Saturday, July 14, 2007

More arrests made by ICE as a result of the Swift raids

Here is an example, where some of the people enabling illegal immigration are being held accountable for their actions.

Last December, ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) made a series of raids at Swift plants. At the time, they maintained the raids were part of a larger investigation.

The investigation continued and more arrests have been made. Most of the current arrests consist of people, who are not illegal immigrants.

From the ICE press release:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents Tuesday arrested 20 employees of Swift & Company (Swift), one of the nation's largest processors of pork and beef, after executing federal and state warrants in six states. The arrests included a human resources employee, a union official, and current or former Swift employees identified by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as suspected identity thieves.

"The criminal arrests tied to the Swift case demonstrate how entering the country illegally can serve as a gateway to other crimes including identity theft and document fraud," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "We take these crimes seriously and will continue to seek out and arrest those who break the law." ICE agents made the arrests in Marshalltown, Iowa; Grand Island, Neb.; Worthington, Minn.; Greeley, Colo.; Hyrum, Utah; and Cactus, Texas.

Of those apprehended, 18 were arrested for charges relating to identity theft and administrative immigration violations. Chris Lamb, a human resources employee, and Braulio Pereyra, a union official who represents Swift employees, were arrested in Marshalltown and are charged with harboring illegal aliens. Lamb, a 17-year Swift employee, is also charged with misprision of a felony. The charge for harboring illegal aliens carries a five-year maximum prison sentence. The misprision offense is punishable by up to three years in prison.
ICE press release with more information, here.

Apparently, the powers that be at Swift must have been pretty cooperative in the investigation:

Swift is to be commended not only for its cooperation during yesterday's enforcement action, but for its continuing efforts to improve its hiring practices in order to ensure a legal workforce," said ICE Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers. "The vast majority of companies want to do the right thing. When they do, ICE can focus our resources on the worst of the worst - those who've used stolen identities or aided illegal aliens in using stolen identities and victimized the unsuspecting public."

It will be interesting to see how this plays out and what message it sends to other people involved in this activity.

Founded in 2003, ICE is in charge of investigating issues a lot of issues besides illegal immigrants. A full description of what they do is on their site, which can be seen, here.

Suspicious activity can be reported to them at 1-866-347-2423.

For more posts from this blog about the Swift raids, or referencing it, click here.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Will stricter enforcement cause more illegal immigrants to assume real people's social security numbers?

Will a crackdown on illegal immigration mean that 13 - 20 million people will need to use legitimate social security numbers to work? In response to increasing concerns about illegal immigration, the Department of Homeland Security provides what is known as the Basic Pilot Program (web based), which verifies the validity of a social security number.

The problem is that it only verifies, whether or not the number is good (matches). It doesn't show if the number is stolen, or even if the name matches the number.

Please note that this program is a great tool, but it isn't the only tool that should be used when verifying a person's identity. Even DHS is quick to point this out in the article I cite further down in this post.

You would think it would be in an employer's best interests to do a thorough background check. Employee fraud and abuse can cost them a lot of their hard-earned profits!

If certain employers use this tool and this tool alone will 13-20 million immigrants use 13-20 million legal citizens' social security numbers to obtain employment?

The LA Times did a story about a LA County financial crimes detective, who had his own identity stolen by illegal immigrant(s). The investigation of financial crimes normally involves investigating a lot of identity theft.

The victim in this case, Detective Flores eventually confirmed that at least one of the people using his identity had been picked up in the Swift raids, which occurred late last year.

Anna Gorman (LA Times) wrote:

Under pressure from federal authorities to verify their workers' legal status, more employers are checking the validity of Social Security numbers, and that has caused many illegal immigrants to use stolen rather than made-up numbers to get jobs, immigration officials said.

"It used to be that we would only see people come in with purely bogus documents," said Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "More and more we are seeing real people, real victims."

Although the agency does not break out identity theft statistics, Myers said, "we are definitely seeing a trend."

To better protect their businesses, more employers are using the Department of Homeland Security's Basic Pilot program, which enables them to check the validity of Social Security numbers online. But Basic Pilot doesn't detect identity theft. As long as the name and Social Security number are legitimate, the online system will indicate the person using them is authorized to work.

Word of this weakness in the system has spread quickly among illegal immigrants and the document theft rings that cater to them. Thieves will dig through trash cans or scan the Internet looking for Social Security numbers. Sometimes, criminals or homeless people are willing to sell their identity documents, Myers said.

There also have been cases in which employers provide their workers with stolen numbers, Homeland Security authorities said.

Detective Flores didn't lose any money, but was threatened by collection agencies and the IRS. Like the many other victims of identity theft, he probably went through a lot of pain and suffering and spent countless hours clearing his name.

Trying to do the right thing, Detective Flores tried to have his social security number changed, but his request was refused.

If employers aren't checking very carefully and only using the Department of Homeland Security's Basic Pilot System, the background checks aren't likely to be very effective.

The trick would be to run Social Security Numbers verifying some minor details, which might include:

  • Multiple names coming back to the same SSN (common).
  • Geographical areas that don't match the stated history on the employment application.
  • Discrepancies in ages, or where the social security number was issued.

This can be accomplished pretty easily by any employer. Even if an employer doesn't run a credit check, where discrepancies would normally surface, social security number traces are available from any of the major credit bureaus.

A social trace shows the name and address information, without the financial track record of the person.

There are privacy laws to protect this information -- but just about any legitimate employer can access this information, if they really want to -- and do so, legally. In most cases, a release form signed by the applicant is all that is needed. It isn't very hard to get someone to sign a release form, if they want a job.

Data brokers sell services to businesses, where social security numbers are easily run, also. If someone knows how to read these reports (they aren't difficult), it normally isn't very hard to find the real person (identity theft victim), when questionable activity is present. They are normally listed right on the report.

Besides performing background checks, social security traces are used to find people by law enforcement, collectors and private investigators. Financial crimes investigators (like Detective Flores) use them to find the people being impersonated by identity thieves, frequently.

A simple Google search on social security traces reveals how many vendors offer this service, here.

If illegal immigrants were using totally bogus social security numbers before, it isn't going to be hard for them to get real ones. This information is sold all over the place, including the Internet.

Organized criminal groups market both the information and documents on an economy of scale, which assures that their services are available to just about anyone for a nominal charge.

The bottom line is that it isn't hard for an employer to do an effective background, especially given the tools provided in the information age. In fact, a lot (most) of them already do this. As I stated earlier, employee fraud and abuse can be pretty detrimental to a company's bottom line.

As long as the jobs are available, illegal immigration will continue to be a big problem. If labor is needed and people want to realize the American dream, the people seeking the dream and those providing the jobs, need to accomplish their goals in a legal manner.

It isn't fair for them to accomplish their needs and goals at the expense (pain and suffering) of other people, who are following the law.

LA Times article, here.

Lou Dobbs discusses a holistic (common sense) approach to this problem on his television show and website. He also provides links to where all of us can let our politicians know how we feel about this problem.

Recently, the voice of the nation let them know exactly how we feel about this matter.

In the end, illegal immigrants might be the least of our worries. Activity like this shows how easily terrorists and criminals can operate inside our borders, also. This is probably the best argument (I know of) for why we can no longer afford to let criminals control our borders.

If Social Security calls requesting personal information, it might be smart to verify who you are talking to!

(Nice Photo courtesy of Long N at Flickr)

If you get an unsolicited call from an "alleged" Social Security employee, it might be wise to verify (independently), who is calling you. Of course -- you should do this by using a number obtained from a legitimate source, and not one pointed to by the person calling -- who might be trying to steal by using your good name.

The Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration recently reported:

Over the past several months, the Office of the Inspector General has received a number of reports relating circumstances where individuals have been contacted by someone pretending to be an SSA employee. The caller identifies himself/herself as an SSA employee and may even provide a toll-free number as a point of contact. The caller generally asks for personal identifying information such as:

  • Social Security Number

  • Date of Birth

  • Mother's maiden name

  • Bank account information

  • Other financial account information
The impersonator may state that "the SSA computers are down" or may refer to enrollment in the Medicare prescription drug program. The intent of the impersonator is to steal your identity and/or funds from your bank accounts.

It is possible that an SSA employee may contact you to follow-up on a previous application for benefits, application for a subsidy for the Medicare Part D program, or to follow-up on business you have initiated with SSA. If you are unsure as to the authenticity of someone who claims to be an SSA employee, please call SSA's
toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213 to verify the reason for the contact and the person's identity.

More information on this particular scam can be viewed on the link provided to the original press release below.

I always recommend reporting fraud attempts. At a minimum, it helps get the word out and you never know when it will lead to someone getting caught.

Information about the OIG's fraud hotline can be obtained from the Reporting Fraud section of the OIG's website.

Link to SSA press release, here.

Scams using the telephone are nothing new, but with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology, the frequency with which they are being seen is increasing. The reason for this is that VoIP has made calling long distance cheap.

Telephone scams using VoIP are often referred to as "vishing." If you are interested in more information on this type of scam, I've written some other posts, which can be seen, here.

Impersonating official agencies is nothing new, either. In the recent past, the IRS, FBI, DOJ, FTC and even Interpol have all been spoofed (impersonated) as part of a fraud scheme involving vishing, or it's sister scam, phishing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Stealing money from ATMs is taken to a more dangerous level

I've written a lot about ATM skimming -- where electronic devices are used to record payment card information, clone the information on a new card -- and steal money.

A new and much more dangerous (potentially deadly) means of stealing money from ATMs is occurring. Although most of this is happening in South Africa, it has happened recently in the United States, also.

Monica Laganparsad of the Times is reporting:

ATM blasts in KwaZulu-Natal have dramatically increased in the past two months.

During the first five months of this year seven ATM bombings were reported in the province, but in the past two months the figure has jumped to 14.

The organised crime unit of the province’s police claims to be hot on the heels of those behind the blasts.

According to the article, there have been 194 ATM bombings in South Africa this year. One man had his arms blown off, while trying to use an ATM!

I would like to have found out that ATM bombings were purely a South African phenomenon, but they are not. On July 2nd, Fox News reported a similar series of attempts in Kansas City, here.

Stealing, or attempting to break into ATMs is nothing new.

Fox News has another video, where a "Bobcat earth mover" was used to steal a ATM machine in Kansas, here.

Times (South Africa) story, here.

ATM machine after being bombed courtesy of Pat Hawks at Flickr