Every day I see dozens of news stories, reports, white papers, research analysis and the like about identity theft in its various manifestations. Here are two I thought you would find interesting.
Recently, I wrote about the growing problem of small business identity theft where the actual identity of the business is illegally obtained to scam others or acquire money and merchandise using the purloined business' identity.
Now the Federal Trade Commission has issued a very specific warning about an email phishing scheme aimed directly at small business owners.
The false email supposedly comes from the FTC and contains the subject line: "NOTIFICATION OF CONSUMER COMPLAINT." The body of the email falsely claims that a complaint has been filed with the agency against the company and prompts the recipient to click on a link, or open an attachment, to obtain details.
Clicking on the link, or opening the attachment, will install malware, a virus or other spyware on the computer that will steal personal information stored on the infected computer. The FTC's advice: Delete the email without opening it.
The FTC says it does not send out any such emails so, if you own a small business, beware. If you know someone who does own a small business, pass this warning along.
One aspect of identity theft that is particularly heinous and destructive is what is called familial, inter-generational and child identity theft. It can be a parent using a son or daughter's identity and Social Security number to establish credit when their own credit is shot. It can be a sibling using a brother's or sister's personal information. It can be a grown child using a parent's information, or a more distance relative — an aunt or uncle or cousin.
Usually these cases are handled within the family, although it often leaves those families broken. Rarely do they make it into the legal system and it's even rarer when these cases end up going to trial.
That's what makes a case that has been playing out in Martinsburg, W.Va. so unusual.
There, a former middle school teacher has been sentenced to prison for using her then 14-year-old daughter's Social Security numbers to obtain credit accounts and run up bills in excess of $100,000 that she ended up defaulting on. The eight revolving credit accounts were opened in 2005. The judge ordered her to pay $21,000 in restitution, much to her daughter's discontent because it is her credit that has been left in tatters.
In July, the mother pled no contest to the eight felony counts and the past six months has been filled with jockeying between prosecution and defense over sentencing. A judge has now sentenced her to five years in prison.
"A mother and daughter are supposed to have a trustworthy bond," the daughter said addressing the judge at the sentencing. "My mother broke that bond in every way possible."
The woman now faces another trial on 11 counts of child abuse for allegedly physical abusing her four other younger children — a charge she strongly denies.