Scam Victims United-NOVA-DC Public Safety

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– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington, D.C., this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Back with the National Organization for Victim Assistance with Dr. Will Marling, the Executive Director of NOVA, and Shawn Mosch. She is a victim of fraud, but she turned that victimization into positive action. She is now with Scam Victims United at www.scamvictimsunited.org, but before talking to will and talking to Shawn, I want to thank everybody, once again, for listening, watching, and reading the materials that we have at our website at media.csosa.gov, D.C. Public Safety radio, television, transcripts, and blog. We are up to 200,000 requests on a monthly basis for everything that we do, and we are extraordinarily appreciative of everything that you’re providing us with, even the comments as to how many times I screw up, or ideas for new programs and directions in terms of where we should go, and meaningful conversations in terms of the comments log. You can log into the website, again, media.csosa.gov, or you can email me directly at Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes S-I-P not T, P-E-S@csosa.gov or you can follow us via Twitter. That’s Twitter.com/lensipes,L-E-N-S-I-P-E-S, no break in those words. Back to your program. Dr. Will Marling, the Executive Director of NOVA, and Shawn Mosch, the person basically in charge of Scam Victims United, and to Will and to Shawn, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Will Marling: Thanks, Leonard.

Len Sipes: Will, I’m going to start off with you. How does the National Organization for Victim Assistance get involved with this issue of fraud. It’s pretty apparent to me – first of all, ladies and gentlemen, National Organization for Victim Assistance has been around for decades. At the very beginning of my stint in Washington, D.C., thirty years ago, there was the National Organization for Victim Assistance. When I worked as a senior crime prevention specialist for the Department of Justice’s clearing house, they also gave me the victim’s beat, which I knew nothing at all about, and the folks at NOVA were wonderful in terms of instructing me, and now we have Dr. Will Marling, who is now in charge of NOVA. How did we get into the scam and fraud issue?

Will Marling: Well, I tell you, we have a victim assistance line, Leonard, and you know, our expertise is primarily in violent criminal victimization and identity theft, but we get a lot of calls on this line. And of course, when people are looking for assistance, they see victim assistance, and we get, sometimes, a wide range of victim calls, but fraud victims, is there any angle, opportunity, remediation? What do they do? And while that’s not our area of expertise, we felt it important to start looking for at least some resources. We want to be able to at least hand them something, and that’s when we had the opportunity to connect with Shawn Mosch and Scam Victims United. And she’s a great resource, and the website’s fantastic. It’s a really useful tool.

Len Sipes: Is there any difference between identity theft and scams and frauds. It’s all pretty much the same thing, correct?

Will Marling: Well, no, no. I mean, you know, it all depends on the nature of the victimization, of course. Identity theft, you can have your identity stolen and never even know about it. The average identity discovered, the average identity theft discovery is twelve months, maybe, with a victim. With a scam situation, you’re engaging in something, and you believe that it’s an ethical, reputable approach, and then you discover that it’s not. There’s deception and this kind of thing, so there are different dynamics to it, and Shawn’s situation is even more irritating. She can tell you about that, but especially when people think they’re getting something, but they’re not, actually, that’s fraud.

Len Sipes: Absolutely. Now, I think I’m a perfect example of where I did not know. I mean, I’ve been in the business for forty years and I’m having a hard time distinguishing between identity theft and fraud. So, you know, there’s probably lots of people out there who may see – maybe they’re as dumb as I am and they see these issues as being one and the same. I mean, in essence, we’re concerned with burglary, we’re concerned with theft, we’re concerned with robbery, but much more money leaves our pockets through ID theft or through fraud and scams than through garden variety street crime, correct?

Will Marling: Well, you know, statistically, some of that’s hard to track. You know, we have uniform criminal reporting and a lot of that is related to the violent criminal side of things, which is horrific. But from the financial side, the emotional impact could be significant as well. When people take your earnings and something you’ve been saving for, or sometimes people end up losing quite a bit, and end up having to try to recover that, but at the heart of it, it’s an attack on us, personally, and it really steals something from us emotionally, many times, traumatically, and that’s why we still emphasize that. We recognize that certain outcomes from physical violence are different, and we as an organization are still committed to supporting violent criminal victimization folks who have that need, but we definitely see the growing, increasing demand on supporting fraud victims, because it’s there. And in the economic situation we’re in, these perpetrators are looking for every angle to still line their pockets with more money.

Len Sipes: And we’re going to do our very best today to stop them. Shawn Mosch, a victim of fraud. Tell us a little bit about that story and what brought you to create scamvictimsunited.org or scamvictimsunited.com.

Shawn Mosch: Well, back in 2002, my husband and I were selling a 1951 Buick Special that he had owned since he was in college, and we didn’t have a place to store it anymore, so we were selling it, and put an ad online, got some people that were interested. There was one person that sent us a cashier’s check to pay for the car and also to pay for shipping the car from us to them.

Len Sipes: Right.

Shawn Mosch: And we brought the cashier’s check to the bank, and because we didn’t know this person at all, we said to the bank, “We’re selling a car and we want to make sure that this check is good. You know, I don’t want to ship the car off or start using the money from this check and find out later it’s bad, and then we’re left in the hole.” And they said, “Oh, no, it’s a cashier’s check. Those are verified, it’s good in twenty-four hours. No problem.” And I said, “Wait, verified as good in twenty-four hours? That seems a little fast.” And they said, “Yeah, because cashier’s checks process faster.”

Len Sipes: Right.

Shawn Mosch: Twenty-four hours. That’s all you need to wait.

Len Sipes: I thought a cashier’s check was as good as cash. I’m sorry, go ahead.

Shawn Mosch: That’s the other thing that, you know, “Oh, they’re as good as cash,” so they assured me it had been verified, it was good, it was clear. The funds were available. And I said, “Okay,” so we went forward with the transaction. So part of that money was for shipping the car, and that we did to the person that was going to take care of that transportation, and then the other part was for the sale of the car, which we kept. So one week to the day later, the bank called us and said the check was counterfeit. And I said, “Well, what does that mean for me, because you already told me it was good and it was clear. You can’t un-ring that bell.” And they said, “That means you owe us the money.” I said, “What do you mean, I owe you the money? You told me it was good. I wasn’t going to touch the money – ”

Len Sipes: Until you told me it was good.

Shawn Mosch: Until I knew it was good and it was clear and it was verified. “You told me it was. What did I do wrong?” And actually, once I got talking with our legal department, my husband even asked them, and this was now days after we had found out it was counterfeit, and he said, “How long does it really take for a cashier’s check to clear?” And they put him on hold and then came back to the phone and told him, “Twenty-four hours, sir.” And we said, “Well, wait a minute. If that was accurate, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Len Sipes: It is, it is –

Shawn Mosch: Like it’s the real time, and they were never able to give us that information. So basically, I was upset. I started talking about this to anyone and everyone that would listen, started a message board, and through the message board, we found other people that this was happening to. So at first, I thought it was just my bank’s policy was messed up. So then, as I started to look at it, I found, ‘No, it’s the banking system.’ The banking system will tell people the check is good, it’s clear, and make the funds available in twenty-four hours before the check has been honored by the issuing bank. So now you can use and spend that money and then it could be 7-10 business days later that it comes back as counterfeit, and then you are liable for all that money.

Len Sipes: And how did you, how did all this make you and your husband feel?

Shawn Mosch: Oh, we were very upset.

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Shawn Mosch: So, we started talking to the media, and once it started to get in the media, we got even more people that were telling us, “Oh, it happened to me. Oh, same thing,” so then we started the website, Scam Victims United, and that was in early 2003. In the first two years of our website being operational, we helped stop over $2,000,000 from going into scams.

Len Sipes: That’s amazing. Now, okay, so you hold the key, then, for the rest of us, to tell the rest of us what not to do.

Shawn Mosch: That’s ironic that you used that phrase, because I did a presentation called ‘Education is the key.’

Len Sipes: Right.

Shawn Mosch: So we can all hold the key. Education about scams and frauds is the key.

Len Sipes: But every day, we are confronted with these scams, and I remember being on my computer and being three-quarters of the way through this statement from my bank and it just struck me – again, I’ve been a senior crime prevention specialist for the federal government. I’ve been involved in the crime prevention arena for a decade. I’ve been in the criminal justice system for forty years, and I was within a keystroke of sending fraudulent information through a phishing scheme. Any one of us could fall for this. I was on Gmail the other night and, you know, the scams that run on Gmail seem to be every single day. This is amazing. I mean, we are under attack.

Shawn Mosch: Every time we think we got the word out about this scam, they’re going to invent another one.

Len Sipes: And they look so legitimate.

Shawn Mosch: Oh, yeah, so many of them, they use the logos and all the right letterhead, and you get the check – the bank managers can’t even tell, by looking at the check, if it’s good or not.

Len Sipes: That’s amazing.

Shawn Mosch: But this is why I always tell people that if you are sent a cashier’s check or money order – because they’re also counterfeiting money orders and traveler’s checks – if you’re sent any one of those for payment for anything – something you’re selling online, a donation to a charity, payment for a room you’re renting, if you are sent cashier’s checks, money orders, traveler’s checks, and then told you need to wire any money to anyone, it’s a scam. They will go as far as doing on Craigslist – they’ll go out there and find somebody who’s renting a room. They’ll say, “Yep, I want to rent your room, send you a cashier’s check for the first month’s rent and deposit.” Then, once they know you’ve deposited the cashier’s check, they’ll say, “Oh my gosh, something happened. I’m not going to be able to move in with you. I’m so sorry. I have to back out of our contract. Can you just wire me back the money?”

Len Sipes: Wow, that’s amazing.

Shawn Mosch: This is the thing that I get all the time. So many people would say, “Well, I wouldn’t be dumb enough to wire money to somebody I don’t know.” But in that situation I just described, if you were renting out a room in your home to someone, and then they emailed you and said, “My mother passed away. I have to stay where I’m living to help out the rest of my family and I have to back out of our contract and not move into your room. I know I already sent you a thousand dollars. Keep a hundred for your trouble and inconvenience. Wire me back the rest.” Most people go, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. Yes, of course, I’m going to send you your $900.”

Len Sipes: Right. Okay, well, what are the three major things, as consumers, as regular, everyday people, that we can use to prevent this sort of thing from happening to us?

Shawn Mosch: Like I said, if you’re sent any sort of check, cashier’s check, money order and asked to wire any portion of it to anyone for any reason – I don’t care if their grandma died and their house fell down on top of them and they need the money – don’t.

Len Sipes: It’s a fraud.

Shawn Mosch: That’s the first thing. I mean, absolutely 100%, every single time I have ever talked with a person and that is their situation, it is a scam.

Len Sipes: Okay, give me another.

Shawn Mosch: Again, like you were talking about with the phishing scams, never ever click on a link in an email. If you get an email from your bank that says that there’s a problem with your account, call the customer service number to your bank and talk to a real human being.

Len Sipes: And don’t call the customer service number listed on that email. Right.

Shawn Mosch: Yeah, you can’t call the phone number listed in the email, because that might be redirected to the scammer, who is going to tell you, “Oh, yes, we need your information.” You know your bank. You bank with it every day. Pick up the phone and call their local number. Same with credit cards, where they say there’s a problem with your credit card. Flip over your credit card; look at the back. There is a customer service phone number. Call that number and say, “Hi, I got an email saying there’s a problem with my account.” If there really is a problem with your account, their help center will be able to pull it up and there will be a big flag on your account that says, ‘Yep, here’s the problem we need to fix.’

Len Sipes: But even –

Shawn Mosch: Don’t click the links on the emails.

Len Sipes: The example that I gave a little while ago with Gmail – I mean, all they’re asking for is account information, and I’m saying to myself, “Well, they’re not asking for my social security number. They’re not asking for my date of birth. They’re not asking for my home address. They simply want the account information. How could that possibly help them?” And then I said to myself, “Oh, silly, everything in there – something in there – whatever it is that you used to sign up for it provides them with access to practically everything else that you’re doing. Don’t do it.” And I emailed it to Gmail and they emailed back saying, “Yes, it’s fraudulent. Don’t worry about it.” But what that does is there are so many of these frauds going on, it almost makes you wary of any official correspondence coming to you via the Internet.

Shawn Mosch: It does, and I noticed that with myself, that every email I read, I kind of look at it and go, “Well, is this person really up and up?” And I do my research now. Google is a wonderful resource. If you are in doubt at all, copy and paste the person’s email address into a Google search, and if they have done this scam to somebody else, there is probably a post somewhere. We have had so many people come to our website because they did just that. They either Googled the name of the scammer, their email address, the companies they said they were working for, or their phone number, and it brought them right to our website, because so many people have posted, “Here’s the name and information about our scammer on our message board, so then we’re helping others to prevent the scams, because they did the Google search and found the information.”

Len Sipes: We’re more than halfway through the program. I want to reintroduce our guests. Dr. Will Marling is the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, long, venerable, and honored within the criminal justice system for the work that they do. You can reach the National Organization for Victim Assistance, www.trynova.org. www.trynova.org. Our other guest today is Shawn Mosch. She is a victim, but more important that she took her victimization and turned it into something wonderfully positive. She is the person who organized Scam Victims United and it’s www.scamvictimsunited.org or www.scamvictimsunited.com. All right, so basically, any time you get a cashier’s check, any check, and you’re asked to wire the money back, that’s an obvious fraud. You know, never click any attachment or an email asking for any personal information. Go back to your bank, go back to your credit card company, go back to Google and just be suspicious of just about virtually any email requests that you get. But I bet you people are scammed all the time by regular U.S. mail.

Shawn Mosch: They are. The ones we see the most are the Internet ones, because most of the scammers are in another country and the problem is, you report the crime to your local police, and they can’t do anything jurisdiction-wise because they’re in another country.

Len Sipes: Because they’re in Russia.

Shawn Mosch: Now if Nigeria, the United Kingdom, usually. Sometimes Canada. But Nigeria is probably – if I had to put a top three, it would be Nigeria, U.K., and then Canada.

Len Sipes: Mm, that’s amazing. So I was overly stereotypical, because I heard so much about servers in Russia, even if they’re in other countries, being used for scams, but England and Canada and Nigeria, those are the three. All English commonwealth countries.

Shawn Mosch: Exactly.

Len Sipes: Interesting, interesting.

Shawn Mosch: Yeah, with Canada, the big one was the Canadian lottery, that they would get a letter saying that they had won the Canadian lottery and then you have to contact this person. Now you might get that first letter of contact via snail mail, but after that, things like the cashier’s check are usually sent overnight, like FedEx, the reason being the scammers know if they mail that counterfeit cashier’s check in the U.S. mail, that’s mail fraud.

Len Sipes: Yeah, and there’s a whole organization to –

Shawn Mosch: They use a delivery system, then it’s not.

Len Sipes: Okay, understood. I mean I get the British lottery scam every single night in my Gmail. When I open up my Gmail, the British lottery scam is there every single night.

Shawn Mosch: Oh, I get it too. I get it sent to admin at scamvictimsunited.com.

Len Sipes: [Laughs] Well, again, what is the larger perspective in all of this, Will Marling, Executive Director of NOVA. What is the larger perspective? Have we covered it in terms of our introduction? I would imagine – my guess is that this is happening a hundred times more than burglary, even though we don’t have hard data on it. My guess is that this is happening far more than street variety crime, and that this is a real issue, not only for this country, but for organizations like yours.

Will Marling: Well, sure. I mean, it’s hard to quantify, certainly, because these spamming situation, they can send out a hundred million emails and even a very tiny percentage of response is still a meaningful response for them, because it’s just the law of large numbers. Our main concern is educating people, like Shawn does so well, because really, at the end of the day, a lot of it truly is common sense, and that isn’t to minimize people or to criticize people who have fallen for this, because to be honest, we’ve had people perpetrate on our organization for things. And sometimes, you know, you want to step forward and, with an open hand, meet people and assume the best, but then you discover later on – but with a lot of these things, it plays on certain intrigue that we all have. The opportunity may be to get something for nothing, like some of these phishing opportunities, but as much as that, many times it’s just stopping and thinking. You know, does the bank need to ask you for all your personal information? Shouldn’t they have it already? I mean, why would they need to verify all that?

Len Sipes: But it’s impossible, though, Will. I mean, don’t you think, in the situation with Shawn, somebody handed her a cashier’s check. If somebody handed me a cashier’s check and if my bank said, “You know what? You’re good to go,” I would pretty much bet the farm that I’m okay.

Will Marling: Well, sure. And that’s because you have a good relationship, at least at the time, with the bank, and you’re trusting them. But again, you know, we’re talking cashier’s checks, and so it’s an awareness issue. It’s a consumer consideration to say exactly what’s going on here, and to be honest, it’s going to continue, I presume, at that level, until the banks become more committed to educating consumers themselves, and their clients, their customers, as to what truly can happen. I can’t see any reason for the bank to say, “No, we need to hold onto this. There could be a concern. We see a profile, we see a pattern, and here are the steps we recommend you take. Let’s work together on this.” But the bank just needs to recover their money.

Shawn Mosch: Banks don’t have any incentive – the bank doesn’t lose any money. It’s the customer that has to pay back, so if the bank was liable, you know there would be changes, that they would be making sure that the check is legitimate before a penny went out. And I have stressed to people that all it would have taken was for the bank to say, “The funds are available, but the check might not clear for 7-10 business days.”

Len Sipes: Right, so let’s not touch the money until –

Shawn Mosch: Probably 96% of the scam victims. Excuse me?

Len Sipes: I said, so the bank would say, “Let’s not touch that money until it does clear.”

Will Marling: Right.

Shawn Mosch: Right, but on a banker’s stand, because I’ve talked to the bankers on this issue, they say that for every cashier’s check that comes in, you have to hold it for 7-10 days, we’re going to get pissed off customers coming in and going, “Well, it’s my money. I want my money now.” You know, “My brother-in-law wrote me that cashier’s check, so I know it’s good.”

Len Sipes: Well, let him sign a release, then.

Shawn Mosch: In that case, have a form that they sign that says, “I’m releasing the bank of any liability. I understand that it might still come back on me.” At least tell people that it could take 7-10 business days, versus saying “Twenty-four hours. Good as gold.”

Will Marling: Right. I mean, all you need to do is hold onto the money. My thing is, okay, clear as the bank hands you the money – well, hold onto the thousand dollars for two weeks, because you can turn it back into the bank, right?

Shawn Mosch: Exactly.

Will Marling: But people don’t think about that. Naturally, we’re trying to conduct our business, and if the people you trust, which is your bank, like Shawn’s saying, since she was fifteen – you know, the bank says, “Hey, you’re okay.” Well, you know, it’s like somebody in the business saying, “It’s okay.” And that’s what needs to change.

Len Sipes: It’s sort of like the automobile industry years ago, where in the crime prevention field, we knew that by computer chips and keys, would virtually eliminate, to a large degree – now they can come along and tow the car away – but if you would have a computer chip in a key, that would eliminate probably 70% of automobile thefts. They’ve done that, and automobile thefts have plummeted. It’s the same way with the banks. They’ve got to step up and take responsibility, it sounds like.

Will Marling: That’s what it sounds like to us, too.

Shawn Mosch: Exactly.

Len Sipes: Okay. Shawn, we only have a couple minutes left. This program has flown by like wildfire. Give me a couple more tips in terms of what people need to do.

Shawn Mosch: Again, Google is your friend. Google everything and anything. Go to places like our website. We have a message board where we update information on scams. You can do a search there. We’re also on Twitter and Facebook, where you can follow our blog, where we’ll let you know about the latest and greatest and newest twists in scams.

Len Sipes: I’m going to do that.

Shawn Mosch: Also checking out the Internet Crime Complaint Center. When we were talking about statistics and how much money is lost to scams, the Internet Crime Complaint Center keeps track of that kind of information.

Len Sipes: Is that the FBI center?

Shawn Mosch: They always say – excuse me?

Len Sipes: Is that the FBI center? The Internet crime center that you just mentioned?

Shawn Mosch: They are a coalition between the FBI, the national white-collar crime center, and a couple other organizations.

Len Sipes: Okay. What’s their website? Do you know offhand?

Shawn Mosch: Um, the ic3.org, I believe?

Len Sipes: Pardon?

Shawn Mosch: It’s Internet Crime Complaint Center is probably the best place to go.

Len Sipes: That’s why – just Google that and people can get to it. All right, do you have another one?

Shawn Mosch: Exactly. Well, I was just going to say that even their statistics, though – and they will tell you this, too – are low, because they know that not everybody reports scams and frauds. Because most people will say, “Oh, I’m embarrassed that happened to me, that I fell for it.”

Len Sipes: I was mortified when it almost happened to me. Go ahead, please.

Shawn Mosch: If somebody robs you on the street corner, you would report it.

Len Sipes: Right.

Shawn Mosch: People who are victims of Internet scams and frauds need to report that, too, so that we have accurate information of how much is being lost so that we can encourage our lawmakers to change things to protect the customers, because if we would have kept all that money in the U.S., the economy would be doing a little bit better right now.

Len Sipes: Oh, absolutely. And you’re right, looking at it from an economic point of view, you’re a thousand percent correct. I wonder how many millions or billions are leaving the country every year due to fraud. We have a minute and a half left.

Shawn Mosch: If just our website can stop $2,000,000 in two years.

Len Sipes: Wow. Okay, and I’ll give out the website at the end of the program. Will, do you have any closing remarks?

Will Marling: Yeah, just to clarify, it’s ic3.gov. Ida Charles three dot gov is the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Len Sipes: Right. Ic3.

Will Marling: Yeah, that’s the one we give out, and snopes.com is also another site that collects scams, aberrant emails – it’s snopes.com.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Will Marling: And I think we’re becoming more educated – there’s no question. But you feel for folks who just don’t realize what’s down the pike. Wailing is another issue for even executives, where people get information on the inside a little bit, enough to go through, say, an administrative assistance and forward on, and so the executive thinks that it’s legit because the administrative assistant forwarded it on. It all looks legitimate. So even within a company, you just have to be careful with your email. You have to know exactly who you’re talking to and what they’re talking about.

Len Sipes: Well, we’re out time and I do want to summarize; what I’ve heard today is that if you’re sent a cashier’s check and your asked to wire money back for whatever reason, don’t. It’s a fraud. Never click on an email where they’re asking for personal information. Contact the bank, contact the credit card company. Every email request, be extraordinarily suspicious as to what it is that they’re asking for. Google is a friend, one of the things I heard from Shawn. Google that information to see if there’s anything that pops up on the Internet in terms of fraud information. You’ve got the Internet Crime Complaint Center, i3g.gov, and we’ll mention snopes.com S-N-O-P-E-S.com. And I do want to emphasize, again, Shawn’s website: www.scamvictimsunited.org or www.scamvictimsunited.com. And once again, for Dr. Will Marling, the Executive Director of NOVA, it’s www.trynova.org. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you again. 200,000 requests. We couldn’t be successful unless we had your input, your suggestions, and criticisms, and feel free to point out all the times I screw up. I am enjoying those. And again, for those of you who ask us questions that are outside the scope of the radio show, that’s fine with us. We’ll find help for you, so feel free to get back in touch with us if you like. Again, it’s leonard.sipes@csosa.gov. Again, that’s for the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency in downtown Washington, D.C., or follow us via Twitter at Twitter.com/lensipes. I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

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Offenders on the Internet and Social Media Sites – DC Public Safety – “230,000 Requests a Month

Welcome to DC Public Safety – radio and television shows on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/11/offenders-on-the-internet-and-social-media-sites-dc-public-safety-230000-reque/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington, D.C., this is Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have Shannon Blalock today. She is a parole and probation officer with the Kentucky Department of Corrections in Parole and Probation. She is a parole and probation officer. She is with parole and probation intelligence and she is also dealing with fugitive apprehension. What we’re talking about today, ladies and gentlemen, is going to be criminal offenders using social networking sites; Facebook, MySpace, Digg, ten tons of others. Also, the issues of using hand-held computers, commonly known as cell phones, by individuals who are under the supervision of parole and probation agencies throughout the country. But, first, our usual commercial. We are truly grateful and, what I mean by truly grateful, we really are. We’re up to 230,000 requests a month for D.C. Public safety radio, television, blog, and transcripts. We are just as impressed as impressed could be in terms of the numbers and in terms of your interaction with us. We really appreciate it. What you can do is go to media M-E-D-I-A.csosa C-S-O-S-A.gov and leave a comment. That’s what most people do or they get in touch with me directly by email, which is Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes S-I-P-E-S, that’s P as in pumpernickel, P-E-S@csosa.gov or follow me directly at Twitter. That’s twitter.com/len L-E-N sipes (without any breaks). Back to Shannon Blalock. Shannon, you’ve been with the State of Kentucky for, what about four years now?

Shannon Blalock: That’s right.

Len Sipes: And you have a very interesting background. Part of your job as a parole and probation officer is to do the usual things that so many parole and probation officers do throughout the country, but somehow, someway you started stumbling onto this concept of social media sites in terms of fugitive apprehension. Correct?

Shannon Blalock: Yes, that’s right. I was supervising a caseload, a regular caseload, and one of my offenders absconded supervision on me and, at that time, our network servers blocked the use of MySpace and Facebook and other social networking sites the way many government agencies do and so when I was home one evening I decided to look him up on MySpace and sure enough he was there, but the profile was set to private. So, I looked for his wife’s profile, found her and found that she had posted a landline phone number on one of her friend’s comment sections.

Len Sipes: Oh, that’s interesting.

Shannon Blalock: Yes. So, I was able to trace down to Florida and get him picked up.

Len Sipes: That’s just amazing. So, you sat at your desk and apprehended a fugitive.

Shannon Blalock: That’s right.

Len Sipes: Now, think about that. In all of my law enforcement experience when we were trying to apprehend fugitives or when we were trying to apprehend wanted for warrants, every night, if you were working the night shift, the duty sergeant would give you about 12 warrant and he said, if nothing goes on tonight, go out and see if you can serve these warrants. And so you go and knock on their doors at 1:00 in the morning and, out of the 12 warrants, oh, maybe once or twice a month you actually came into contact with somebody and arrested them on the warrant. And you sat at home and were able to arrest an individual sitting at home using your computer.

Shannon Blalock: Right. With, of course, the gracious assistance from different agencies and in particular the one down there in Florida.

Len Sipes: Of course.

Shannon Blalock: Yes. Able to work up usable information in really just a matter of a couple of minutes and a couple of mouse clicks and did a wanted fugitive off the streets.

Len Sipes: It is this larger issue, though, because every time we take a step in terms of social networking sites, every time we take that step it opens up endless, endless doors in terms of what social networking means. In essence, what we’re talking about is criminal offenders and people have this assumption that criminal offenders are not “sophisticated enough” to go onto Facebook and to conduct criminal activities or to go on to Facebook, MySpace, or the hundreds of other social media sites and try, sex offenders in this case, and try to entice that young girl to meet him.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: But they do, they do it every single day.

Shannon Blalock: Right. And it doesn’t really take that savvy a person to click onto the Web and to click onto a couple of sites and to create a profile and start meeting people.

Len Sipes: So, both of us agree that if we can do it, anybody can do it.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. And that’s one way that we’re not all that different from our offenders. I mean, if we’re on social networking sites, meeting and chatting with friends and meeting new friends and things like that, then chances are excellent that our offenders are doing the very same thing.

Len Sipes: Well, there is a problem throughout the country in terms of cell phones in prisons. And, when I say cell phones, again, it’s a wake up call. Somebody once said to me that the cell phone that I now carry, which is a SmartPhone BlackBerry, that that BlackBerry that I carry now is as powerful as my desktop computer was five years ago.

Shannon Blalock: That’s absolutely true and I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be speeding down the interstate and looking up information on tourist attractions. Yeah. It’s amazing.

Len Sipes: Well, but the point is that if they have them inside of prisons and we’re not just talking about a couple in the prison systems throughout the country, they’re reporting hundreds and hundreds in every prison system. So, if we’re talking about offenders inside there, it’s as if they have access to a laptop computer. It’s as if they have access to the Internet. They do have access to the Internet and they do have, as your child is searching social media sites.

Shannon Blalock: Right. And what we see a lot of times with our criminal offenders is that they’re incredibly charismatic and they can engage people very well in person and online and a lot of times can get them to do, get folks on the outside to do their bidding, legal or illegal activities.

Len Sipes: Isn’t that amazing?

Shannon Blalock: It really is.

Len Sipes: And the charismatic, many of the offenders that we supervise, they’ve lost their calling. I mean, assume many of these individuals should have gone into sales.

Shannon Blalock: Yes. [Laughs] I couldn’t agree more.

Len Sipes: A long time ago. It’s, like, this individual, I mean, if you’re going to hustle that hard in terms of selling drugs. If you’re going to hustle that hard in terms of conducting business over the Internet, why didn’t you just go into sales?

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. I actually told one of my offenders that one time. If he was that successful in recruiting and developing new business, then perhaps he should go into sales.

Len Sipes: I mean, they missed their calling quite some time ago, but every time we discuss this we open the door to other areas. So, we have offenders in the prison systems having access to hand-held computers, what I call cell phones. We’re talking about the average offender out there floating through life and they’re interacting on MySpace and they’re interacting on Facebook and there are hundreds of additional social media sites that they’re interacting on. Gangs constantly have their own web sites. We’re not talking about social media sites. We’re talking about web sites that they have created or had others create with them where they display acts, illegal acts.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. Well, I mean, gangs, criminal activity, other people involved in the criminal enterprise, aside from it being illegal, it’s just like a legitimate business. I would look for them to recruit business using Twitter or having a Facebook page or having their own presence on the Web. They really market themselves the way that traditional businesses are doing it.

Len Sipes: I market this entity, D.C. Public Safety, on Twitter all the time and I found that Twitter is probably one of the most powerful modalities of getting the word out. Well, you go through Twitter and you search on specific key words, such as law enforcement, corrections, parole and probation, but you also search for the term, crime, and there’s been more than a couple, what I consider to be fairly nefarious web sites, and Twitter sites. So, obviously these guys are on there. The final thing I wanted to get into as an illustration as to how difficult this issue is. I saw a report on CNN yesterday as I was sitting at my desk, yes, CNN runs all day in my office. This is according to CNN. 20 million computers have been compromised by child sex offenders. Now, where they get this figure, I have no idea, how valid it is, how real it is. I wouldn’t have any idea. But what they’re saying is sex offenders are taking over your computers and using your computer to receive information, to receive obviously horrendously illegal, not just illegal, horrendously illegal photographs of children engaging in sex acts, but they’re using your computer as the interface. So, when the police knock on your door and tell you that they have a warrant for your arrest to search your computer in terms of child porn and you’re there struggling with what to say because you know it’s absurd, it may be that it’s this interface. So, sex offenders, they’re sophisticated enough to take over somebody else’s computer and to use that computer as an interface to get what it is that they need. So, the point is that they’re out there.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. And what I have found is that you don’t really have to have all that significant a technical knowledge. To be able to do anything like that, all you have to do is be motivated to seek out the information, usually available on the Web, that will tell you exactly step by step how to get these things done.

Len Sipes: Well, I just copied down something called, search engine optimization, which is basically web site marketing and sent it out to a bunch of my folks, which gives a step by step breakdown as to how to increase your presence on the Internet. So, if I can have instant access to that information and it was clear enough to me, then it would be clear enough to the outside. I do. I mean, I’m an ex-cop with a couple college degrees. I’m not a technical person as problems with the radio program prove and so if I can do this stuff, anybody can do this stuff.

Shannon Blalock: That’s exactly true. I mean, I have no formal education or training in computers or anything specific like this, but you become motivated to search for offenders or to do a certain activity online and the more you search out information, the more information you gain which leads you to more information and somehow you get it done.

Len Sipes: We’re going to give Shannon’s email address and I’ll talk about a manual that Shannon did, but I’m warning users right now that Shannon and I talked about this before we went on the program. We’re going to give her email address, but she developed a manual which is sitting in front of me and Shannon is also coming to my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, here in downtown Washington, D.C. We are a federal parole and probation entity. Shannon’s going to come up and do some training for us and she wrote this manual. Not everybody’s going to be able to get hold of this manual. You’re going to have to send a letter on letterhead and we’re going to have to be sure you’re who you say you are before the manual goes out, but what Shannon did was to create a manual developing an investigative presence on the Internet and talking about Internet strategies and we’re not going to give out any secrets in terms of this conversation. But the point is that my guess is that folks in law enforcement, folks in parole and probations, corrections are going to need to learn how to do this, how to develop investigative identities on the Internet, how to pass yourself off as somebody else, and how to, the fact that there are different web sites that you can use to search for information on just anybody.

Shannon Blalock: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, the amount of information that folks are willing to share on the Internet are absolutely staggering and is beneficial, not only for those of us in probation and parole, but also the law enforcement community using it as an investigative tool. It’s absolutely incredible what you can find online that people willingly put there for themselves.

Len Sipes: Including the offender population.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Now, again, I don’t want to take this too far. Look, there are people out there who are under supervision or using the Internet every day and they’re using it properly. It’s not nefarious. I do not want to suggest that every person who has a criminal background and every person on parole and probation supervision is doing the wrong thing in terms of computers, but there are plenty who are.

Shannon Blalock: Of course. Sure there are. I had an offender one time who was placed on probation and the first thing I did was to go look at his MySpace page and he’d written a blog about how badly he’d messed up and was asking his friends on his MySpace page to please assist him in doing the right thing. And so that kind of gave me an additional insight into the mind of the offender that I’m meant to supervise and then, of course, you have other offenders that you go and check their Facebook page and they’ve posted pictures of themselves doing kickstands and other things that are clearly against the rules of probation and parole.

Len Sipes: One of the things that I’ve tried to get across to my daughters is that whatever you put on, I mean, sooner or later you’re going to apply for jobs with the government or with fairly responsible entities. You sitting there smoking, I’m not suggesting they do this, I’m using this for illustrative purposes. You sitting there smoking a joint with a bottle of Jack Daniels with your friends all there is not going to be looked upon very kindly five years from now when you go for that government job or when you go for any job for that matter. So, what you post on the Internet stays there forever; it does not disappear.

Shannon Blalock: That’s right. And you would not believe the amount of folks who have even applied for internships with our offices that have been turned down simply because they show themselves engaging in illegal activities on their Facebook page.

Len Sipes: Uh-huh. And so people have this natural inclination to brag about who they are and what they are and, if your bragging rights includes criminal activity; I mean, gangs will create web sites or have web sites created for them, I mean, I’ve even created a web site, it’s not that difficult. Gangs will post pictures of them with loot taken from a robbery. And now if that’s not incredibly stupid, I don’t know what is, but they don’t seem to understand what a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that whatever you put on the Internet stays there forever.

Shannon Blalock: Well, I think people operate under the assumption a lot of times that the information they put on there, it’s only going to be seen by folks who know them, but in reality, it’s out there and it’s available for public consumption by anyone.

Len Sipes: Which is one of the reasons why children, and when I say children, it could be anybody under the age of 18, that’s one of the reasons why they believe that that communication with this anonymous person through a chat room becomes a private matter.

Shannon Blalock: Yes, they do and they develop this false sense of security that they may know who this person is even though they’ve never met them, they have no idea who this person might be in real life, they develop this intimacy with somebody they’re chatting with and operate under the false assumption that they can trust them.

Len Sipes: I’m going to reintroduce Shannon. Shannon Blalock; she is a parole and probation officer with the Kentucky Department of Corrections, Division of Parole and Probation. She is a parole and probation officer. She works in parole and probation intelligence and she works in fugitive apprehension. Now, I’m going to give Shannon’s email address in terms of the manual that Shannon developed but, once again, you’re going to have to, once that contact has been established, you’re going to have to get something to her on letterhead and a superior where Shannon and staff can get back in touch with that individual before Shannon will be sending out a copy of the manual. It’s shannon.blalock@ky.gov. Let me see if I can stumble through this once again. It’s shannon.blalock@ky.gov. Did I get it correct?

Shannon Blalock: That’s correct. Yes, that’s it.

Len Sipes: Okay. Cool. And so the manual that you put together in essence reminds all of us to create investigative identities; in other words, so we can operate on the Internet and we can cloak ourselves so it doesn’t say Kentucky Department of Corrections.

Shannon Blalock: Right. There are instances where you can get some very useful information by going onto the Web as your agency. For instance, Kentucky, our Division of Parole and Probation, we have a page on MySpace that’s dedicated to our probation and parole fugitives and we received an incredible amount of tips and helpful information from folks, members of the community, who go onto our MySpace site, see the folks on there, and then give us usable information because they don’t want absconded or fugitives in their community anymore than we do.

Len Sipes: Of course. And parents want their kids captured without violence and without them, the police would come to their house at 2:00 in the morning.

Shannon Blalock: Sure. Absolutely. And I’ve always told folks that it definitely behooves them to turn themselves in so that they don’t put themselves or their family in danger and, of course, they don’t pick up additional charges. But in terms of looking around for violators of conditions of supervision, violators of the law and fugitives, chances are you really are not going to have very much luck going on as Len Sipes, former cop. I mean, so you might want to on there under an assumed identity.

Len Sipes: Uh-huh. And basically the manual provides suggestions in terms of how to go about that and there are various sites on the Web; now, I didn’t know this. And, again, I’m not a technical person, Lord knows, I’m not a technical person. Ask my wife; I’m not a technical person. If you search Google, it is referred to as the surface Web, but there are web sites there that search the deep Web and the surface Web is 20 percent of what’s there on the Internet. So, when you search Google, you’re only searching for 20 percent of what’s on the Internet. There are ways of searching the deep Web and there are web sites out there that are construed to find individuals that are available to the public and cost no money.

Shannon Blalock: That’s correct. I’ve had the pleasure of going to speak to several agencies and one of them was with the HIDTA, the high intensity drug trafficking areas, and they had not every heard of social network search engines where you can search for people specifically on a number of social networks instead of going to each individual site and typing in a search and so it’s very time efficient to be able to use a social networking site, social networking social engine, to look for the target of your investigation.

Len Sipes: So, a search is basically across the Web.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. Yeah. And not only will it search, I’ve got a variety of different search engines in the manual and not only does it search social networking sites, but like you said, it will search into the deep Web to see if maybe your offender has left footprints somewhere that you didn’t know about and then can follow up from there.

Len Sipes: There comes a point where it is, one time as a police officer, as a parole and probation agent, as a correctional officer, you developed your reputation in terms of your shoe leather; how much time you spent in the community with your ear to the ground talking to a wide variety of people. Now, I’m not going to suggest that sitting there and searching social media sites is more important than getting out into the community and talking to employers, talking to the girlfriend, talking to the mother, talking to the brother, talking to the person who lives with that individual because they are an incredible source of information regarding that offender. A lot of times you can take action to circumvent something happening. But it seems to me that equally important now is this presence on the Internet and the ability and the knowledge of searching Internet sites, Web sites, social media sites to figure out what your person is doing.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. Whenever I do this discussion with groups I talk about the concept of virtual home visit and what I talk about in there is, of course, it will never take the place of in-person home visits, but what you’re doing is looking at the person’s virtual home. Folks who create social network accounts decorate it any way they want to with music and pictures. They invite the friends that they want in there. They display the art and other things that are of interest to them in there. And so whenever you go to do a physical home visit for an offender, you’re getting the very best version of that offender, how they think you want them to act. But a lot of times when you visit their virtual home, you see the offender in the light that they really are or the way that they want to be seen by friends, so it just gives you an additional insight to your offender so that you can effectively supervise the ones that are on supervision and, of course, a way to apprehend the folks who’ve absconded.

Len Sipes: Now, there are people out there who are simply saying, okay, fine, Leonard, Shannon, this is all well and interesting, but if I’m not incredibly or completely stupid, I’m simply going to use another name.

Shannon Blalock: Right. Yeah, a lot of times they will do that, but we can gain information from previous investigations, look on friends of friends lists, and just look for photographs that look familiar. I know a lot of folks who don’t sign up for social network sites under their actual name. They sign up under their same name, like Happy, or Bull, or

Len Sipes: Cool Breeze. How many guys that I know back in the ’70s, it was all Cool Breeze, the ’70s and ’80s. Yeah.

Shannon Blalock: Cool Breeze? Yeah, the interesting thing about all these social networking sites is that you can search not only by first and last name, but you can search by screen name or email address. You can even browse by location and so, if you know that your offender is 32 years old, 6’1″, and is a white guy who smokes, then you can narrow down the search pretty close on places like MySpace.

Len Sipes: And my guess is that within the alias file that we all keep within various parole and probation law enforcement agencies, my guess is that people are creatures of habit; they’re going to go back and use one of the previous aliases that they’ve given themselves throughout the years.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. Yeah.

Len Sipes: So, if somebody, if Cool Breeze is out there and I know there are 10,000 Cool Breezes, but at least were back in the ’70s and ’80s, I mean, ordinarily you can take a look at a person’s rap sheet, you can take a look at a person’s parole and probation record and there are maybe five, six, or seven different aliases in their and those aliases can lead you to that individual.

Shannon Blalock: Yeah. And not only that, but I’ve found that a lot of times our offenders will tattoo their various aliases or nicknames onto their body somewhere, so just take a look at prison records or previous investigation reports and see what names they’ve got tattooed on their body.

Len Sipes: Now, all of that bring ups this question, I suppose: At what point do we simply say, well, wait a minute, we can’t do both. The average parole and probation agent in this country carries very large caseloads. Now, here it’s because we’re a federal agency, we’re, thank the Lord, that we have the money to keep caseloads, all of our caseloads are 15 to 1 less. They are specialize caseloads, can go as low as 20 to 1. Now, but still, even if you’ve got a great caseload or even if you have 150 offenders, taking on the Internet presence, doing that is complicated enough and time-consuming enough to the point where one almost has got to take prominence over the other.

Shannon Blalock: Yeah. And in Kentucky, what we have done, is I supervised a caseload for about three years and then after a meeting of statewide probation and parole supervisors and wardens, whenever I demonstrated what all could be accomplished on the Web, they created a specialized position for me to be able to do this for probation and parole under the Department of Corrections. And so this is what I do full-time, but other than that while I was supervising a caseload, I would pick it up here and there whenever I had a little bit of slack. But, of course, I was already pretty computer literate and savvy with social networking sites. What I would encourage folks to do is just sit down and play with it. It’s going to come quicker to you than you think if you’re not familiar with it already.

Len Sipes: Well, if it’s government, and again I feel bad in saying this because we provide a ton of training here, almost too much training it seems, but a lot of government agencies simply are not as fortunate as we are and they don’t have the money and I would imagine the overwhelming amount of people who are going to be learning this, it’s going to be through their own volition, through their own efforts.

Shannon Blalock: Yeah, that’s true. And then, of course, you also run into the roadblock of several government agencies.

Len Sipes: They won’t let you have access to social media sites. That’s right.

Shannon Blalock: Yeah, they’re not recognizing the value in that and particularly for folks who are supervising a specialized caseload of sex offenders. It’s absolutely amazing the amount of information that even our sex offenders will put on adult-type dating sites. I was looking at one one day and one of them used a booking photo from jail as his profile photo on an adult dating site.

Len Sipes: Okay. Well, that’s incredibly stupid, but

Shannon Blalock: Yes. [Laughs] But they will do that.

Len Sipes: Well, and the other part of it and the larger discussion of what I call hand-held computers, what other people call their iPhones or their BlackBerry’s or the Droid. It’s just a little too much to comprehend when it’s not your mom’s computer, it’s not the computer in your house, it’s not the computer in the library, it’s the fact that everybody out there is walking around with a computer strapped to themselves and so the sex offender says, well, George, let me borrow your hand-held computer so I can go onto one of the social media sites and see if I can track myself down a vulnerable young person. But how do you handle? That’s impossible. For most of us it’s just an explosion of opportunities which means an explosion of responsibilities that my guess is, my guess, the guess of most criminologists’ collective guess, is that we’re not prepared for that.

Shannon Blalock: No, we really are not. In terms of the training that often agencies receive is outdated or maybe just they’re just a step behind what offenders are able to accomplish, especially with gaining access to the Internet on their cell phones. I know in Kentucky we don’t allow our offenders to have cell phone plans that do put them on the Internet. Of course, there’s no way of guaranteeing that they’re not going over to a neighbor’s computer or anywhere else or borrowing a phone from somebody on the street and trying to acquire new victims that way.

Len Sipes: Yeah. Because I can see them doing that with sex offenders, but if you did that with regular people on supervision, they’re going to complain immediately is what you’re doing is blocking them from legitimate job opportunities.

Shannon Blalock: That’s true. Yeah.

Len Sipes: And so it becomes a very sticky, wicked that we all collectively in parole and probation throughout the country and, for that matter, throughout the world, are going to have to examining and stumbling with, but Shannon Blalock is coming to our agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and you’re going to provide our folks with all of the training that you have so we can pretty much take it from there and to guide us and I’m really looking forward to you coming up, Shannon.

Shannon Blalock: I am as well. Thank you.

Len Sipes: Our guest today has been Shannon Blalock. She is a parole and probation officer with the Kentucky Department of Corrections, Division of Parole and Probation, parole and probation officer, parole and probation intelligence and fugitive apprehension and now a self-taught Internet expert. Her email address is shannon.blalock@ky.gov. But after that initial introduction by email, you’re going to have to send a letter, a regular snail mail letter, on letterhead with the contact of your supervisor so we can do the proper checks and, if so, if you can prove who you are, Shannon will include a copy of her manual. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. Once again, we are extremely of all of your letters, comments, phone calls, email comments, and we’re up to, thanks to you, 230,000 requests on a monthly basis for the television, radio, blog and transcript portion at media.csosa.gov. We really appreciate you being with us today and please have yourself a pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

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10 Million Identity Thefts a Year-NOVA-DC Public Safety-162,000 Requests a Month

Welcome to DC Public Safety-radio and television shows on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/07/10-million-identity-thefts-a-year-nova-dc-public-safety-162000-requests-a-month/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington, D.C., this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s program will deal with identity theft. It is something that seems to be sweeping the country. Every time you turn around, there are additional articles that say that identity theft is growing throughout the country. Back at our microphones, Will Marling, Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Their website address www.trynova.org, and also, on our microphones today is Robert Wayne Ivey. Robert is resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He works out of the Brevard Country Field Office. He is an expert in the investigation of ID theft crimes. Wayne has also been the victim of ID theft and hence has a unique perspective on this kind of victimization. So, we should have a good half hour talking about identification theft.

Ladies and gentlemen, the usual commercial, we want to thank all of you for all of your cards, letters, phone calls and how you get my number, I don’t know, but I don’t give it out, but you seem to be doing an effective enough job getting in touch with me via email. We are now up to 162,000 requests for July of 2009 and July is not over. It’s a record month for us, and we really appreciate the fact that you’re listening and the fact that you’re watching and the fact that you’re reading the blog or the articles on our site. If you need to get in touch with me, it’s leonard.sipes@csosa.gov, or simply comment in the comment box on the D.C. Public Safety Media site. To Will Marling and to Wayne, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Will Marling: Thank you Leonard. Good to be with you.

Wayne Ivey: Thank you Leonard, it’s nice to be with you today.

Len Sipes: Well, gentleman, every time I turn around, I am looking at an article that tells me that identity theft is increasing by leaps and bounds. It is the fastest growing crime in America. But I note that there is no central source for identity theft. If you take a look at the uniformed crime reports, the two big national sources of crime information, The Uniform Crime reports and the FBI, and if you take a look at the National Crime Survey, identity theft is not a category that we measure. So, we’ll start off with Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Will, how do we know that this is growing?

Will Marling: The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) that has been tasked with some of the issues related to tracking this particular crime; and the evidence so far indicates that we’re looking at least 10 million victims a year. We’ve got an idea that that’s probably fairly low because of the nature of the ability to report, awareness issues, people even understanding certain aspects of the crime. So I’m pretty convinced that right there, we’ve got solid ground to recognize that this is a huge problem and it is growing.

Len Sipes: 10 million victims a year.

Will Marling: That’s right.

Len Sipes: Who puts out that figure?

Will Marling: The Federal Trade Commission is tasked with this particular issue. There was a Presidential Commission that was established not too many years ago and so the Federal Trade Commission tracks this and you report. If you’re a victim of identity theft, you’re asked to report that to the Federal Trade Commission. They don’t have an enforcement issue, as such, but they do have a statistical reporting and tracking. The Federal Trade Commission offers information about identity theft and protection and, of course, dealing with the victimization.

Len Sipes: Will Marling, again, being the Executive Director with the National Organization for Victim Assistance, ladies and gentleman, if you’re not aware of NOVA, they’ve been around for about 30 years or so, been advocating for victims’ rights that entire time and, Will, ordinarily, the issue is burglary, robbery, rape, a lot of violent crimes. NOVA has been traditionally active, and we did a radio show, ladies and gentlemen, with Will Marling about two months ago. And we’re doing a series of six radio programs with the National Organization for Victim Assistance. How did NOVA get involved in identity theft?

Will Marling: Well, we were getting some calls on our toll free line (1-800-TRY-NOVA). It’s a victim assistance line and, of course, we do get a lot of violent crime victims that need assistance and support and referrals; but we were getting these identity theft victims and so we started asking some questions about what was going on there, what’s available to them, realized there wasn’t very much. And so we ended up starting to build our own database in terms of our own thinking about this, understanding, getting some training, and we ended up partnering with a company called Life Lock, to understand this issue from both the protection side and also the victim assistance side. And that really propelled us in a very short order and just in even in the past year or so or less, really, to looking at confronting this issue and putting resources toward helping people victimized by identity theft.

Len Sipes: Robert Wayne Ivey, again, is resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement working at Brevard County. You were the victim of an ID theft, correct Wayne?

Wayne Ivey: That’s exactly right, Leonard. I ran the state-wide Identity Theft Task Force for our agency for a number of years and actually ended up becoming a victim, myself, which when I’m speaking to different groups, civic groups and everything, I always point out to them, I theoretically know what steps to put in place to protect against becoming a victim, and it still happened to me. So, it just goes to demonstrate that anyone can become a victim of this crime that no one is completely insulated from it.

Len Sipes: Can you give me a little detail about what happened without getting too personal?

Wayne Ivey: I can give you all the exact detail on it. I stopped to buy a golf bag. I’m a horrible golfer, I thought if I had nicer looking golf bag, it might help my golf game, which it didn’t. I just want to point that out but,

Len Sipes: I use that same philosophy, by the way, with tennis.

Wayne Ivey: I used my ATM MasterCard to make the purchase on a Friday and on Monday my bank account was wiped out. It was gone and they had taken all the money out. When I ended up solving it, it was the 19-year-old kid that waited on me at the gold shop and he’d done about $25,000 in credit card fraud with other people’s information and using their identities and victimizing them.

Len Sipes: How do you prevent that sort of thing from happening, Wayne? I mean, we all turn our credit card information directly over the telephone to people almost everyday. How do you prevent that sort of thing from happening?

Wayne Ivey: Well there’s some things, as I said, there is no way to absolutely guarantee you’re not going to become the victim of this type of crime. There are certain measures that you can take that are proactive. For example, fraud alerts and doing different things; shredding your documents, not putting your mail in the outgoing mail carrier, or the mailbox and that list goes on and on. So there are certain things you can do that are proactive. But some things you have to be reactive in. What’s real important in identity theft investigations is,I think the last time I looked; the national average was 12.7 months, the average for someone to realize they’ve been the victim of identity theft. That’s an enormous amount of time to be victimized and not know it.

Len Sipes: Why so long, Wayne?

Wayne Ivey: A lot of it is, we’re not reactive. We’re not doing the things that we can do. We’re not looking at our credit reports. We’re not monitoring our online transactions. We’re not taking advantage of real time credit histories, and staying up on top of our checking accounts and those things. So, it has a tendency to lengthen the time that we’re unrecognized as victims. And if we become reactive and recognize its happened right away, it gives law enforcement a better chance to make an arrest or actually identify the perpetrator. And it also limits the extent of damage that can be done to you as a victim.

Len Sipes: Wayne, I’m going to be asking you this at the end of the show but I want to get in to some of it right now. You’ve just ran through a lot of very important things. You’re supposed to take a good look at your accounts. When your credit accounts come in, you’re supposed to immediately recognize that somebody buying those new golf clubs, by the way, in Nebraska can’t possibly be you.

Wayne Ivey: Exactly. So many people don’t recognize that. Maybe that’s because the volume of expenditures on their credit card invoice is typical. They do a lot of expenditures so they don’t take the time to look at it and see that something’s happened. Other examples may be it’s a dormant credit card that they never look at the bill on because they don’t ever use it, and somebody else is actually using it and taking advantage of that. So there’s many different purposes why someone may not recognize it has happened. Other people, and we’ve become a technology society, if you will, and other people have gone away from getting an actual hard copy or a paper copy of their bill delivered to them and they’ve gone to getting it online. What they see is they see their bill, they don’t review their statements and everything else, and so they’re just paying that bill. Again, there’s a number of reasons. When we talk about identity theft and credit card fraud all put together, it’s amazing the advances that have happened. The technology and the availability of our information are just unintentionally driving this crime to epidemic proportions.

Len Sipes: You’ve mentioned two other things; you mentioned shredding your documents before throwing them out in the trash and you’ve mentioned, in terms of what? Getting an application for a credit card and you just toss it in the trash?

Wayne Ivey: We see people that actually have shredders in their house. As one person said, they have a shredder that would shred the carpet in the house but they never use it to shred documents. Sometimes we think we’re outsmarting the thief by ripping it up in little pieces. They’ll get it out of your garbage. They’ll do dumpster diving and piece it back together like a puzzle. Credit applications, we get them, we throw them in the garbage. They’re taking advantage of it. Sometimes, we don’t even get them. They’re mailed to us and the thieves are stealing it out of our mailbox before we ever get our hands on it.

Len Sipes: At the end of the program, think about this, I’m going to be asking you for the top five things that people can do. One of the things that people ask me in terms of the show is at the beginning of the show, is summarize what we’re going to cover for the entire show. There is no pre-planning for these radio shows that we do or the television shows that we do, by the way. We just crank up the recorder and crank up the television cameras and let it fly and so there is no way that I can summarize it at the beginning. A lot of people are asking me to do that but we will summarize what the principal issues are at the end.

Where do we go? What does the average person get to do? What are the best steps the person can take to prevent identity theft? It just strikes me that with all of the credit card information that I give out to strangers on 1-800 lines, I think, when I’m dealing with Amazon and I’m dealing with an affiliate, I’m assuming that Amazon has done something to make sure that the folks and their affiliates take care of my personal information.

Wayne Ivey: One thing that everyone has to keep in mind, because we are constantly asked, is it okay to do transactions online? Is it okay to do things over the computer? The answer to that is, regardless of if you walk into a building to pay your bill, or into a building to do a transaction, regardless of what you’re doing, somewhere a human being is processing your information and, if that human being is a responsible individual, an integral individual that is going to protect your information, then it doesn’t matter if its online or not. Conversely, if they’re a person that’s going to be wiling to turn around and use your information, or sell it to someone that’s going to use it illegitimately, then you’re in trouble. Again, it’s the same, whether they get your information because they’re receiving it on the other end of a computer transaction or if they get it because you’ve walked in the door and handed it to them. You’re still equally as vulnerable.

Len Sipes: What do we do? What do we as citizens do? Because all the things that you just described in terms of not taking a good look at your statements, and I do rip up the credit card applications before putting them on the trashcan. If they were so desperate to go in my trashcan and piece it back together then God bless them, because I do a good job of ripping those things up. But really, life is busy and you have kids and you have a wife and you have a job and have responsibilities and its run, run, run. I can see, you’re telling me that 12 months, the average time out there is 12 months between the identity theft and by the time the person notices it. I can understand why that happens and how it happens and why it happens.

Wayne Ivey: I think one thing that is just amazing is, we hear and it’s factually based, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country. What we need everyone to do; consumers, and everyone to do is to realize that identity theft is not a new crime. I know Will can touch on this as well as I can because we talked about it before; but when you look at identity theft, you can trace identity theft activity back to the Book of Genesis with the story of Esau and Jacob where one brother uses the other brother’s name to get the first born rights. You can find it in the play Othello where Iago talks about, “He who filches my good name, robs me of my riches and indeed makes me poor.” It’s been around forever. What is happening is, it has evolved and technology and the availability of our information has helped it to evolve. Will, will tell you the same thing. We see victims from every walk of life, every economic, social level that become victims of identity theft. It’s really a difficult crime to investigate because generally it’s multi-jurisdictional and it’s a difficult crime to prevent because our information is exposed at so many different levels.

Len Sipes: I was responding on my internet account where, I won’t give the name of the organization, and I belong to this particular entity and the entity was telling me they needed updated information. And it was so real. They were asking me for my social security number, my credit card number because they already had my credit card number. This is an organization I already gave this information to but when it got down to the social security number, I said, “Why are they asking me for my social security number?” And then it struck me, this is a fraud. Now here I am 40 years in the criminal justice system, four college degrees, you would think that I would be smart enough to recognize that, and I was just one little millisecond from pressing the button and hitting send. So it fools us all and from what I understand, from just reading stuff about identity thefts that ,in many cases, these are so sophisticated that the average person doesn’t recognize that it’s a fraud regardless as to how savvy they are. Correct?

Wayne Ivey: Absolutely, and Will, I don’t know if you want to respond to that, but absolutely, the levels of sophistication have just climbed and climbed. We’ve gone from a crime that was typically committed in person to a crime that is now committed at global levels. Someone in another country is targeting you and with the same type of scams that you’re just talking about, where something pops up on your computer and it appears legitimate. It will have the company logo, an icon of whatever company they’re impersonating and, when it pops up on that screen, your first inclination is to fill it out because it may say that your credit card is going to be shut down. It may say that your bank account is at risk and you’re first thought is to comply with it so that you can get deeper into it and figure exactly what’s going on.

Len Sipes: Okay, stay with me on this particular issue. I have to reintroduce both of you because we’re halfway through the program. Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, www.trynova.org, 1-800-TRY-NOVA. We’re talking about 10 million victims of identity theft a year, the estimate is. We’re also talking to Robert Wayne Ivey, resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

So the bottom line to me is this is that if this is happening and it strikes me also that the counterfeiters have completely given up on counterfeiting and now going into identity theft, because some of these things that pop up in your internet screen are so vivid that this is not something that law enforcement is going to be able to solve because a lot of these solicitations, as you’ve just said, Wayne, are coming from overseas. And in fact, one of the breakaway Soviet Republics, it originates there, it goes through a computer in Greece, it goes through a computer in the United States and it comes to you. So this strikes me as not a law enforcement initiative, this strikes me as an education initiative that, unless we as citizens, take the proper precautions, there is very little that law enforcement can do to intervene. Am I right or wrong?

Will Marling: There is a number of prongs. This is huge monster, naturally, and with many monsters, you need more than one weapon. And so we looked at it from a law enforcement standpoint and certainly, there are folks doing this locally. Now globally, yeah, the challenge is trying to tract somebody down in another country is difficult, but from the standpoint of what we do here, even, there are some legislative commitments that I think need to be made regarding data breach, a national data breach standard that is being worked on, I know. As well as the awareness piece. And this is why, Leonard, it’s so good to discuss this issue because, as Wayne describes, it can happen to anybody. I want to mention two things, one is that it could truly happen to anybody because anybody’s information makes it possible to be abused, to be misused. The fact is you might say, “Well I have bad credit. Nobody cares about mine.” They don’t care about your credit, they care about the fact that you have a social security number and that social security number can be exploited in many ways.

Wayne Ivey: That’s exactly right.

Will Marling: That’s just to recognize anybody is possible. My kids, I have my kids on a service. I pay a small amount each month for a monitoring service for my children because even as young as they are, they don’t have a work record, but if somebody gets a hold of their social security number, they could actually use it. If I understand correctly from law enforcement, the average social security number that’s abused is abused about 30 times. And many times, it’s people who don’t have social security numbers who are using it for illegal work purposes and this kind of thing. The other piece I want to mention from a victim assistance standpoint is simply that the emotional impact of this is significant. For your law enforcement listeners, all I can say is, try to be sympathetic. You look at it as a property crime, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an identity crime. It’s a slam against who you are. Your personal integrity is in view, it’s challenged. And emotionally, you feel like somebody has gotten into your very,they’ve gotten into your drawers and they’re pulling out your intimate garments. I mean that’s the reality. That’s how people emotionally feel about it.

So, we’re trying to help people recognize, especially those who work with these kinds of victims, that the emotional impact many times looks and feels, in many ways, like violent crime victimization. The outcomes are different in some ways but emotionally, impact is very deep.

Len Sipes: The vast majority of property crimes are not reported to law enforcement, we know that from the National Crime Survey. My guess is that the vast majority of these crimes are not reported to law enforcement. If I’m called in to an identity theft crime, and I’m pretty smart guy, and I’m pretty technologically savvy in terms of the average person, I wouldn’t know the first thing to do about investigating this sort of a crime. Wayne?

Wayne Ivey: Before I respond to that one, I just want to follow up on something Will said. From the law enforcement perspective, we have really started to trend that way, but we’ve got to do a better job at helping our victims of this because as Will said, their lives are turned upside down. It’s no longer that this crime just attacks your credit, as it certainly does, but this crime is a attacking your credit, your good name, your abilities to get top secret security clearances, your abilities to get mortgages on a home, on and on. Even to get employment, which we all know is tough in today’s time, you finally get in for that job and then you find out that you’re not getting the job because you’ve got an arrest record or you’ve got a bad credit history, any number of things that can knock you out, even down to a bad driving history that will disqualify people. It is attacking us at all different realms.

And law enforcement, historically, has given victims the runaround. Well it didn’t happen in my area, even though you live in my area, you have to call where it happened at and so forth. I’ll tell you that’s really frustrating for the victim. I hear it every day from them when they’re calling and saying, “I’m getting the runaround. I’m frustrated.” And I’ve actually had one victim that was unfortunately, in her life, she was the victim of a violent crime, and then was later the victim of identity theft. She actually has shared with me that, given the two, the violent crime happened, occurred and was over with and she was able to come to grips with it. The identity theft keeps haunting her over and over again.

Len Sipes: And just goes on and on and on and on. And I know from my days as a law enforcement officer, as to how violated the people feel that somebody just was in their garage stealing items out of their garage. It’s a great sense of fear and a great sense of apprehension. I would imagine that it has to be ten times that in terms of somebody coming in and stealing your identity.

Will Marling: There’s no face to that person either. At least, you figure somebody had to breach your own home barrier someway, they broke the lock. But here, you’ve got somebody out there who is after you and you don’t have a clue, probably, who they are and how they got to you.

Len Sipes: Or what continent that they’re on.

Will Marling: Yeah, exactly.

Len Sipes: This may end up being two shows, gentleman, because I think we’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg with this. Where do people go for information? Will, on your website, do you have information on identity theft?

Will Marling: Ironically, because we’re so new into this, we want build a good resource there. So we actually don’t have a lot.

Len Sipes: Okay, so you’re in the process of building it. Where do people go?

Will Marling: The one thing I do want to tell you, at the same time, we were asking people, specifically victims to call us because we are able to offer free resources and free professional remediation resources to help them deal with it.

Len Sipes: 1-800-TRY-NOVA.

Will Marling: That’s right. So we actually have things we can do for them and with them and not just referral. We have a process for assigning them a code so that they get into free services regarding identity theft remediation. So that’s the main thing and that’s the starting point, I’ll stop there for now.

Len Sipes: At 24 minutes and 31 seconds now, I’ve just decided we need to make this two shows. So we need to bring Wayne back on our air. We don’t have enough time to really give this its full due because the more I’m hearing about this, I guess the more frightened I’m becoming in terms of where do people go to get information on identity theft and what should people do? Wayne, is it a matter of simply not responding to anything on the internet, that no bank, no financial institution is going to send you something via the internet that asks you for personal information?

Wayne Ivey: It’s exactly right because here’s the reality of it, whether it’s your bank or your credit card company, which is generally the two types of phishing schemes we see. And of course that phishing with a “˜P’ – P-H-I-S-H-I-N-G, not like fishing in the lake, but the reality of it is the two concepts are very similar because what happens is the criminals send out on your computer the phishing blast. And they know that there is plenty of fish in that lake that they’re phishing in. And some of them are going to bite. Just like on a regular fishing expedition that’s what we do. We throw our hook in the water and we hope that we get a bite from the many fish that are in the water. The reality of it is, when you get that popup on your computer and it says, “Please enter your account number and your security code so that we can discuss with you a possible compromise,” or whatever the particular scheme is. Ask yourself this, “Why would that bank or credit card company have to ask you for information that you know they already have?” They already have your credit account number or your bank number and they certainly already have your security code. Why would they need to ask you for that?

Len Sipes: Okay, so better yet, do not respond to anything on the internet, period, that ask you for any personal information, stop.

Wayne Ivey: Exactly, and if you think that there is something to the thing that has popped up, contact your bank or your credit card company, whichever the scheme is going, at a number you know to be from them, not the number that’s provided in that popup or on that computer message, at a number you know you’ve contacted them at before. And I can guarantee that you’re going to find out that you’re about to fall victim to a scam.

Len Sipes: That’s a beautiful point because they do, in some cases, will provide an 800 number and a human being will pick up that phone.

Wayne Ivey: That’s right.

Len Sipes: And that guy that picks up that phone, that woman, could be part of the fraud. So you better contact your bank directly.

Wayne Ivey: Contact your bank or your credit card company at numbers that you already know, or through avenues that you’ve already known, or go in there in person if that permits. The same thing applies with the phishing scams that come on the telephone. You’ll answer your phone and you get a recording, perhaps, or sometimes it’s a human that says, “Your card has possibly been compromised. Please enter your credit card number so that we can discuss with you what’s occurred.” Why would they need you to do that? They’re the one that motivated the call to you. Why don’t they discuss with you and ask you for some security questions? The answer is, they don’t have the answers to those questions and they’re asking you to give it to them.

Len Sipes: Do people do this through the mail?

Wayne Ivey: We see it through the mail. Some of the newer ones are even on Craigslist. We’re seeing things that have been compromised on Craigslist. Maybe its an apartments that’s for rent and somebody has copied that and pasted into their own Craigslist article and now they’re offering this apartment for rent and when you send them the retainer fee or the down payment on it, they cash it, they tell you that you can move in and you show up and so do 20 other people that are moving in to the same place.

Len Sipes: I saw that on the FBI scam alert just two days ago. That is amazing to me. Wayne, I hope to get you back. I really do, because we just have about a minute and a half left of the program and I’ve got to do the usual commercials. So I’d love to have you back. A half an hour simply just does not do this issue justice. So let’s do this soon. Will, let’s not do the usual rotation of two months apiece for your shows. Let’s do this as soon as we possibly can as a follow up. I think this is something that is extraordinarily important to bring to the public’s attention and to our friends in law enforcement. Ladies and gentlemen this is D.C. Pubic Safety our guest today have been Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, www.trynova.org, 1-800-TRY-NOVA. 10 million victims a year of identity theft. Also with us is Robert Wayne Ivey, he’s the resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Again, ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, we are just going like gangbusters 162,000 requests for the month of July 2009 and July is not even over. We have a record month. We appreciate all the contacts, all of the information you’re giving us. You can reach me directly at lenoard.sopes@csosa.gov, or to follow me on Twitter which is Twitter/LenSipes and to other friends, and I really appreciate it, Will, its funny, if you do a program on the victims’ issues so many people do end up listening to it, and we’ve gotten a call from a variety of people, emails, and letters that they also want to do a show on victimization. We’re going to finish out our series with the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Our listeners tell us that they want a variety of programs. So we try not to do too much of one particular topic. We’ll finish out our series with the National Organization for Victim Assistance and then we will invite you to be on the radio show. With that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

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Identity Theft 2-10 Million Identity Thefts a Year-NOVA-DC Public Safety-177,000 Requests a Month

Welcome to DC Public Safety-radio and television shows on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/08/identity-theft-2-10-million-identity-thefts-a-year-nova-dc-public-safety-177000-requests-a-month/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

– Audio Begins –

Leonard Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington, D.C., this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s program will deal with identity theft. It is something that seems to be sweeping the country. Every time you turn around, there are additional articles that say that identity theft is growing throughout the country. Back at our microphones, Will Marling, Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Their website address is www.trynova.org, and also, on our microphones today is Robert Wayne Ivey. Robert is resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He works out of the Brevard Country Field Office. He is an expert in the investigation of ID theft crimes. Wayne has also been the victim of ID theft and hence has a unique perspective on this kind of victimization. So, we should have a good half hour talking about identification theft.

Ladies and gentlemen, the usual commercial, we want to thank all of you for all of your cards, letters, phone calls and how you get my number, I don’t know, but I don’t give it out, but you seem to be doing an effective enough job getting in touch with me via email. We are now up to 162,000 requests for July of 2009 and July is not over. It’s a record month for us, and we really appreciate the fact that you’re listening and the fact that you’re watching and the fact that you’re reading the blog or the articles on our site. If you need to get in touch with me, it’s leonard.sipes@csosa.gov, or simply comment in the comment box on the D.C. Public Safety Media site. To Will Marling and to Wayne, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Will Marling: Thank you Leonard. Good to be with you.

Wayne Ivey: Thank you Leonard, it’s nice to be with you today.

Leonard Sipes: Well, gentleman, every time I turn around, I am looking at an article that tells me that identity theft is increasing by leaps and bounds. It is the fastest growing crime in America. But I note that there is no central source for identity theft. If you take a look at the uniformed crime reports, the two big national sources of crime information, The Uniform Crime reports of the FBI, and if you take a look at the National Crime Survey, identity theft is not a category that we measure. So, we’ll start off with Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Will, how do we know that this is growing?

Will Marling: The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) that has been tasked with some of the issues related to tracking this particular crime; and the evidence so far indicates that we’re looking at least 10 million victims a year. We’ve got an idea that that’s probably fairly low because of the nature of the ability to report, awareness issues, people even understanding certain aspects of the crime. So I’m pretty convinced that right there, we’ve got solid ground to recognize that this is a huge problem and it is growing.

Leonard Sipes: 10 million victims a year.

Will Marling: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: Who puts out that figure?

Will Marling: The Federal Trade Commission is tasked with this particular issue. There was a Presidential Commission that was established not too many years ago and so the Federal Trade Commission tracks this and you report. If you’re a victim of identity theft, you’re asked to report that to the Federal Trade Commission. They don’t have an enforcement issue, as such, but they do have a statistical reporting and tracking. The Federal Trade Commission offers information about identity theft and protection and, of course, dealing with the victimization.

Leonard Sipes: Will Marling, again, being the Executive Director with the National Organization for Victim Assistance, ladies and gentleman, if you’re not aware of NOVA, they’ve been around for about 30 years or so, been advocating for victims’ rights that entire time and, Will, ordinarily, the issue is burglary, robbery, rape, a lot of violent crimes. NOVA has been traditionally active, and we did a radio show, ladies and gentlemen, with Will Marling about two months ago. And we’re doing a series of six radio programs with the National Organization for Victim Assistance. How did NOVA get involved in identity theft?

Will Marling: Well, we were getting some calls on our toll free line (1-800-TRY-NOVA). It’s a victim assistance line and, of course, we do get a lot of violent crime victims that need assistance and support and referrals; but we were getting these identity theft victims and so we started asking some questions about what was going on there, what’s available to them, realized there wasn’t very much. And so we ended up starting to build our own database in terms of our own thinking about this, understanding, getting some training, and we ended up partnering with a company called Life Lock, to understand this issue from both the protection side and also the victim assistance side. And that really propelled us in a very short order and just in even in the past year or so or less, really, to looking at confronting this issue and putting resources toward helping people victimized by identity theft.

Leonard Sipes: Robert Wayne Ivey, again, is resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement working at Brevard County. You were the victim of an ID theft, correct Wayne?

Wayne Ivey: That’s exactly right, Leonard. I ran the state-wide Identity Theft Task Force for our agency for a number of years and actually ended up becoming a victim, myself, which when I’m speaking to different groups, civic groups and everything, I always point out to them, I theoretically know what steps to put in place to protect against becoming a victim, and it still happened to me. So, it just goes to demonstrate that anyone can become a victim of this crime that no one is completely insulated from it.

Leonard Sipes: Can you give me a little detail about what happened without getting too personal?

Wayne Ivey: I can give you all the exact detail on it. I stopped to buy a golf bag. I’m a horrible golfer, I thought if I had nicer looking golf bag, it might help my golf game, which it didn’t. I just want to point that out but,

Leonard Sipes: I use that same philosophy, by the way, with tennis.

Wayne Ivey: I used my ATM MasterCard to make the purchase on a Friday and on Monday my bank account was wiped out. It was gone and they had taken all the money out. When I ended up solving it, it was the 19-year-old kid that waited on me at the gold shop and he’d done about $25,000 in credit card fraud with other people’s information and using their identities and victimizing them.

Leonard Sipes: How do you prevent that sort of thing from happening, Wayne? I mean, we all turn our credit card information directly over the telephone to people almost everyday. How do you prevent that sort of thing from happening?

Wayne Ivey: Well there’s some things, as I said, there is no way to absolutely guarantee you’re not going to become the victim of this type of crime. There are certain measures that you can take that are proactive. For example, fraud alerts and doing different things; shredding your documents, not putting your mail in the outgoing mail carrier, or the mailbox and that list goes on and on. So there are certain things you can do that are proactive. But some things you have to be reactive in. What’s real important in identity theft investigations is,I think the last time I looked; the national average was 12.7 months, the average for someone to realize they’ve been the victim of identity theft. That’s an enormous amount of time to be victimized and not know it.

Leonard Sipes: Why so long, Wayne?

Wayne Ivey: A lot of it is, we’re not reactive. We’re not doing the things that we can do. We’re not looking at our credit reports. We’re not monitoring our online transactions. We’re not taking advantage of real time credit histories, and staying up on top of our checking accounts and those things. So, it has a tendency to lengthen the time that we’re unrecognized as victims. And if we become reactive and recognize its happened right away, it gives law enforcement a better chance to make an arrest or actually identify the perpetrator. And it also limits the extent of damage that can be done to you as a victim.

Leonard Sipes: Wayne, I’m going to be asking you this at the end of the show but I want to get in to some of it right now. You’ve just ran through a lot of very important things. You’re supposed to take a good look at your accounts. When your credit accounts come in, you’re supposed to immediately recognize that somebody buying those new golf clubs, by the way, in Nebraska can’t possibly be you.

Wayne Ivey: Exactly. So many people don’t recognize that. Maybe that’s because the volume of expenditures on their credit card invoice is typical. They do a lot of expenditures so they don’t take the time to look at it and see that something’s happened. Other examples may be it’s a dormant credit card that they never look at the bill on because they don’t ever use it, and somebody else is actually using it and taking advantage of that. So there’s many different purposes why someone may not recognize it has happened. Other people, and we’ve become a technology society, if you will, and other people have gone away from getting an actual hard copy or a paper copy of their bill delivered to them and they’ve gone to getting it online. What they see is they see their bill, they don’t review their statements and everything else, and so they’re just paying that bill. Again, there’s a number of reasons. When we talk about identity theft and credit card fraud all put together, it’s amazing the advances that have happened. The technology and the availability of our information are just unintentionally driving this crime to epidemic proportions.

Leonard Sipes: You’ve mentioned two other things; you mentioned shredding your documents before throwing them out in the trash and you’ve mentioned, in terms of what? Getting an application for a credit card and you just toss it in the trash?

Wayne Ivey: We see people that actually have shredders in their house. As one person said, they have a shredder that would shred the carpet in the house but they never use it to shred documents. Sometimes we think we’re outsmarting the thief by ripping it up in little pieces. They’ll get it out of your garbage. They’ll do dumpster diving and piece it back together like a puzzle. Credit applications, we get them, we throw them in the garbage. They’re taking advantage of it. Sometimes, we don’t even get them. They’re mailed to us and the thieves are stealing it out of our mailbox before we ever get our hands on it.

Leonard Sipes: At the end of the program, think about this, I’m going to be asking you for the top five things that people can do. One of the things that people ask me in terms of the show is at the beginning of the show, is summarize what we’re going to cover for the entire show. There is no pre-planning for these radio shows that we do or the television shows that we do, by the way. We just crank up the recorder and crank up the television cameras and let it fly and so there is no way that I can summarize it at the beginning. A lot of people are asking me to do that but we will summarize what the principal issues are at the end.

Where do we go? What does the average person get to do? What are the best steps the person can take to prevent identity theft? It just strikes me that with all of the credit card information that I give out to strangers on 1-800 lines, I think, when I’m dealing with Amazon and I’m dealing with an affiliate, I’m assuming that Amazon has done something to make sure that the folks and their affiliates take care of my personal information.

Wayne Ivey: One thing that everyone has to keep in mind, because we are constantly asked, is it okay to do transactions online? Is it okay to do things over the computer? The answer to that is, regardless of if you walk into a building to pay your bill, or into a building to do a transaction, regardless of what you’re doing, somewhere a human being is processing your information and, if that human being is a responsible individual, an integral individual that is going to protect your information, then it doesn’t matter if its online or not. Conversely, if they’re a person that’s going to be wiling to turn around and use your information, or sell it to someone that’s going to use it illegitimately, then you’re in trouble. Again, it’s the same, whether they get your information because they’re receiving it on the other end of a computer transaction or if they get it because you’ve walked in the door and handed it to them. You’re still equally as vulnerable.

Leonard Sipes: What do we do? What do we as citizens do? Because all the things that you just described in terms of not taking a good look at your statements, and I do rip up the credit card applications before putting them on the trashcan. If they were so desperate to go in my trashcan and piece it back together then God bless them, because I do a good job of ripping those things up. But really, life is busy and you have kids and you have a wife and you have a job and have responsibilities and its run, run, run. I can see, you’re telling me that 12 months, the average time out there is 12 months between the identity theft and by the time the person notices it. I can understand why that happens and how it happens and why it happens.

Wayne Ivey: I think one thing that is just amazing is, we hear and it’s factually based, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country. What we need everyone to do; consumers, and everyone to do is to realize that identity theft is not a new crime. I know Will can touch on this as well as I can because we talked about it before; but when you look at identity theft, you can trace identity theft activity back to the Book of Genesis with the story of Esau and Jacob where one brother uses the other brother’s name to get the first born rights. You can find it in the play Othello where Iago talks about, “He who filches my good name, robs me of my riches and indeed makes me poor.” It’s been around forever. What is happening is, it has evolved and technology and the availability of our information has helped it to evolve. Will, will tell you the same thing. We see victims from every walk of life, every economic, social level that become victims of identity theft. It’s really a difficult crime to investigate because generally it’s multi-jurisdictional and it’s a difficult crime to prevent because our information is exposed at so many different levels.

Leonard Sipes: I was responding on my internet account where, I won’t give the name of the organization, and I belong to this particular entity and the entity was telling me they needed updated information. And it was so real. They were asking me for my social security number, my credit card number because they already had my credit card number. This is an organization I already gave this information to but when it got down to the social security number, I said, “Why are they asking me for my social security number?” And then it struck me, this is a fraud. Now here I am 40 years in the criminal justice system, four college degrees, you would think that I would be smart enough to recognize that, and I was just one little millisecond from pressing the button and hitting send. So it fools us all and from what I understand, from just reading stuff about identity thefts that ,in many cases, these are so sophisticated that the average person doesn’t recognize that it’s a fraud regardless as to how savvy they are. Correct?

Wayne Ivey: Absolutely, and Will, I don’t know if you want to respond to that, but absolutely, the levels of sophistication have just climbed and climbed. We’ve gone from a crime that was typically committed in person to a crime that is now committed at global levels. Someone in another country is targeting you and with the same type of scams that you’re just talking about, where something pops up on your computer and it appears legitimate. It will have the company logo, an icon of whatever company they’re impersonating and, when it pops up on that screen, your first inclination is to fill it out because it may say that your credit card is going to be shut down. It may say that your bank account is at risk and you’re first thought is to comply with it so that you can get deeper into it and figure exactly what’s going on.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, stay with me on this particular issue. I have to reintroduce both of you because we’re halfway through the program. Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, www.trynova.org, 1-800-TRY-NOVA. We’re talking about 10 million victims of identity theft a year, the estimate is. We’re also talking to Robert Wayne Ivey, resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

So the bottom line to me is this is that if this is happening and it strikes me also that the counterfeiters have completely given up on counterfeiting and now going into identity theft, because some of these things that pop up in your internet screen are so vivid that this is not something that law enforcement is going to be able to solve because a lot of these solicitations, as you’ve just said, Wayne, are coming from overseas. And in fact, one of the breakaway Soviet Republics, it originates there, it goes through a computer in Greece, it goes through a computer in the United States and it comes to you. So this strikes me as not a law enforcement initiative, this strikes me as an education initiative that, unless we as citizens, take the proper precautions, there is very little that law enforcement can do to intervene. Am I right or wrong?

Will Marling: There is a number of prongs. This is huge monster, naturally, and with many monsters, you need more than one weapon. And so we looked at it from a law enforcement standpoint and certainly, there are folks doing this locally. Now globally, yeah, the challenge is trying to tract somebody down in another country is difficult, but from the standpoint of what we do here, even, there are some legislative commitments that I think need to be made regarding data breach, a national data breach standard that is being worked on, I know. As well as the awareness piece. And this is why, Leonard, it’s so good to discuss this issue because, as Wayne describes, it can happen to anybody. I want to mention two things, one is that it could truly happen to anybody because anybody’s information makes it possible to be abused, to be misused. The fact is you might say, “Well I have bad credit. Nobody cares about mine.” They don’t care about your credit, they care about the fact that you have a social security number and that social security number can be exploited in many ways.

Wayne Ivey: That’s exactly right.

Will Marling: That’s just to recognize anybody is possible. My kids, I have my kids on a service. I pay a small amount each month for a monitoring service for my children because even as young as they are, they don’t have a work record, but if somebody gets a hold of their social security number, they could actually use it. If I understand correctly from law enforcement, the average social security number that’s abused is abused about 30 times. And many times, it’s people who don’t have social security numbers who are using it for illegal work purposes and this kind of thing. The other piece I want to mention from a victim assistance standpoint is simply that the emotional impact of this is significant. For your law enforcement listeners, all I can say is, try to be sympathetic. You look at it as a property crime, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an identity crime. It’s a slam against who you are. Your personal integrity is in view, it’s challenged. And emotionally, you feel like somebody has gotten into your very,they’ve gotten into your drawers and they’re pulling out your intimate garments. I mean that’s the reality. That’s how people emotionally feel about it.

So, we’re trying to help people recognize, especially those who work with these kinds of victims, that the emotional impact many times looks and feels, in many ways, like violent crime victimization. The outcomes are different in some ways but emotionally, impact is very deep.

Leonard Sipes: The vast majority of property crimes are not reported to law enforcement, we know that from the National Crime Survey. My guess is that the vast majority of these crimes are not reported to law enforcement. If I’m called in to an identity theft crime, and I’m pretty smart guy, and I’m pretty technologically savvy in terms of the average person, I wouldn’t know the first thing to do about investigating this sort of a crime. Wayne?

Wayne Ivey: Before I respond to that one, I just want to follow up on something Will said. From the law enforcement perspective, we have really started to trend that way, but we’ve got to do a better job at helping our victims of this because as Will said, their lives are turned upside down. It’s no longer that this crime just attacks your credit, as it certainly does, but this crime is a attacking your credit, your good name, your abilities to get top secret security clearances, your abilities to get mortgages on a home, on and on. Even to get employment, which we all know is tough in today’s time, you finally get in for that job and then you find out that you’re not getting the job because you’ve got an arrest record or you’ve got a bad credit history, any number of things that can knock you out, even down to a bad driving history that will disqualify people. It is attacking us at all different realms.

And law enforcement, historically, has given victims the runaround. Well it didn’t happen in my area, even though you live in my area, you have to call where it happened at and so forth. I’ll tell you that’s really frustrating for the victim. I hear it every day from them when they’re calling and saying, “I’m getting the runaround. I’m frustrated.” And I’ve actually had one victim that was unfortunately, in her life, she was the victim of a violent crime, and then was later the victim of identity theft. She actually has shared with me that, given the two, the violent crime happened, occurred and was over with and she was able to come to grips with it. The identity theft keeps haunting her over and over again.

Leonard Sipes: And just goes on and on and on and on. And I know from my days as a law enforcement officer, as to how violated the people feel that somebody just was in their garage stealing items out of their garage. It’s a great sense of fear and a great sense of apprehension. I would imagine that it has to be ten times that in terms of somebody coming in and stealing your identity.

Will Marling: There’s no face to that person either. At least, you figure somebody had to breach your own home barrier someway, they broke the lock. But here, you’ve got somebody out there who is after you and you don’t have a clue, probably, who they are and how they got to you.

Leonard Sipes: Or what continent that they’re on.

Will Marling: Yeah, exactly.

Leonard Sipes: This may end up being two shows, gentleman, because I think we’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg with this. Where do people go for information? Will, on your website, do you have information on identity theft?

Will Marling: Ironically, because we’re so new into this, we want build a good resource there. So we actually don’t have a lot.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so you’re in the process of building it. Where do people go?

Will Marling: The one thing I do want to tell you, at the same time, we were asking people, specifically victims to call us because we are able to offer free resources and free professional remediation resources to help them deal with it.

Leonard Sipes: 1-800-TRY-NOVA.

Will Marling: That’s right. So we actually have things we can do for them and with them and not just referral. We have a process for assigning them a code so that they get into free services regarding identity theft remediation. So that’s the main thing and that’s the starting point, I’ll stop there for now.

Leonard Sipes: At 24 minutes and 31 seconds now, I’ve just decided we need to make this two shows. So we need to bring Wayne back on our air. We don’t have enough time to really give this its full due because the more I’m hearing about this, I guess the more frightened I’m becoming in terms of where do people go to get information on identity theft and what should people do? Wayne, is it a matter of simply not responding to anything on the internet, that no bank, no financial institution is going to send you something via the internet that asks you for personal information?

Wayne Ivey: It’s exactly right because here’s the reality of it, whether it’s your bank or your credit card company, which is generally the two types of phishing schemes we see. And of course that phishing with a “˜P’ – P-H-I-S-H-I-N-G, not like fishing in the lake, but the reality of it is the two concepts are very similar because what happens is the criminals send out on your computer the phishing blast. And they know that there is plenty of fish in that lake that they’re phishing in. And some of them are going to bite. Just like on a regular fishing expedition that’s what we do. We throw our hook in the water and we hope that we get a bite from the many fish that are in the water. The reality of it is, when you get that popup on your computer and it says, “Please enter your account number and your security code so that we can discuss with you a possible compromise,” or whatever the particular scheme is. Ask yourself this, “Why would that bank or credit card company have to ask you for information that you know they already have?” They already have your credit account number or your bank number and they certainly already have your security code. Why would they need to ask you for that?

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so better yet, do not respond to anything on the internet, period, that ask you for any personal information, stop.

Wayne Ivey: Exactly, and if you think that there is something to the thing that has popped up, contact your bank or your credit card company, whichever the scheme is going, at a number you know to be from them, not the number that’s provided in that popup or on that computer message, at a number you know you’ve contacted them at before. And I can guarantee that you’re going to find out that you’re about to fall victim to a scam.

Leonard Sipes: That’s a beautiful point because they do, in some cases, will provide an 800 number and a human being will pick up that phone.

Wayne Ivey: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: And that guy that picks up that phone, that woman, could be part of the fraud. So you better contact your bank directly.

Wayne Ivey: Contact your bank or your credit card company at numbers that you already know, or through avenues that you’ve already known, or go in there in person if that permits. The same thing applies with the phishing scams that come on the telephone. You’ll answer your phone and you get a recording, perhaps, or sometimes it’s a human that says, “Your card has possibly been compromised. Please enter your credit card number so that we can discuss with you what’s occurred.” Why would they need you to do that? They’re the one that motivated the call to you. Why don’t they discuss with you and ask you for some security questions? The answer is, they don’t have the answers to those questions and they’re asking you to give it to them.

Leonard Sipes: Do people do this through the mail?

Wayne Ivey: We see it through the mail. Some of the newer ones are even on Craigslist. We’re seeing things that have been compromised on Craigslist. Maybe its an apartments that’s for rent and somebody has copied that and pasted into their own Craigslist article and now they’re offering this apartment for rent and when you send them the retainer fee or the down payment on it, they cash it, they tell you that you can move in and you show up and so do 20 other people that are moving in to the same place.

Leonard Sipes: I saw that on the FBI scam alert just two days ago. That is amazing to me. Wayne, I hope to get you back. I really do, because we just have about a minute and a half left of the program and I’ve got to do the usual commercials. So I’d love to have you back. A half an hour simply just does not do this issue justice. So let’s do this soon. Will, let’s not do the usual rotation of two months apiece for your shows. Let’s do this as soon as we possibly can as a follow up. I think this is something that is extraordinarily important to bring to the public’s attention and to our friends in law enforcement.

Ladies and gentlemen this is D.C. Pubic Safety our guest today have been Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, www.trynova.org, 1-800-TRY-NOVA. 10 million victims a year of identity theft. Also with us is Robert Wayne Ivey, he’s the resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Again, ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, we are just going like gangbusters 162,000 requests for the month of July 2009 and July is not even over. We have a record month. We appreciate all the contacts, all of the information you’re giving us. You can reach me directly at lenoard.sopes@csosa.gov, or to follow me on Twitter which is Twitter/LenSipes and to other friends, and I really appreciate it, Will, its funny, if you do a program on the victims’ issues so many people do end up listening to it, and we’ve gotten a call from a variety of people, emails, and letters that they also want to do a show on victimization.

We’re going to finish out our series with the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Our listeners tell us that they want a variety of programs. So we try not to do too much of one particular topic. We’ll finish out our series with the National Organization for Victim Assistance and then we will invite you to be on the radio show. With that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio Ends –

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