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When it comes to identity theft and other financial fraud, the perpetrator is sometimes close to home.

While people worry about having their identity or money stolen by strangers online, family, friends and acquaintances are increasingly the ones stealing and profiting from personal information, according to one survey. This creates a tricky and potentially expensive situation for victims to resolve.

Experts say theft by a family member or acquaintance is vastly underreported.

The National Crime Victimization Survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics from 2016 found that just 6% of all victims of identity theft knew something about the offender. But another more recent report by Javelin Research & Strategy, which surveyed 5,000 adults, found that the number of victims who knew the offender in cases of identity theft spiked to 15% in 2018 from 7% in 2017. Because victims were hesitant to report the crime, about three-quarters of these victims personally bore all or some liability for the fraud that occurred.

Experts said that victims generally do not report the fraud because they don’t want to get friends or family in trouble with the law or cause personal rifts. They often feel some shame and embarrassment that it occurred. And in some cases — such as with children or the elderly — they may be unaware or reliant upon the perpetrator.

Axton Betz-Hamilton is an authority on the topic — both personally and professionally.

Growing up, Betz-Hamilton watched her parents struggle unsuccessfully for years to resolve cases of identity theft. At 19, she discovered that her own identity had been stolen years earlier. It took Betz-Hamilton about eight years to straighten out her credit report.

The cruelest twist came after her mother’s death in 2013, when she and her father discovered that her mother had been the culprit — taking an estimated $600,000 combined from Betz-Hamilton, her father and grandfather through various misdeeds.

She has turned the formidable experience into a career. Betz -Hamilton is now an assistant professor of consumer affairs at South Dakota State University, where she focuses on issues such as family financial abuse, child identity theft and elderly financial exploitation.

She also wrote a book “The Less People Know About Us” about her personal experience.

Since the book’s publication earlier this year, Betz-Hamilton has heard from other victims around the globe — some with stories more extreme than hers. In many cases involving other forms of abuse.

Still, Betz-Hamilton and other experts say many fraud victims are ashamed to come forward.

“It is exceptionally underreported,” said Charity Lacey, spokeswoman for the Identity Theft Resource Center, a non-profit that focuses on supporting victims.

“There are all these justifications that can happen on the part of the victim as to why they will allow that known perpetrator identity crime to happen,” she said.

Here are a few ways you help prevent or recover from familiar fraud:

PREVENTION

It pays to protect yourself in some of the ways you would from any identity theft.

Freeze your credit, which restricts access to your credit file. It’s free, easy and will essentially halt someone from opening any new credit in your name.

While you are at it, freeze your children’s credit too and urge elderly loved ones to do the same. Experts say children and the elderly are often targeted because they’re vulnerable and the activity goes undetected. It’s not just family but friends and acquaintances who take advantage of access to personal information.

Store personal information and documents such as Social Security cards, passports and birth certificates in a safe place. Shred sensitive documents and keep information on electronic devices protected. Monitor your credit reports regularly for any unusual activity.

Vet anyone who may be in your home regularly — such as caregivers or other service providers. Don’t leave personal information out — such as bank statements — if you are expecting others in your home.

Be selective about who you trust to maintain your finances in old age or in disability. Consider putting checks and balances in place with a financial professional or multiple trusted people as a safeguard to keep each in check.

RECOGNIZE

Keep an eye out for signs of fraudulent activity.

Review your bank and credit card statements closely. Look out for signs of new account activity — this could include bills for items you didn’t buy, debt collection calls for or denial for loan applications. Credit card applications arriving in the mail for a minor are another giveaway.

Pay close attention if an elderly loved one is reliant on others for their care as this is when they are most susceptible. Look out for changes in financial activity or activity they cannot explain. Additionally, take note if items are missing from their home. Also notice if a caregiver shows a change in lifestyle — quitting a job or buying big ticket items for instance.

Javelin Strategy & Research found that fraud cases show an uptick around economic downturns as people grow desperate.

Kyle Marchini, who co-authored the firm’s report on identity theft, refers to need as one corner of a “fraud triangle,” with opportunity and rationalization as the other two corners.

For example, sometimes a family member might use another’s information to get a loan to pay the rent. While that is easier to rationalize than a spending spree, it’s still a crime.

REPORT

A big hurdle for victims is the emotional betrayal of someone they trust. Then comes the question of whether to report it.

There’s a lot of guilt and shame about ‘’I should have known better’,” said Lacey of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “Now that person’s outcome is in (their) hand and (they) have a weighty decision to make.”

Lacey recommends victims report the crime in most cases. Law enforcement will need proof.

The police report is “sort of your ticket to show to banks and credit reporting agencies” said Betz-Hamilton. It also helps convince banks and creditors that you aren’t complicit in the fraud, said Marchini.

Consider seeking other help, such as through a victim’s support group like Identity Theft Resource Center or professional therapy.

Sarah Skidmore Sell, The Associated Press

The post Financial fraud more fraught when perpetrator is known appeared first on Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News.


DETROIT — BMW is telling owners of some older 3-series cars to stop driving them after another recall of dangerous Takata air bag inflators.

A driver in Australia was killed by an airbag malfunction, while another Australian and a driver in Cyprus were injured, according to government documents.

The recently discovered malfunction is different than the defect that led to at least 24 deaths and hundreds of injuries worldwide, though the result, like the earlier issue, also results in airbags that can explode and hurl shrapnel, killing or injuring people. The company is adding about 1.4 million front driver inflators to recalls in the U.S., according to government documents posted Wednesday.

Included are more than 116,000 BMW 3-Series cars from the 1999 to 2001 model years. About 8,000 definitely have faulty inflators and should be parked, BMW said. The rest can still be driven.

In addition, certain Audi, Honda, Toyota and Mitsubishi vehicles made from 1995 to 2000 also are being recalled, but information on which models was not available Wednesday.

Unlike previous recalls, the Takata non-azide inflators do not use volatile ammonium nitrate to fill the air bags in a crash. But the air bag propellant can still deteriorate over time when exposed to moisture and explode too fast, blowing apart the inflator body. They also might not fully inflate to protect people in a crash.

Takata says in government documents that it made about 4.5 million of the inflators worldwide but only a portion are still in use because the vehicles are so old. The faulty inflators have problems with insufficient seals.

Toyota and Honda said they’re still figuring out which models will have to be recalled. U.S. safety regulators said they were told by Mitsubishi that the only U.S. vehicle affected is the 1998 through 2000 Montero. A company spokesman was seeking more information.

A message was left Wednesday for Audi, which is Volkswagen’s luxury brand.

In a prepared statement, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it’s in discussions with the automakers about the recalls. It urged owners to search for recalls in the coming weeks by entering their vehicle identification number at www.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls

In the BMW recalls, the company is recommending that people stop driving certain 1999 323i and 328i sedans made from July of 1998 through January of 1999. Spokesman Oleg Satanovsky said those cars have inflators that were made at a Takata factory and are known to be faulty because they were manufactured before production improvements.

The company also is recalling another 34,000 323i and 328i sedans from 1999-2000 and 323Ci and 328Ci coupes from the 2000 model year. These cars were made from March of 1998 through March of 2000 and have inflators made at two Takata plants that could be defective. Satanovsky says these cars will be inspected and some could get new inflators.

A third group of cars, just over 74,000, also are being recalled. This group includes 323i, 325i, 328i, 330i sedans from the 1999 through 2001 model years. They were produced from May 1999 through July of 2000 and may have had air bag inflators replaced by defective ones. They also will be inspected.

BMW is still developing a remedy for the problem, but the company intends to replace faulty inflators with new ones. The company says owners will be notified when parts are available.

The recall is another in a long saga of problems with Takata inflators that sent the company into bankruptcy.

Nineteen automakers are recalling about 70 million inflators in what has become the largest string of automotive recalls in U.S. history. The company is recalling about 100 million inflators worldwide.

Most of the recalled inflators use ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion and inflate the air bags. But the chemical deteriorates when exposed to high temperatures and humidity and can burn to fast, blowing apart the canister designed to contain the explosion.

The remnants of Takata were purchased by Chinese-owned Key Safety Systems for $1.6 billion (175 billion yen). A message was left seeking comment from the successor company, Joyson Safety Systems.

___

Corrects story to clarify that only about 8,000 of the recalled BMW vehicles should not be driven

Tom Krisher, The Associated Press

The post Deadly defect found in another version of Takata airbags appeared first on Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News.


ST. GEORGE, Utah — A proposal to build an RV park, hotel and gas station near the northwest entrance to Zion National Park has been rejected by county commissioners who said the rural area wasn’t equipped to handle that kind of commercial development.

Washington County commissioners unanimously voted down the proposal Tuesday despite a earlier approval from a county planning commission, the Spectrum newspaper in St. George reported.

A company called Juniper Investors was asking the commission to rezone land near the town of New Harmony off Interstate 15.

The area is near an entrance to Zion National Park that leads to a 5-mile (8-kilometre) scenic drive through the Kolob Canyons area. The park’s main entrance is southwest of there, about a 40-mile (64-kilometre) drive by highway to the town of Springdale, which already has dozens of hotels, restaurants, and outfitter and souvenir shops.

Park officials opposed the project because they worried the development would affect views from the canyon and overwhelm the limited staff that work the entrance, chief ranger Daniel Fagergren said.

“A gas station and other types of businesses in such proximity to the park is not conducive to the values the park espouses,” he said.

Stephen Swindle of Juniper Investors declined to comment after the vote.

Dozens of residents from the town of New Harmony went to the commissioners’ meeting to express their concerns about light pollution, the water supply and how long it would take law enforcement to arrive from other cities in emergencies. Several of them celebrated after the commissioners’ decision.

“We did it, we won. We’re going to stay rural,” New Harmony resident Pamela Whitaker said.

The Associated Press

The post Proposed RV park outside Zion National Park rejected appeared first on Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News.


Microsoft’s shareholders have defeated two proposals by activist investors calling for the company to add a rank-and-file employee on its board of directors and report on gender disparities in company salaries.

The company said Wednesday that neither proposal got enough support, according to preliminary vote tallies.

Boston-based investment firm NorthStar Asset Management pushed for getting a non-management employee on the board. It cited internal dissent over Microsoft’s immigration and military contracts as a reason for more employee representation.

Microsoft asked investors to defeat the proposal, arguing that all board candidates should be evaluated using the same criteria. The company said preliminary vote results showed NorthStar’s proposal getting less than 5% support.

A separate proposal to require the company to address pay disparity concerns received more votes but not enough to pass. The company’s preliminary tally showed less than 30% support.

Microsoft announced the tallies at its annual shareholder meeting, an online event with no shareholders in attendance physically.

The Associated Press

The post Microsoft shareholders defeat 2 activist proposals appeared first on Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News.


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