Saturday, June 02, 2007

The new red menace, global commerce from China

You would think that we would have learned by now that products from China can be DANGEROUS for a variety of reasons.

Most recently -- our pets were poisoned and millions of dollars of products were pulled off shelves -- after it was discovered that pet food imported from China contained poisonous substances.

Washington Post article on this, here.

The FDA is NOW warning that they are putting antifreeze in oral hygiene products.

I guess poisioning our pets wasn't enough?

From the FDA alert:

FDA has identified the following brands of toothpaste from China that contain DEG and are included in the import alert: Cooldent Fluoride; Cooldent Spearmint; Cooldent ICE; Dr. Cool, Everfresh Toothpaste; Superdent Toothpaste; Clean Rite Toothpaste; Oralmax Extreme; Oral Bright Fresh Spearmint Flavor; Bright Max Peppermint Flavor; ShiR Fresh Mint Fluoride Paste; DentaPro; DentaKleen; and DentaKleen Junior. Manufacturers of these products are: Goldcredit International Enterprises Limited; Goldcredit International Trading Company Limited; and Suzhou City Jinmao Daily Chemicals Company Limited. The products typically are sold at low-cost, “bargain” retail outlets.

In case, you have used any of these products, the FDA recommends that you advise them in this manner:

Consumers can report adverse reactions or quality problems experienced with the use of these products to FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting

(800) 332-1088

FDA news release concerning this, here.

My question is, given all this, maybe we should ban all commerce from China! The cheap prices aren't worth it. Perhaps, a little consumer mistrust, along with goverment sanctions might rectify this situation?

Other problems caused by free trade with China are counterfeit goods (including medicine), rogue websites (Internet fraud) and their army of hackers stealing everything from money to industrial and military secrets.

If you would like to read about other issues, I've written about, which are caused by "free commerce" with China, link here.

Do the record profits in the oil industry make sense?

Gas prices have gone over $3.00 a gallon for most of us, and seem to rise whenever there is an anticipated emergency, whether it actually happens or not. I've long been an advocate of the "does it make sense theory” and prices being raised for emergencies that never actually happened, DOES NOT, at least to me.

Meanwhile, billions of our dollars and human resources (young men and women) are being used to protect the area, where a lot of our oil comes from.

I've never figured out why our tax dollars are being used (seemingly without charge) to protect a few people, who have a lot of money to throw around. All we seem to get in return is higher prices, and dangerous people, we need to protect ourselves from.

Most of the terrorists in the 9-11 attacks were not from Afghanistan, which has little oil. In fact, most of them, including the mastermind still at large; come from one of these countries, using our resources to protect it.

It costs us a lot of money, and our brave young men and women to provide them protection. To me, it would make sense that those, who are enjoying our protection, showed their appreciation a little more.

But all our oil doesn’t necessarily come from these foreign lands we are paying to protect. Is there a common denominator to all this? The oil companies are sharing in the RECORD profit taking, also. These companies are largely owned by Americans, and other Westerners.

If the oil industry is so prone to dangers, it doesn't make sense that they are making more money than anytime in history? Based on their record profits, it doesn't seem to be hitting their bottom lines.

It does seem to be hitting the bottom lines of everyday American households, as well as, other industries, which will have to pass the costs off to everyone in the form of higher prices.

Recently, Walmart announced their sales are going down because people don't have as much disposable income to spend. A lot of everyday Americans shop at Walmart. I'm using Walmart as an example, but they aren't the only large business beginning to see this trend.

Wikipedia mentions this in their analysis of oil price increases in the past few years, here.

Personally, I'm an advocate of getting rid of the industry by exploring alternative energy sources, but until we get there, perhaps the little guy should get a fair deal?

The People's E-Mail network is sponsoring a drive to let our legislators and newspapers know that it's time to conduct an unbiased investigation to determine if their is any foul play connected with the current pricing structure, which is making a few people very rich.

John Edwards, a presidential candidate, has also called for an investigation of the industry. AP story, courtesy of Yahoo News, here.

It would be nice to see him get some support on this, preferably of the bipartisan type. Maybe it's time to make sense of a situation of a phenomenon that DOES NOT to a lot of us?

The way to do that is to investigate the problem, or discover the truth. If there is no fraud, then the oil industry should have nothing to fear.

You can let your elected representatives and local press know how you feel about this, here.

Criminals scam military families using the Red Cross name

Identity thieves have no honor. They don't care if they steal from our grandparents, or the families of those, who protect all of us by putting themselves in harm's way.

Here is a particularly ghoulish scheme reported on the Red Cross site:

The American Red Cross has learned about a new identity theft scam targeting military families:

The caller (young-sounding, American accent) calls a military spouse and identifies herself as a representative from the Red Cross. The caller states that the spouse's husband (not identified by name) was hurt while on duty in Iraq and was medevacuated to a hospital in Germany. The caller stated they couldn't start treatment until paperwork was accomplished, and that in order to start the paperwork they needed the spouse to verify her husband's social security number and date of birth. In this case, the spouse was quick to catch on and she did not provide any information to the caller.

Just to set the record straight - the Red Cross doesn't notify family members when this happens!

Not sure, where the identity theft ghouls are getting their lists to target military spouses? The Red Cross stated in their press release that the family member isn't identified by name, but this might have changed by now. Recently, I read a story from the New York Times, where a well known data-broker (InfoUSA) was selling marketing lists of senior citizens, known to gamble on the Internet, to lottery scammers.

I’m guessing that data brokers sell telephone lists to market goods and services to the military, also.

Not only are these blood suckers stealing information to enrich themselves, they are also putting military family members through a lot of personal grief, unnecessarily! Imagine what a call like this does to the family member, who receives it!

Red Cross press release, here.

Red Cross main page, here.

These are people that do a lot of good for other people, when they need it!

It is no wonder why skimming (credit/debit card fraud) is becoming a nasty problem!

Skimming credit and debit cards has become too easy with the irresponsible sale of technology. All the necessary techie devices to commit what many consider a "high tech crime" are being sold on the Internet - even on auction sites - such as eBay.

Yesterday, I read about an arrest of one of the Internet vendors by the Calgary Police, after they were tipped off by the United States Secret Service (USSS).

Here is what the press release from the Calgary Police Department said:
In January 2006, investigators with the U.S. Secret Service specializing in payment card fraud and Internet crime, identified a person using the Internet name of “Dron,” who was advertising skimming equipment for sale over the Internet.

A possible Calgary connection was identified and investigators assigned to the Calgary Police Service Commercial Crime Unit were involved in the investigation.

A joint, cross-border investigation was initiated. A Calgary resident was identified as the alleged manufacturer and exporter of devices which could be used for skimming data from debit and credit cards. With the assistance of other CPS units, the Calgary case has been successfully concluded.

There isn't a lot of information on how Dron was advertising his wares on the Internet, but the sad truth is he probably isn't the only vendor selling these devices.

I checked eBay (this morning) and devices that could be used to skim payment card details are being hawked (as usual) on the auction site.

In March, I wrote about a new variation (mutation) of skimming, where PIN pads were replaced at a Edmonton Wendys. The fake PIN pads are capable of transmitting card data and PIN numbers(using wireless technology) to fraudsters, who are probably sitting in a car in a parking lot.

I suspect the current fake PIN pads are being used to defeat PCI (payment card industry) data protection standards. The information is sent to the fraudster before it goes through the merchant's point of sale system.

PCI data protection standards have become a major concern lately, but it appears the criminals are already working on countermeasures that will get past them. Besides PIN pads, portable devices, used by dishonest insiders are a big problem right now, also.

Interestingly enough, even with all the media attention about PCI compliance, a large number of merchants have failed to implement them. A case to point at would be the recent TJX data breach, where at least 45 million records were compromised over a several year period.

In the Wendy's post, I identified a website called, which sells a lot of devices that can be used to commit financial crimes, including skimming. I just checked (and sadly) they are still up and open-for-business.

Of course, they publish a disclaimer on their page:
We WILL NOT answer emails from anyone asking about illegal activities, or how to use our products for illegal activities...they will automatically be deleted. All products are designed for testing and exploring the vulnerabilities of CUSTOMER-OWNED equipment, and no illegal use is encouraged or implied. We WILL NOT knowingly sell to anyone with the intent of using our products for illegal activities or uses. It is your responsibility to check the applicable laws in your city, state, and country.
This obviously is enough to keep them in business.
The PIN pad skimming variation has now been identified in both the Eastern and Western United States, as well as Canada.

Maybe if there were stricter controls on the sale of the devices that enable skimming, the problem wouldn't be so bad?

Meanwhile, expensive security technology (compliance) is being made mandatory. If history repeats itself, any technology designed (which is expensive in itself), will have a limited life span. I'm all for technological solutions, but if we don't back them up with consequences, they tend to have a limited effectiveness.

There needs to be more social solutions (laws) to bolster some of this expensive anti-fraud technology.

With millions of victims and billions of dollars being lost, I wonder why we allow this activity to be marketed over the Internet?

We are making hard working people, like USSS Agents and the Calgary Police, work pretty hard to fight a growing problem, which is victimizing a lot of PEOPLE and businesses!

Calgary Police press release, here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Medicare Fraud arrests might expose ties to medical identity theft and organized crime

Ever wonder why our social services are going bankrupt? Here is a story, from a FBI press release, showing how $101 million was paid out in fraudulent health care claims.

Reading the release also made me wonder, where all the names to claim services, came from?

From the FBI release:

On May 22, 2007, a Miami federal grand jury returned a 46-count indictment against eight defendants in United States v. Mabel Diaz, et al., No. 07-20398-Cr-Ungaro. The indictment charges Mabel and Banner Diaz, wife and husband, with operating All-Med Billing Corp. (All-Med), a Miami medical billing company, and executing a scheme to submit tens of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims to Medicare from 1998 to 2004 for reimbursement for durable medical equipment (DME) and related services. The indictment alleges that All-Med submitted approximately $80 million in false claims on behalf of 29 DME companies. The claims were allegedly fraudulent in that the equipment had not been ordered by a physician and/or had never been delivered to a Medicare patient. As a result of the submission of the fraudulent claims, Medicare paid the DME companies approximately $56 million. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of the fraud proceeds and here substitute assets, including real estate of the Diazes. The Diazes were additionally charged with conspiracy to launder the proceeds of the alleged All-Med billing fraud scheme. Also charged in the All-Med billing fraud scheme was All-Med employee Suleidy Cano.

If you read down further on the release, the names of all the people being charged are Hispanic.

While I suppose, not all criminals with Hispanic names, cater to illegal aliens, a large number of them seem to. Despite this, there seems to be no information, whether or not; this activity had any ties to illegal immigrant activity, or if people’s identities were stolen to facilitate these crimes.

There is also very little information as to exactly how these crimes were committed. It would make sense that they would have to use names and other personal information to claim the “services,” paid for with taxpayer money.

Digging a little deeper, I found another press release dated the day before from the FBI describing a similar health care fraud scheme – where the employees involved were described as illegal aliens.

This case occurred on the other side of the country (Southern California). Please note that all the names listed on this press release were of Hispanic origin, also.

In the Los Angeles case, the taxpayers were only ripped off for a little more than $9 million. Small potatoes compared the amount in the Miami case. Of course, I wonder how much more of this is going on, where no one has been caught?

Some of these illegal aliens were posing as nurses, which could be pretty scary, if they were dispensing any real medical services. Even scarier, is the very real harm bogus information in a medical record can cause. If you think about it, bogus information in a medical history could be life-threatening.

The World Privacy Forum has studied this subject (in detail) and stated in a 56 page report:

This report discusses the issue of medical identity theft and outlines how it can cause great harm to its victims. The report finds that one of the significant harms a victim may experience is a false entry made to his or her medical history due to the activities of an imposter. Erroneous information in health files can lead and has led to a number of negative consequences for victims. Victims do not have the same recourse and help for recovery from medical identity theft as do victims of financial identity theft. This report analyzes statistics in health care and identity theft, and estimates that approximately a quarter million to a half million individuals have been victims of this crime.

The report also states:

Medical identity theft is deeply entrenched in the health cares system. Identity theft may be done by criminals, doctors, nurses, hospital employees, and increasingly, by highly sophisticated crime rings.

If the FBI is issuing two press releases about this activity, one could deduct that they might have been investigating some of these “highly sophisticated crime rings.”

Not sure if the impending immigration bill is the reason some of the surrounding issues aren't being talked about, but a lot of criminal activity is tied to the trade in human flesh.

On a personal note, I want to see honest immigrants find a better life, and continue the American tradition of adding value to the most diverse society in the world. The problem is that a lot of organized criminal groups have profited in the illegal immigrant trade for years, and no one has come up with a way to weed out this hidden activity, very effectively (my opinion).

Of note, the honest and hard working illegal immigrants are often victimized in this process, which is largely controlled by organized crime.

With millions of identities compromised, it isn’t going to be easy. Assuming someone else's identity has become too easy, especially for those with criminal connections.

FBI press release on Florida arrests, here.

FBI press release on Southern California arrests, here.

World Privacy Forum report on medical identity theft, here.

QuackWatch has a good site, which covers this type of fraud in great detail, here.

In case you wanted to learn more, the U.S. District Court of Southern Florida is happy to sell you the information, here.

The Virginia WatchDog goes after government sites that post too much personal information. A lot of great information about this subject, and examples of effective action taken by the Watchdog herself, BJ Ostergren can be found, here.

BJ and I had about an hour long conversation recently, where she demonstrated how easy personal information can be data-mined from these sites. I found BJ to be a fascinating person, but more of that, later.

This site and their important work will be the subject of some future posts.

My previous rants about organized crime controlling the traffic in human flesh can be read, here.

Organized groups with Hispanic names aren't the only immigrant groups ripping off the taxpayers. Here is a recent post, I did about another immigrant group that seems to focus on stealing public funds:

Eurasian organized crime loots public coffers