IRS E-Mail Notices – DON’T BE SCAMMED!

January 22, 2010

So, I’m driving down the road today and my Blackberry goes off.  I know I’m not supposed to, but I couldn’t resist.  I picked it up to check the email and there it was – a notice from the IRS that I was due a refund.  Yea!

Not so fast…  The IRS doesn’t do business via email.  Let me repeat…the IRS doesn’t do business via email.

Hum…must be a scam.

Here’s what I received:

Internal Revenue Service
United States
tax-refund@irs.gov

Dear Applicant:

Please note now you can get your tax refund, after the last annual calculation of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $314.79.
Please take few minutes to fill your form attached to this message.

The contents of this email and any attachments are confidential and as applicable, copyright in these is reserved to Internal Revenue Service.

Sincerely,
Internal Revenue Service
tax-refund@irs.gov

Of course attached was a form that I was to fill in – in order to claim my money.  Now, if I was dumb enough to fall for that, I would also find that my identity would have been compromised and I would have lost far more than my promised gain.

NOTE:  IRS NOTICES VIA EMAIL ARE SCAMS.  Do not fall for junk like this.

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Funeral Fraud – LA Women Charged in $1 Million Fake Funeral Scam – AMAZING!

April 13, 2009

I have heard of many things, but this one ranks high in creative approaches to scamming.  The R I P button likely stands for Resides In Prison cause that’s where these two will go if the charges alleged are proven.

According to the US Attorney’s office in LA – two women – allegedly participated in a scheme to cash life insurance policies for fictitious individuals and istock_000006314744xsmallstage  funerals to create the appearance that the individuals had died.

According to the indictment, Shilling, a phlebotomist, and Crump, an employee at a now-defunct Long Beach mortuary, defrauded multiple insurance companies over a three-year period by cashing life insurance policies for non-existent identities, whom they claimed had died. As part of the scheme, Shilling and Crump allegedly caused the preparation of bogus death certificates, purchased burial plots and staged phony funerals to lend credibility to the scheme. When staging the funerals, the women allegedly filled caskets with various materials to make it appear they contained actual corpses.

Shilling and Crump allegedly defrauded several lending companies that advance cash to cover funeral expenses in exchange for a portion of the decedent’s life insurance policy. Shilling, Crump and their accomplices allegedly filed false documents with the County of Los Angeles stating the remains of one man were cremated and scattered at sea, when in fact no corpse existed. The indictment further alleges that defendant Crump offered a medical doctor $50,000 to create records supporting the fake death certificate.

According to a report in Connectingdirectors.com:

The US Attorney stated said the “dead” were likely fictitious people, but said identities of real people may have been stolen.

In one funeral at a Long Beach mortuary, authorities alleged that the women loaded a casket with various items to simulate the weight of a corpse they called “Jim Davis.” They purchased a plot in a Compton graveyard, had a funeral and had the casket buried.

In addition to the life insurance claims, which included a $250,000 policy, prosecutors said the women secured payments from financing companies to pay for inflated funeral costs.  We talked with representatives from American Funeral Financial (one of our sponsors) to ask about precautions for such activity.

We (at American Funeral Financial) work hard to provide service to our customers – the many funeral homes and cemeteries across the country that rely on us for funeral funding.  This story is quite amazing and not remotely normal in the standard course of business.  We make sure that we know our customers and have a comfort level of their viability before we enter into any funding transactions.  The steps we deal with to make funeral funding decisions should prevent this type of fraud from happening.  Still this is quite amazing.

Shilling and Crump were charged with mail fraud and wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud insurance companies and lending companies out of more than $750,000.  Two other women, Lydia Eileen Pearce, 37, owner of a mortuary in Long Beach, and Barbara Lynn, 54, a notary from Los Angeles, previously pleaded guilty in the alleged scam, said Montero, and he believed that more arrests were likely.

If convicted, they could face 20 years in prison.

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME!


Antonio Stone – GUILTY! More Time in Prison for Identity Theft. Comments by Fraud Speaker Chuck Gallagher

September 19, 2008

There are some people who learn from there mistakes and others, it seems, can’t learn!  Apparently Antonio Stone is yet too young to get the concept that crime does not pay.

But, let’s spend a moment with a simple fraud lesson.  It takes three things to truly create an effective fraud:  (1) need; (2) opportunity and (3) rationalization.  Now of the three – OPPORTUNITY – is critical.  Without the big “O” it is not practical or possible to pull off the fraud.

Case in point – Antonio Stone in 2002 pled guilty to possession of counterfeit checks and received 50 months in federal prison. He served that time and was on supervised release.  It will soon be obvious that he didn’t get it – the message that every choice has a consequence didn’t sink in.  I guess almost four years in federal prison wasn’t enough for Antonio.

The ringleader in a counterfeit check and identity theft operation, Antonio Desmond Stone, 32, of Dallas, was sentenced today by U.S. Chief District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater, to a total of 105 months in federal prison.  Stone, was convicted at trial in June of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, multiple counts of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.  Stone was sentenced to 105 months in prison.

OUCH!

Well…how did this seasoned former inmate accomplish his new fraud.   Ah…it was the OPPORTUNITY that made it possible.

As the ringleader of the counterfeit check and identity theft operation, Stone recruited bank insiders to obtain confidential bank customer information and used this information to produce counterfeit checks, produce phony ID’s to pass the checks, and recruited others to pass the counterfeit checks.
Three of Stone’s co-defendants, Williana Sharee Johnson, Natasha Toinette McGruder and Meoshia Christine Guidry, pled guilty to bank fraud, and have been sentenced. Johnson was an employee of First Convenience Bank and provided customer account information through others to Stone.
As you read this you might assume that Stone and other co-defendants made off with massive amounts.  I honestly don’t know, but since Stone was ordered to pay restitution of $26,482 one might assume that he got all that time for very little money.
As a business ethics and fraud speaker (see my web site) I often speak to groups about how simple it is to get caught up in behavior that can ultimately have profound consequences.  Most white collar crimes start with a simple wrong that compounded can send one to prison.  In this case, it appears that Antonio Stone made a clear choice.
And – EVERY CHOICE DOES HAVE A CONSEQUENCE.

Identity Theft Alive and Well! Levander and Rita McLean of Garland Texas Convicted

September 19, 2008

There are times when I read of people who have been convicted and I wonder how good people got caught up in a crime and ended up with unfortunate consequences.  Often, as an ethics speaker, I have said that – Every Choice Has A Consequence.  That is a true statement.  And at times it is true that otherwise good people make bad choices and find out the hard way about the consequences that follow.  But in this case – well read for yourself.

According to the US Attorney’s office: Levander Carlton McLean, 66, and his wife, Rita Murphy McLean, 45, of Garland, Texas, were convicted by a federal jury following a three-day trial on conspiracy to unlawfully use identification documents.  They each face a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution. They are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Kinkeade on December 3, 2008.

The government presented evidence at trial that in July 2001, Levander and Rita Murphy McLean were able to convince their nephew, a Texas Department of Public Safety driver’s license technician, to make them a fraudulent Texas driver’s license and a fraudulent Texas identification card in the names of two innocent people living in North Carolina and South Carolina. The McLeans used these identification documents, as well as a fraudulent Michigan driver’s license that Rita McLean obtained in the name of an innocent Texas resident, to open several fraudulent bank accounts in Dallas, Michigan, and North Carolina.
Now I have to ask here…wonder what the nephew thought when dear old Aunt and Uncle were asking for the fake ID’s?  In order for a fraud to happen three things must be present: (1) need; (2) opportunity and (3) rationalization.  In this case the Nephew provided the opportunity.  Had the Nephew just said now – which is the logical answer, this couple could not have carried out this fraud. 
From 2002 through 2004, the McLeans deposited more than $200,000 in proceeds from more than 130 false federal income tax returns, which had been filed in the names of real taxpayers using stolen W-2s, into these fraudulent accounts. 
While bluntly put this is just dumb fraud pure and simple, there are many other circumstances where good people make bad choices and find out the hard way about consequences.  In this case, I would wager that they both will serve some time in federal prison.  Meanwhile, while I have no idea about the nephew…I would suspect that at a minimum he’s lost his job and perhaps is subject of an investigation for conspiracy.
For information about ethics and choices presentations, visit my web site and remember – Every Choice Does Have A Consequence.

Theft of Dead Mothers VA Benefits Earns Lyndell Simmons 5 Years in Prison!

May 17, 2008

And who says that every choice has no consequence? Bull! No matter what you do, the choices you make today will have a profound impact on you tomorrow and in the future.

A Lubbock man, Lyndell Simmons,age 46, who pled guilty in January to theft of government money or property, was sentenced to 60 months (five years) in prison and ordered to pay $21,529 restitution to the Department of Veterans Administration (VA).

According to documents filed in Court, Louise Simmons, Lyndell Simmons’ mother, was a beneficiary of VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Benefits. In March 2007, an investigation was initiated by the VA, Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigation Division, after a complaint alleged that Ms. Simmons had not returned a marital status questionnaire. An investigation revealed that Ms. Simmons died on November 10, 2004.

STOP…She died in 2004? Well, how in the world did a dead woman cash checks? That is the question that began Simmons undoing!

Further investigation revealed that from approximately December 1, 2004 to March 1, 2007, Lyndell Simmons cashed approximately 22 VA benefits checks made payable to his mother, forging endorsements on each check. He cashed the checks and used the money for his own personal use.

NOTICE: Often it is not the magnitude of the crime and causes the time. In this case it seems the judge considered in the sentence not only the amount stolen, but the form the crime took. Stealing from the government your dead mothers benefits is cold.

White Collar Crime speaker – Chuck Gallagher – signing off…


Identity Theft – How Did They Get My Credit Card Number? Bobby Noy Soulinthong Sentenced to Prison for “Skimming”

May 2, 2008

Almost a year ago I was at the annual convention for members of the National Speakers Association. As a professional speaker, I attempt to make that each year. This year held something special for me – something unexpected. Upon return home to Dallas, Texas I found that I had become a victim of identity theft.

How? How could it be that my debit card was being used in San Francisco to make purchases at a wig shop. I’ll admit that while my hair is receding, I don’t need a wig. Fortunately, I was able to stop the process before it got out of hand. But the question still remained – HOW?

I later found out I was a victim of “skimming”. So what’s that you might ask?

Well, a Texas, man, Bobby Noy Soulinthong, 26, who pled guilty to his role in a credit card “skimming” scheme, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Other defendants, charged in separate indictments but involved in the same scheme, have also pled guilty and have been sentenced. Dung Ba Nguyen, 28, of North Richland Hills, Texas, and Bryan Nanthathongthip, 24, of Dallas, were each sentenced earlier this year to 12 months in prison. All three defendants were ordered to pay restitution.

Nguyen admitted purchasing stolen credit card account information that had been “skimmed” from restaurant customers, and admitted having more than 100 credit card account numbers stored on his personal “thumb drive.” Soulinthong and Nanthathongthip admitted purchasing goods from GameStop and Target with counterfeit debit cards, which they knew had been electronically encoded with a stolen account number.

The account numbers were stolen by a method known as “skimming.” Individuals working at North Texas restaurants surreptitiously recorded account numbers and other account information from the magnetic strips on restaurant customers’ credit and debit cards with a small hand-held device known as a “skimmer.” After purchasing the stolen account information, Nguyen encoded it onto other credit cards. Soulinthong and Nanthathongthip used the re-encoded cards to purchase consumer goods that they could then re-sell. The restaurant customers whose credit card information had been stolen would receive the bills for those purchases.

According to credit.com – Skimming – Thieves use tiny hand-held credit card readers to collect the information on your credit card’s magnetic strip. Skimming is common in restaurants and stores where you turn over your credit card to pay. When a skimming device is full of hundreds of credit card numbers, these numbers can be sold or used to create fake credit cards. Skimming devices can also be placed over the normal card reader on an ATM to steal your data when you try to withdraw money.

As a white collar crime speaker, often I am asked questions about how to protect yourself against identity theft. Many of the methods used can be avoided, but “skimming” is tough to avoid. When you go to the restaurant, you give your card to pay your bill and, hence, are relying on the honesty of the restaurants employees. Should one of them have been Soulinthong you may have been a victim of identity theft.

If you’ve been a victim of identity theft and have any comments or helpful hints to avoid this dreaded form of white collar crime – FEEL FREE TO COMMENT.

White Collar Crime Speaker – Chuck Gallagher – signing off…


Car Repair and Identity Theft – Charles E. Perry, Jr. Pleads Guilty! Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Get Your Car Fixed…

April 16, 2008

As host of Wise Choices – The Great Advice Radio Show on CBS Radio – KRLD, I had a guest on the program talking about identity theft. Certainly, that’s a hot topic – especially when the methods of stealing and using identities has changed in the past ten years. Often, however, we don’t think of the obvious when it comes to how and where our ID’s can be stolen.

Christopher Bianez – member of the crime prevention unit of the Plano, Texas police department was my guest on the show and he outlined three things that help when thinking of identity theft: Deter, Detect and Defend.

In the case of Charles E. Perry, Jr. it would have been hard to use Christopher’s first suggestion as Perry used the trust people placed in him for the simple task of auto repair to steal their identities. Other than paying with cash (which few people do these days and I don’t blame them), when Perry’s customers paid – with their credit cards – Perry took advantage of the opportunity.

According to the US Attorney’s news release: Perry used his auto repair businesses, previously located in Norfolk, Hampton, and Virginia Beach, to conduct assorted, fraudulent criminal activities in violation of federal law. Perry regularly stole the identities and credit card numbers of customers seeking vehicle repairs. He then used this data in various ways. For example, Perry applied for credit card merchant accounts and business cash advances in customers’ names. Perry also used customers’ identities to open dealer accounts with vendors and then ordered parts and supplies for which he never paid. Perry also fraudulently charged customers’ credit card accounts for repairs that were either improperly or never performed. The known losses are estimated at more than $500,000.

According to the dailypress.com – Perry used several business names, including Dog & Pony Automotive Inc., T & S Transmissions Inc., T & C Automotive Inc., Hampton Tune LLC, Hampton Tune Inc., Hampton Tune and Lube Inc., Hampton & Tune Inc., Cornerstone Mechanical, Corner Stone Mechanical Inc., Seven Cities Automotive Inc., J & P Cycle Repair, J & P Automotive & Cycles, Python Custom Cycles, S & P Transmissions, Tidewater Automotive Center, ATL Motor Mate and JLP Enterprises, according to court records.

Perry faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000 on the wire fraud charge, and a mandatory, consecutive sentence of two years in prison on the aggravated identity theft charge.

Every choice has a consequence. As a white collar crime and business ethics speaker, I speak from first hand experience about the truth about consequences. Reality is – no one escapes the consequences of their choices. While Perry may have enjoyed the money for a time and avoided the consequences – he did not avoid the consequences all together. Prison is no fun and Perry is facing several years plus substantial restitution for his conviction. Likely he will serve time and that will prove to be a dramatic change from his prior activities. You do reap what you sow.

If anyone reading has any background on Perryfeel free to comment as I study the behaviors and backgrounds of those convicted of white collar crime. Likewise, if you were a victim…please share your experience so other may benefit.

White Collar Crime Speaker – Chuck Gallagher – signing off…