Las Vegas resident Josiah O. Ntekume was sentenced last week to 65 months in prison for his role in an identity theft tax fraud scheme. Ntekume filed false tax returns using stolen identities. He was found with roughly 250 prepaid debit cards from victims of identity theft. These prepaid cards held over $200,000 in fraudulent tax refunds.
Ntekume pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, and theft of government property. In addition to his 65 month sentence, he will serve three years of supervised release and pay roughly $221,000 in restitution.
This case highlights the ongoing threat of identity theft to Las Vegas consumers. If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you should contact a Las Vegas identity theft lawyer. Lawsuits can be filed at no out-of-pocket expense because federal law requires the creditors and credit bureaus to cover your attorney’s fees and costs if you are successful. In addition to paying for your attorney’s fees and costs, you may receive compensation for actual damages, including reimbursement for improper loan denials and loss of credit limits, and statutory damages of up to $1,000 per defendant.
The U.S. Justice Department has charged four members of the Chinese military in connection with the Equifax data breach, in which about 145 million Americans had their personal information stolen. The data stolen includes Social Security and driver’s license numbers, names, and addresses from Equifax, a national consumer credit reporting agency. The accused hackers are based in China and none are in custody. U.S. officials hope the criminal charges will act as a deterrent to foreign hackers.
To protect yourself from possible identity theft, make sure to pull your most recent credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com and review the reports carefully for any inaccuracies or fraudulent credit information. If the banks and credit bureaus fail to update the inaccurate information, you should hire a Las Vegas identity theft lawyer to represent you. You should also initiate fraud alerts on your reports and to notify the appropriate governmental entities.
Lawsuits related to identity theft and credit inaccuracies can be brought at no out-of-pocket expense because federal law requires the banks and credit bureaus to cover your attorney’s fees and costs if you are successful. You may also receive compensation for actual damages (loan denials, loss of credit limits, etc.) and statutory damages of up to $1,000 per defendant.
About 40 million Americans are likely to see their credit scores drop at least 20 points as Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) announced an updated scoring model. The biggest change concerns how FICO treats personal loans. These loans are now treated as their own category. In the past, when consumers took out personal loans to pay off credit card debt, their scores would improve. This will end under the new model. On the other hand, many Americans will see improvements to their scores under this new model if their finances are in good shape.
With these new changes, Nevada consumers should monitor credit reports using www.annualcreditreport.com to make sure the information is accurate and up-to-date. If you find any incorrect information in your credit report, you should speak with a Las Vegas credit attorney to discuss your rights under federal law.
Las Vegas Man Pleads Guilty to Identity Theft Scheme Targeting Veterans and Active Duty Service Members
The Department of Justice announced today that a Las Vegas resident, Fredrick Brown, pleaded guilty to his role in a multi-million dollar wire fraud and identity theft scheme. While working as a civilian medical records administrator for the U.S. Army, Mr. Brown stole personal and identifying information from thousands of military service members. The data stolen includes Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and contact information.
Mr. Brown admitted taking pictures of his computer screen while logged into the military’s online medical record system from July 2014 to September 2015. He then took the photos to a co-defendant to use the information to gain access to the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs benefits sites to steal millions of dollars. Mr. Brown faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each charge.
Identity theft continues to be a major concern for all Americans, especially our veterans and active-duty military service members. If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you should obtain a police report and contact the national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union) and demand a credit freeze or fraud alert immediately. Consumers should also check their bank and credit card statements for fraudulent activity and report this activity to the bank. You should also speak to a Las Vegas identity theft lawyer about your rights under federal law against the credit bureaus and creditors if they fail to remove fraudulent or inaccurate information from your reports.
Equifax has agreed to pay $650 million to resolve multiple state and federal investigations related to the 2017 data breach in which it exposed the personal information of 147 million Americans. At least $300 million will go to consumers with an additional $125 million of the settlement available if the initial fund is exhausted.
Those who can prove they have been fraud victims will be entitled to relief if the settlement administrator finds that the losses are fairly traceable to the data breach. Individual victims may obtain up to $20,000 in compensation if they can prove actual harm. Consumers may obtain $25 per hour for up to 20 hours spent taking preventative measures or dealing with identity theft. Equifax has also agreed to provide 10 years of free credit monitoring services to victims.
Once approved by the court, a new website will be created to handle claims. In the meantime, consumers can visit ftc.gov/equifax for more information about the process.
Quest Diagnostics confirmed today that its third-party billing company (American Medical Collection Agency) was hit by a major data breach, which has affected at least 11.9 million patients. The identity thief stole credit card numbers, private medical data, and personal information from Quest patients. Based on Quest’s report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the breach dated back to August 1, 2018, and continued through May 31, 2019.
If you believe you are a victim of this data breach or any other form of identity theft, you should contact the credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union) and demand a credit freeze or fraud alert immediately. Consumers should also check their bank and credit card statements for fraudulent activity and report this activity to the bank immediately. You should also speak to a Las Vegas identity theft lawyer about your rights under federal law against the credit bureaus and creditors if they fail to remove fraudulent or inaccurate information from your reports.
Equifax Pays Millions to Settle Illegal Credit Reporting Claims Related to Civil Judgments and Tax Liens
Equifax recently settled multiple class action lawsuits filed under the Fair Credit Reporting Act alleging it failed to update civil judgments and tax liens. The settlement prohibits Equifax from reporting any civil judgment or tax lien records for five years, with limited exceptions. The settlement also requires Equifax to establish an independent claims program for impacted consumers.
While this is great news for many consumers who had judgments and liens removed from their credit reports, this does not mean that consumers’ credit profiles will be free of errors. Nevada consumers should continue to check their credit reports using www.annualcreditreport.com to ensure the information is accurate and up-to-date. If you find any inaccurate information in your credit report, you should consult with a Las Vegas credit attorney to discuss your rights under federal law.
The U.S. Supreme court recently heard arguments in Obduskey v. McCarthy, a Tenth Circuit case finding that parties engaged in nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings are not “debt collectors” under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Under the FDCPA, a “debt collector” is any party whose principal purpose is the collection of defaulted consumer debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect defaulted consumer debts.
In Obduskey, the Tenth Circuit found that nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings are attempts to enforce security interests as opposed to collecting money from a consumer. In making this ruling, the Tenth Circuit joined the Ninth Circuit, which found that a nonjudicial foreclosure is not collection activity because the purpose of a foreclosure is to retake and resell the security and not to collect money from the borrower. The Supreme Court’s ruling will provide lower courts with guidance regarding the scope of the FDCPA as it relates to mortgage foreclosure law.
If you are a victim of illegal debt collection efforts, including threats, harassment, or deception, you may have claims under the FDCPA. These claims can be brought at no out-of-pocket cost to you because the debt collector is required to pay your attorney’s fees and costs if you prevail. You may also recover up to $1,000 in damages for a successful FDCPA claim. Contact a consumer debt collection lawyer to discuss your legal rights.
A new report from WalletHub lists Nevada as the most vulnerable state for identity theft and fraud. Nevada also ranked 2nd regarding median loss amount due to fraud.
This survey demonstrates that fraud and identity theft in Nevada, and Las Vegas especially, must be addressed starting with better credit education. To ensure the information is accurate and up-to-date, Las Vegas consumers should pull their credit reports regularly. If you notice fraudulent information, the first step is to initiate a "fraud alert" to prevent future damage. Next, Las Vegas consumers should visit www.Identitytheft.gov to fill out an FTC Identity Theft Victim’s Report and submit the report to the credit bureaus along with information about each fraudulent entry.
The data furnishers and national credit bureaus have 4 days to block the fraudulent information, and 30 days to investigate and remove it from your reports permanently. If these companies fail to do so, you have a legal claim under federal law that includes your attorney’s fees and costs as part of your damages. These companies must also cover your out-of-pocket damages, including loan denials, loss of credit limits, and other financial losses. If you’re an identity theft victim, contact a Las Vegas identity theft attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.
In the wake of the recent Equifax data breach, a new federal law will allow U.S. consumers, including here in Las Vegas, to freeze and unfreeze their credit reports with the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) for free. It used to cost consumers $3 to $12 per bureau to freeze and unfreeze credit reports.
A credit freeze blocks lenders from pulling a consumer’s credit report to prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts in the consumer’s name. Once frozen, the consumer can unfreeze the account, either temporarily or permanently, to apply for loans or other types of credit.
The new law also extends short-term fraud alerts from 90 days to one year. A fraud alert forces lenders to contact a consumer before extending credit to ensure the loan application is not fraudulent.
If you are the victim of identity theft, you should reach out to the credit bureaus and demand a credit freeze or fraud alert immediately. You should also speak to a Las Vegas identity theft lawyer about your rights under federal law against the credit bureaus and creditors if they fail to remove fraudulent or inaccurate information from your reports.