4,200 IDs stolen by Tijuana ring

SAN DIEGO — A Chula Vista man charged in a Tijuana-based conspiracy to hack into a national mortgage company’s server and steal the identities of thousands of clients was granted bond in San Diego federal court Thursday, while his co-defendant has been ordered to remain behind bars.


Victor Alejandro Fernandez, 38, of Chula Vista may be released on $100,000 bond to be secured by property owned by family. If released, he must stay under house arrest, be monitored by GPS and not access the Internet.

The other defendant, Jason Ray Bailey, 38, of Mammoth Lakes didn’t challenge his detention during a hearing earlier in the week.

Both were arrested by the San Diego FBI’s Cyber Crime Squad.

The indictment unsealed last week charges them with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and computer hacking to steal information from about 4,200 clients between December 2012 and June 2013. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The hackers illegally accessed BlitzDoc, a program that the mortgage company used to store personal information on its customers, including names, social security numbers, addresses, tax information and driver’s licenses, according to the indictment.Think you are not at risk

The company is not named in the federal court papers, although its computer servers are based in Michigan.

The conspirators used the stolen information to open lines of credit in the victims’ names and steal assets, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

For instance, prosecutors say a conspirator would call the mortgage broker posing as a customer and provide the personal information, then change the usernames, passwords and contact information. Once taking over a customer’s account, the hackers wired the victim’s funds to the conspirators’ own bank accounts in San Diego and Calexico, authorities said.

Many of the wires were in amounts of $20,000 to $30,000 each, authorities said. The total amount stolen was not released.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sabrina Feve said the case is an important reminder to enable a two-step verification process on sensitive accounts and to review bank statements.

“If you see something you don’t recognize, check in on it,” Feve said.

The men face up to 35 years in prison if convicted.

By Kristina Davis6:05 p.m.March 6, 2014


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Health industry struggling to keep up with growing ID theft problem

The rise in medical identity theft in the U.S. in recent years–and in particular, theft involving a breach in technology–has been swift and has left many concerned about the effectiveness of privacy regulations, according to a recent Stateline report.Key Data Breach LegalShield Folder
“It’s almost impossible to clear up a medical record once medical identity theft has occurred,” Washington, D.C.-based health attorney James Pyles–who has worked on privacy measures both for HIPAA and the HITECH Act–told Stateline. “If someone is getting false information into your file, theirs gets laced with yours and it’s impossible to segregate what information is about you and what is about them.”

According to a recent survey published by Identity Theft Resource Center–a San Diego, Calf.-based nonprofit–more than 40 percent of all records breaches involving personal information nationwide were of the medical variety in 2013, Stateline reported. That number exceeded breaches that took place in various other industries, including banking, the government and education.

What’s more, the article noted, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, more than half of all medical-related breaches were the result of a stolen computer or electronic device.

Despite the high-tech theft taking place, though, many providers ultimately have relied on the word of employees and others who gain access to such information to ensure privacy protection, according to Stateline. For instance, at a Vermont hospital cited in the report as an example, two data breaches that took place involved employees either stealing equipment or accessing data without permission.

In addition to HIPAA and HITECH, covered entities now also face potential regulatory action from the Federal Trade Commission. The agency, last month, disagreed with Atlanta-based medical testing laboratory LabMD that the company was not subject to FTC security enforcement since it already was considered a covered entity under HIPAA.

“I think the FTC is going to become a more active player where enforcement is concerned,” Jeff Smith, director of federal relations for the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, told FierceHealthIT via email. “The FTC is already active in monitoring mobile application marketing practices in healthcare [and] medical identity theft, and the case in question underscores their intentions to flex their muscle where information and data security compliance is concerned.”

According to analysis recently published by IT security audit firm Redspin, more than 7 million patient records were breached last year, an increase of 138 percent from 2012; the report analyzed breaches recently reported to HHS.

To learn more:
– here’s the Stateline report February 10, 2014 | By

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Five Ways to Get Free Tax Help

Tax season is upon us, and tax return preparers have already opened their doors to those looking to be the first to file when the Internal Revenue Service begins accepting returns on Jan. 31.

But professional tax preparation can come at a hefty price. The National Society of Accountants says the average cost to prepare a 1040 tax form with itemized deductions and a state tax return is $261, while the cost of preparing a non-itemized 1040 and state return is $152.

Looking to save money on tax return preparation this year? Money Talks News money expert Stacy Johnson offers some tips on how to get your taxes done without spending a dime. Watch the video below and continue reading for more information.

1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program

If your annual income is $52,000 or less, you may qualify for free basic tax return preparation and e-filing from IRS-certified volunteers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA. The preparers can make sure you don’t miss valuable tax credits you qualify for, such as the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.

VITA centers are located throughout the U.S. and can be found by entering your five-digit ZIP code in the Locator Tool. You can also call (800) 906-9887 to find a nearby location. Before paying them a visit, be sure to gather all the required paperwork. If at all possible, try scheduling an appointment months prior to the April 15 deadline to avoid the last-minute rush.

2. Tax Counseling for the Elderly

The IRS’ Tax Counseling for the Elderly or TCE program provides IRS-certified volunteers through AARP and other organizations to help people 60 and older prepare their taxes and to answer any tax-related questions about pensions and retirement plans.

To find the site nearest you, visit the AARP website and search by your address or county. You can also call a toll-free line at (888) 227-7669.

3. IRS Free File

Maybe you don’t qualify for assistance through VITA because your income is too high. You may still be able to prepare and e-file your federal return through IRS Free File using tax preparation software from companies that have partnered with the IRS. But that’s only if your income does not exceed $58,000. Participating companies include H&R Block, TurboTax, Free File Alliance and TaxAct.

The free editions are best for first-time filers or those with simple returns. State returns can usually be completed at a nominal rate of somewhere between $10 and $30. And be sure to get things right the first time and save a backup copy once the return is complete, as these companies will assess a fee to amend a return or reprint forms from a prior year.

4. IRS Free Fillable forms

The IRS Free File program also offers a Fillable Form component that you can use to prepare and file your tax return online free of charge, regardless of your annual income. Unfortunately, this option does not offer any on-screen assistance or state return filing options, unlike the software programs.

5. IRS resources

There’s always that good old-fashioned help that’s just a phone call or office visit away. If your tax return preparation efforts turn into an absolute nightmare, search for your nearest IRS branch and give them a call or make a trip to help alleviate your stress and receive the guidance you need. Don’t want to leave home? Head on over to IRS.gov to search for answers to all your tax questions. It’s free.

Keep in mind that complex tax returns should be prepared by a knowledgeable professional; cutting corners could cost you more money in the end. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on more of Stacy’s tax hacks. Next Wednesday, we’ll be covering tips to avoid a tax audit.

By @amthewriter

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