ShutDown: Consumer Fraud Investigations Halted

ShutDown: Consumer Fraud Investigations Halted

ShutDown: Consumer Fraud Investigations Halted

The United States government has been shut down for almost four weeks, sending shockwaves throughout a nation already gripped by tumultuous politics and controversial issues. In addition to institutions like the National Parks System, and the National Institute of Health, all federal employees have currently been laid off from duty, and a majority of their services suspended. The ripple effect is dizzying, with many of the governments services being on hold for the duration of the shutdown. Many consumers across the country are not aware of the shutdown’s impact on some of our nation’s best departments, so you can imagine their shock when they phoned to report a consumer complaint, and were told the government couldn’t help them.

When running normally, the government requires a wealth of quality communication to run smoothly. As many federal employees remain on furlough, therefore not being compensated, everyone’s level of communication with one another is atypical and—as many federal employees are called in without pay—constantly breaking down. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the federal agency that fields the influx of consumer complaints. A consumer submits their complaint about a business or financial entity to the CFPB, which is reviewed. According to the CFPB, after the complaint is reviewed, “We’ll forward your complaint and any documents you provide to the company and work to get a response from them. If we find that another government agency would be better able to assist, we will forward your complaint to them and let you know.” The CFPB remains in operation and was not effected by the shutdown, but if the agency is ill-equipped to deal with the complaint, they may never get off the ground, as the appropriate department might be effected by the shutdown. This leaves many consumers displaced when it comes to voicing their concerns about products and services.

la-fi-lazarus-fcc-robocalls-20160729-snapThis suspension of protection services has allowed the beast of robo-calls to fester and become feral, as consumers cannot block or report harassing robo-calls. They’re left screaming into the void. Alex Quilici, the chief executive of YouMail—a smartphone application that helps consumers block robo-calls—describes it, “It’s a neighborhood with no police on the beat.” YouMail estimated, just last month, there were 5 billion robo-calls made, and 50% of calls made in early 2019 could be coming from scammers and robots attempting to fraudulently obtain your information. These horrifying statistics are the codas for a chorus of federal employees who are aware of the scope of the problem, like Jessica Rosenworcel, the Federal Communications Commission Commissioner, “The number of robo-calls consumers are receiving is insane. The problem just keeps growing. Shutting down the government is not going to help.” As of this moment, there is no one to administrate the “Do Not Call” list, the national registry in which consumers can ask specific companies not to contact them.

The Federal Communications Commission is just one of many threads woven into the Federal Trade Commission. Another voiceless victim of the shutdown is the victim of identity fraud. Louette Duvall is one of these victims. Not long after the holidays were over, Duvall’s car was pilfered by thieves while she was at her job. They made off with her purse, her briefcase, and a wealth of identifying information that amounted to a scammer’s treasure trove. Fraudulent charges started rolling in as she scrambled to alert all of her creditors and financial institutions that she had been robbed. She began calculating the full scope of the theft’s ramifications: New checkbooks ordered, extravagant items ordered in her name, new credit cards, the list goes on and on. When she called the Federal Trade Commission to let them know her identity had been stolen, she was told they could not help her due to the government shutdown. FTC data prior to the shutdown stated that the agency received thousands of calls a day regarding identity theft alone. That’s thousands of crimes going uninvestigated every day, a Washington Post reporter pointed out when they became a victim as well. Not only are new crimes going unreported, but investigative resources are also frozen. The Consumer Sentinel Network helps investigators track the movement of identity theft and related frauds to build cases against the perpetrators, and it remains down as of day 26 of the longest government shutdown in history. At a minimum, the FTC is still allowing individuals to file complaints so that they be issued an affidavit for their creditors’ purposes.

News coverage of the shutdown has attempted to sharpen the big picture for Americans when it comes to the ripple effect of the government shutdown. While many federal agencies might be unable to assist consumers with complaints, there is recourse for consumers experiencing the myriad of issues helmed by the Federal Trade Commission. There are online, step-by-step resources for obtaining documentation to dispute fraudulent charges and claims. Consumers can also retain the services of a private investigator. One of the most beneficial aspects of hiring a private investigator is that they are the top of the chain of command in their firm. They are the ones calling the shots in any investigation, not a supervisor nor a superior. They will represent your interests and your interests alone. As is the case with many frauds and thefts, perpetrators tend to either operate remotely, or move quickly to evade law enforcement. Acting independently, private investigators will be able to move as fluidly as a scammer, crossing jurisdictional boundaries with little to no red tape. Statistics surrounding fraud indicate that many federal investigators in charge of tracking down scammers and thieves are inundated with a never-ending stream of complaints. This means their attention can be divided over and over again across a heavy caseload. A typical private investigator only handles between 3-4 cases at a time, meaning your case can be a priority for them and not just another file in a drawer.

Political pundits and talking heads don’t project a sunny forecast when it comes to the shutdown—no end in sight. As the shutdown enters its 27th day, many Americans who have been the victims of consumer fraud and identity theft who do not yet know the full scope of the shutdown’s impact will receive an ugly surprise when they turn to the federal government for help. While the government gets its house in order, know that there are options for victims of consumer and identity fraud. Consult a private investigator today to learn how their specific skill set, experience, and independence can help you get right the ship when it comes to fraud.

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Safe Holiday Travels & Shopping

Safe Holiday Travels & Shopping

The time has come, once again, for the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. While we all look forward to this time of year, criminals especially do as well. Holiday TravelsThey rely on us being excited, relaxed and distracted. In an effort to keep our information safe, we must be overly aware during this time of year.

Traveling

During the holidays, traveling increases by 54%. That’s a lot of empty homes waiting for criminals to do their work. Here are just a few tips to keep your home safe while traveling:

  1. Only tell one close family member or friend that you are traveling out of town. This one person should be the one to check on your home while you are away. Having them enter your home one or two times daily would be ideal. Although they are busy as well, this will make it look like someone is there frequently.
  2. Do not post on social media your travel schedule. Although you think only friends and family can see this information, you are incorrect. You can take pictures and still update on the fun your having, just do it responsibly. No one needs to know you are half way across the country.
  3. Put your lights on timers, inside and out. If your lights are popping on and off throughout the day, anyone watching your house will tend to believe someone is home. You can get the timers from any home improvement store and they do not take long to install.
  4. A small final tip from my parents! Turn off your main water line before leaving. You do not want to come back to a flooded, moldy home due to a small hole in a water line. Trust me, it was not fun! Once you return from traveling, you just want to be in your own bed. If this water line break occurs, you will be back in a hotel for weeks.

Wallet and Identity

Identity PicI group the wallet and identity together as the items utilized to steal your identity are generally located in your wallet. Here are just a few suggestions for keeping your information safe while you are enjoying the shopping frenzy:

  1. Pay with cash as often as you can. We’ve all seen the security issues with credit card machines. This can happen at any retail store. Avoid giving your card information out and pay with cash. If you do not want to carry cash, get gift cards with cash and use the gift cards instead of using your debit/credit card.
  2. If paying with cash, ensure you place your cash close to your person when out shopping. Put the cash in the pockets of your jeans or in a place where you would notice or feel someone trying to take the cash from you. Do not place it in your purse on a cart where you would turn your attention away, for even a second. All it takes is a second to turn your head away and your purse is gone.
  3. Along with the cash, put all identification (driver’s license, social security card, credit cards) information in your pockets as well. Always make sure your information is close enough so you will know if someone is trying to get to these items.
  4. When pulling out your cash to pay, do not pull out the large stack of bills and count it out in an obvious manner. You may not realize how closely people are watching you, but criminals are watching every move as this is their job.
  5. As you are buying your items, try to condense the amounts of packages you are carrying. Any bags that can be combined, do so. The more you are carrying, the more vulnerable you appear.
  6. When you take your items to your car to drop them off and start off again, we all do it, make sure you cover the items with either a blanket or a screen. Do not leave anything out in the open in your vehicle.

The holidays are fun and happy time of the year. Do not let criminals make this time stressful for you. Small adjustments can keep your home, wallet and identity safe. Always be aware of your surroundings, trust your gut, and keep your personal information personal.

Lauth Investigations International is a private investigation firm. We consistently work with people whose identity has been compromised. The one minute it took a criminal to steal their information created months of stress for these individuals to recover. Do not let this happen to you.

 

Lauth Investigations International Tips to Protect Against Identity Theft

Lauth Investigations International Tips to Protect Against Identity Theft


For many years, stories about personal identity theft have permeated the daily news. We are warned our personal computers and smart phones can easily become the target of phishing and encouraged to maintain the most up-to-date security software on our devices.

According to a 2011 report released by the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), an estimated 8.6 million households had at least one person age 12 or older, who became a victim of identity theft during 2010. The BJS reports approximately $13.3 billion in direct financial losses. Understandably, this number increases annually. Experts estimate the current number of U.S. victims to be 15 million individuals annually, and upwards to $50 billion in financial losses.

On December 4, 2012, the Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC), issued the Child Identity Fraud Survey Report reporting theft of children’s social security numbers are the most commonly used piece of information of identity thieves targeting children. The report also identifies some victimization occurring within the children’s own home by their own family members. ITAC have been reporting increasing incidents of minor identity theft where identity thieves combine a child’s social security number with a fictitious date of birth, creating a new “synthetic” identification that authorities claim is very difficult to detect.

While some criminals steal wallets, mail, and rummage through garbage bins, the 21st Century criminal has advanced using technology to infiltrate our homes, corporations, and government offices for personal information. We are now hearing more and more instances of government and corporate databases that have been lost, stolen, breached, and even sold.

From AOL, Taco Bell, Aetna, Google, Twitter, Walgreens, FEMA, and even New York City Police Department, personal information continues to wind up in the hands of criminals. Stories abound about government or corporate entity’s database systems hacked, customer files found in trash bins, employee theft, and even stolen or lost laptops containing personal information of customers and employees. Considering the damage that can quickly follows any incident of identity theft, experts recommend being proactive to protect personal identification.

According to Thomas Lauth, owner of Lauth Investigations International and a respected private investigator with twenty-year’s experience, “One can never be too careful when protecting their personal information”. Lauth warns personal information is used to not only create new identities, but corporations are targeted by thieves to steal trade secrets, sell client data to competitors, to personal stalking, and even murder. He states, “In this day and age, we must not take our privacy for granted and as citizens we need corporate and government agencies to take precautions to handle our personal information responsibly by implementing additional security precautions.”

Some tips to help keep your information safe

– Keep all personal documents, social security cards, and birth certificates locked in a safe place.

– Shred anything with your name and address on it instead of tossing the items into the trash. A crosscut shredder is recommended.

– Never provide a social security number online or over the phone.

– Password-protect or encrypt all personal information on your computer. Maintain up-to-date protection on your computer.

– Do not click on any link sent in an email unless you know the sender. Merely clicking on a link can install phishing and spyware on the computer. Instead, call or personally visit the financial institution or provider to provide information if required.

– Make sure there has not been a Change of Address request placed with USPS. Thieves will commonly attempt to divert mail so they can obtain billing statements and credit card offers.

– When asked to provide personal information by a medical provider, educational institution, utility company, or governmental agency, ask how they will protect your personal information.

– Corporations, educational, medical, and governmental entities are encouraged to contact Lauth Investigations International to find out how they can better protect their client’s information.

Visit www.lauthinvestigations.com for additional information.

Here are some recommended sites to visit for more information about how your can protect you and your family against identity theft.

Identity Guard www.identityguard.com

Identity Theft Center www.idtheftcenter.org

Equifax www.equifax.com


About the Author: Kym L. Pasqualini is founder of the Nation’s missing Children Organization in 1994 and the National Center for Missing Adults in 2000. Kym is considered an expert in the field of missing persons and has spent 20 years working with government officials, advocates, and national media. She is also a contributor to Lauth Investigations International serving as the Social Media & Awareness Expert.

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