you. If you are concerned about your mail being delivered to your home, consider getting a post office box.

5. Be Wary Of The Phone

Anyone can pass themselves off as anyone else when using the telephone. Fraudsters can pretend to be employees from all sorts of organisations and try and obtain personal information from you. If you get a phone call from someone asking you lots of personal details, you can refuse to disclose this information.

If you are unsure of the true identity of the caller, tell them you will call them back. Source the phone number of the organisation yourself (never just call back on the number they give you) from the internet / yellow pages, and proceed with your conversation once you are comfortable with whom you are speaking.

6. Be Wary Of Surveys

There are all sorts of surveys on the market and lots of times these are set up to obtain personal details for marketing purposes. However, unless you know the organisation that is conducting the survey and are confident with disclosing information to them, err on the side of caution. Information such as where you bank, how much you earn, who lives in the house etc can be providing a criminal with a good picture of your situation. Usually these surveys have a prize / reward / competition for completion and this is where names, addresses, email address, contact numbers etc are usually given. Take care at all times.

Also be wary of those that come knocking at your door on the pretext of gathering information for a survey or to save you money. Do not give out any personal details to anyone, including phone company representatives, power representatives etc.

7. Bank Accounts

Always check your bank statements and ensure you report any suspicious / unknown transactions to your bank even if they are only small sums of money.

Your bank will never email / SMS you and ask for your account details, PIN’s etc. If you get any emails / SMS’s, even if they look genuine, never ever click on any links that ask for you to validate your bank account details. Don’t disclose your banking details to anyone. Fraudsters are in the business of defrauding and they can be very convincing. They can come up with all sorts of convincing stories that trick you into providing your banking details to them. Don’t fall prey to these criminals.Â

8. Internet Banking

Be careful where you are when you log in to your bank’s websites. Never use your internet banking on a public computer / internet cafe as information might be readily stored on these computers or scammers might have installed a programme onto the computer that enables them to access your confidential information by recording keystrokes.

Always ensure you log out of your banking sites when you have finished with them. Never leave these sites open on your computer.

9. Valuable Personal Documents

Always ensure you protect your valuable personal documents such as passports, driver’s licences, birth certificates, marriage certificates etc. Store them in a safe and secure place either at home or in a safe deposit box at your bank.

Your car is not a safe place to store your personal documents. If you are keeping valuable personal documents in your glove box, what are you going to do if your car is stolen?

10. Buying Goods From The Internet

Be wary of the sites you visit to buy goods from the internet. Ensure the sites you buy from are secure genuine sites. You can usually tell this by looking for a padlock at the lower section of your screen and ensuring the URL starts with https. You might like to consider having a credit card with a very low limit that you use for your internet / overseas purchases. This way you potentially protect your main credit card from the risk of fraud.

It could be wise to only buy from sites that transfer you to a bank website or organisation such as PayPal to collect the payment. This way you aren’t disclosing your banking information / credit card details directly to the website business.

The Story of Scams – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Story of Scams

Scams are an old story that’s written anew every day. Some scams have been around for at least a century, such as the Spanish prisoner scam, which has evolved into the Nigerian letter scam of today. Many newer scams utilize the latest in technological advancements to make it ever easier to part fools from their money. And not just fools-careful, intelligent people also fall prey to the many scams that pervade our everyday life. Scam artists, the rare criminals justifiably referred to as “artists,” often have a knowledge of psychology that would make Sigmund Freud proud. These criminals know just which buttons to push to appeal to our fears, friendships, charitable instincts, compassion, optimism, greed, and desire for quick-and-easy solutions to life’s problems.

Almost everything we do can be adapted to a scam. Fertile ground for scammers includes phony lotteries, charities, telephone services, healthcare (particularly weight-loss programs), travel services, government programs, scholarships, employment opportunities, dating services, and of course investments. And then there’s the mother lode of today’s scams: identity theft. Identity theft has become a worldwide epidemic of varying scams that carry the potential to empty your bank accounts, ruin your credit, or even send you to jail for a crime someone committed using your name. Regardless of how careful you think you are, you can become a victim of identity theft when your personal information is accessed from sources that may legitimately have this information, but fail to protect the security of this critical information. Steven Spielberg, Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, Ross Perot, and even Warren Buffet have all been targeted in this fashion.

Scams Are Always in Season

During the holidays, when people are in a charitable mood, there’s never a shortage of legitimate-looking phony charities that are more than eager to take your money. You owe it to yourself to take the steps necessary to confirm that any charity you’re considering not only is legitimate. Additionally, you should learn just how much of your contribution is actually used for charitable purposes and how much goes to administrative purposes. (The proportional percentages in even some legitimate charities may astound you.)

During tax season, it’s not just the IRS that’s seeking your money, but also scammers. Phony notices and fraudulent tax schemes not only can cause you to lose money, but even subject you to possible criminal sanctions.

Much has been written about the problems in the sub-prime mortgage market and an increasing rate of mortgage foreclosures. But where others see problems, scammers see opportunity. Whatever the problem-health issues, relationships, financial difficulties-a scammer is there with an offer to “help” that ultimately just makes things worse. In one particular foreclosure scam, con artists tell homeowners in jeopardy that they can avoid foreclosure by transferring an interest in their home to a third party. The third-party con artist walks away with the money, and the foreclosure is unaffected. Scammers prey on us when we’re at our weakest and most vulnerable.

Scammers Do Their Homework

Scammers are adept at telling us what we want to hear. For instance, the scammer may say that his program is a legitimate business proposition in which you actually are sold some inexpensive item as part of the program. This factor, he says, is what differentiates his program from an illegal chain letter. Some purveyors of these particular scams even indicate in their written materials that the U.S. Postal Service approves their particular program. The truth is that the U.S. Postal Service never endorses or approves any particular business program.

Perhaps you respond to an advertisement to be a personal shopper or to do market research. You even receive a “certified check” to pay you for your efforts. Certainly, that check must be legitimate! However, the check is written for more than the amount you’re owed, so you’re required to send your own check back to the company to “refund the difference.” The only problem is that the certified check that the scammer sends you is phony. Unfortunately, the check that you send is not.

Everyone loves to be a winner, and scammers know that fact as well as anyone. Lottery scams come in many variations. Some require you to send “processing fees” while you wait for the prize check that never comes. Other phony lotteries require you to pay to the company sponsoring the lottery the income taxes that you will owe on your prize. The problem is that legitimate lotteries never ask you for tax money. Either you pay the income taxes due on your winnings directly to the IRS, or the taxes are deducted from the prize before you receive it, in which case you receive a Form 1099 from the sponsor of the lottery informing you of the amount already deducted from your prize for taxes.

Whatever involvement you have with the federal government, from Social Security to Medicare to veterans benefits to the IRS, it’s just more fodder for scammers. They take advantage of the confusion many people suffer with the rules of these programs, and twist those rules to lure you into sending money to scammers posing as government representatives.

Scammers May Be Closer Than You Think

Scams can be high-tech, low-tech, even no-tech. They can be accomplished through sophisticated computer programs or merely by going through your trash. Scams are committed by people involved in organized crime located continents away from you, or your neighbor down the street. In fact, many fraud victims are scammed by members of their own families.

Surprisingly, wealthy and financially-literate people are actually more likely than average folks to be suckered by an investment scam. A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. A scam artist can take a sophisticated person’s interest in obtaining a high-return investment, along with her elementary knowledge of bonds, and concoct what appears to be a believable story about “secret prime bank investments” that can bring great profits in a short time. The only problem is that these prime bank investments don’t exist and never have existed-regardless of how legitimate they may sound.

Perhaps you’re skeptical about an investment opportunity that sounds almost too good to be true. Your fears may be allayed when you’re told that many people from your own social circle, or even your church or synagogue, have invested with the person providing this investment opportunity-and all of them have received the promised substantial profits. This person even looks like you. He may have the same racial, ethnic, or religious background. He wouldn’t cheat you. He hasn’t cheated your friends and family. What could be better? Those are probably the same thoughts that went through the minds of millions of victims of a common scam named after one of its earliest proponents, Charles Ponzi. Ponzi paid off early “investors” with the money given to him by later “investors,” using this as seed money to lure more people into his trap.

Scams can even take advantage of your concern about being scammed. You receive email that appears to be from your bank, credit card company, or online auction service, indicating that fraudulent activity has been detected on your account and that you must respond to the company immediately or your account will be closed. Unfortunately, the hyperlink in the email notice takes you to a phony site that uses information that you provide to make you a victim of identity theft. Perhaps you’re too smart to provide that personal information when directed to the phony site. Even so, it may be too late. Merely by clicking the link provided in the email notice, you may have unwittingly invited into your computer a Trojan Horse malicious software program that secretly gathers all of the personal information on your computer and sends it back to the identity thief.

Fortunately, there are clues in this type of scam. For instance, if you receive an email from PayPal that addresses you with a salutation of “Dear PayPal User” or “Dear PayPal Member,” you can be sure that it’s not genuine email from PayPal. PayPal will always address you specifically by your first and last name.

Scams Will Always Be Around

The key to avoiding scams is knowledge. You need to learn how to recognize the telltale signs of a scam. You need to learn to recognize the patterns of a scam. You need to learn to think like a scammer.

 

White Collar Crimes – Charges and Penalties

White Collar Crimes - Charges and Penalties

White collar crime is a unique type of crime that is considered to be different in many ways from the more traditional, usually violent “blue collar” crimes. The term was coined by Professor Edwin Hardin Sutherland in 1939 to describe crimes committed by professionals in the workplace. “White collar” refers to the white, collared shirts typically worn by people in administrative, business, and managerial positions. These crimes are typically nonviolent and frequently involve an abuse of power to steal money for personal gain.

Types of Crime

These business-related crimes come in many forms. Any individual who gains money through unlawful fraud or another illegal means is guilty of committing a white collar crime. Businesspeople create schemes to “skim off the top” of an asset pool or may steal huge amounts of money from investors or companies to fund a lavish lifestyle. Some of the common schemes that are classified as white collar crimes include:

Many critics point out that there is a major disparity between the convictions and penalties for white collar crime suspects versus blue collar crime suspects. They state that, because the crimes are typically nonviolent and involve individuals of a higher class, convicts receive shorter sentences and nicer prison accommodations than their blue collar counterparts. While this may be true for smaller cases, major criminals involved in fraud, Ponzi schemes, and other business-related fraud have recently been aggressively prosecuted. Some have received sentences for life in prison, along with huge court-ordered fines and restitution payments.

While the charge depends on the size of the illegal operation and the degree of involvement for each individual, committing a white collar crime typically results in a felony charge. This may seem steep since no one is physically hurt, but these types of crimes can cause considerable financial damage to hundreds or even thousands of people. Very large cases may even impact the regional or national economy to an extent.

Cyber Frauds – Meaning, Definition and Preventive Measures

Cyber Frauds - Meaning, Definition and Preventive Measures

Technological advancements have always been a boon and a bane for human kind. There are always some people who misuse and exploit technology and create serious problems for the rest of the population. One such invention is the computer that has become an integral part of each person’s life in the recent years.

There is a growing dependence on the computers not only by the common man but also by almost all commercial and professional agencies. It is widely used by the security and intelligence forces as well as research centers. The widespread use of this device has also led to a wider misuse and abuse of the facility. The invention of computers and the continuous up gradation of the same has opened new avenues to scamsters and fraudulent people. The abuse of computer and the related electronic media has led to the emergence of a gamut of crimes that have very peculiar features.

Definition of Cyber Scams and Crimes:

Cyber scams can be effectively defined as “unlawful acts wherein the equipment transforming the information be it a computer or a mobile is either a tool or target or both.” It can also be referred as “A crime in which the perpetrator develops a scheme using one or more elements of the internet to deprive a person of property or any interest, estate, or right by a false representation of a matter of fact, whether by providing misleading information or by concealment of information.”

Cyber crime refers to any crime that involves a computer and a network. More precisely it refers to the criminal exploitation of the internet. Another definition of cyber crime refers to it thus; “Online theft of credit card number, expiration date, and other information for criminal use is cyber fraud.” It can be also defined as any type of intentional deception that involves the internet. This can include the frauds and scams that occur in the chat rooms, message boards, and fake web sites and also through emails. It usually occurs in the form of deceitful solicitations and fraudulent transactions.

Significance of Cyber Crime:

Cyber scams are emerging as a real threat to the users and have become high-profile in their nature. They can be encompass all aspects of the individual’s life and include unlawful acts like hacking, copyright infringement, invasion of privacy, child pornography as well. These crimes have a lasting effect on the victims, especially so if identification or personal information about finances is involved. At times it becomes really difficult to prove the identity of a specific perpetrator of the crime which can impact negatively on the user.

Types of Computer Crimes or Scams:

There are a host of illegal activities that come under the purview of computer crime but more broadly, it can be divided in to two classifications: Crimes that directly target computer networks or devices and secondly, scams facilitated by computer networks targeting any user that is independent of the perpetrator of the scam.

Preventive Measures:

Most scams are done through e-mails. This method is very effective as the user is enticed to provide critical information like usernames, passwords, credit card information or other types of vital information. There are still other methods of cyber frauds which are on the internet itself. To escape from such scams one needs to follow some basic things and pay attention to preventive measures like:

  • Never send money to people who have contacted you on e-mail or for that matter on the internet itself ;
  • Never disclose your identity and vital financial information to strangers;
  • Never reply to links from organizations of which you are not a member of;
  • Never reply or click on to the link that declares that you are the winner for some kind of lottery or competition which you had never been a part of

Cybercrime: Talk Talk hacked by Cybercriminals

Talk Talk hacked

What to do if you have been affected?

Talk Talk hacked
Talk Talk hacked

The phone and broadband provider Talk Talk which has over 4 million UK customers have that said banking details and personal information could have been accessed by hackers in a recent cyber attack. 

Credit card, bank account details, names, addresses, dates of birth, email addresses and telephone numbers could all have been accessed by hackers according to Talk Talk.

The Metropolitan Police are investigating the attack and have said no-one has been arrested.

TalkTalk said: “We would like to reassure you that we take any threat to the security of our customers’ data very seriously. We constantly review and update our systems to make sure they are as secure as possible and we’re taking all the necessary steps to understand this incident and to protect as best we can against similar attacks in future.

“Unfortunately cyber criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and attacks against companies which do business online are becoming more frequent.”

“We are continuing to work with leading cybercrime specialists and the Metropolitan police to establish exactly what happened and the extent of any information accessed”.

What can those who have been affected do?

  • Contact your bank/credit card company, so that they can monitor for suspicious activity on your account.
  • Change your password for your online accounts. Use three words which mean something to you but are random to others – this creates a password that is strong and more memorable. You should change passwords often and never use the same one twice.
  • Monitor your account for any suspicious or unexpected activity.
  • Beware of targeted phishing emails. If you receive unsolicited emails never reply with your full password, login details or account details. Don’t click on any links as you could end up downloading a virus.
  • Be wary of anyone calling asking for personal information, bank details or passwords. If in doubt, just hang up. In the past TalkTalk customers have complained about receiving scam calls from fraudsters pretending to be TalkTalk claiming that they want to warn users about malware infections on their computer.
  • Watch out for signs of identity crime. Visit Experian, Equifax or Noddle to check your credit rating to make sure no one has applied for credit in your name.
  • For online safety advice visit Get Safe Online and Cyberstreewise.
  • If you have fallen victim to fraud, report it to Action Fraud and get a police crime reference number.

TalkTalk have also said they will NEVER:

  • Ask for your bank details to process a refund. If you are ever due a refund from them, they would only be able to process this if your bank details are already registered on their systems.
  • Call you and ask you to download software onto your computer, unless you have previously contacted TalkTalk, discussed and agreed a call back for this to take place.
  • Send you emails asking you to provide your full password. they will only ever ask for two digits from it to protect your security.

For further information please visit the Talk Talk website.