June 26, 2006

Just a Few More of the Many Reasons Congress Should Pass a Universal Credit Freeze

AIG: Personal data on 970,000 lost in burglary

Insurance giant American International Group said on Friday that it has lost personal identifying information on about 970,000 consumers through a burglary at an undisclosed office in the Midwest.

The insurer said the break-in occurred March 31 and that it alerted police to the loss of a laptop computer and a file server with insurance applicants’ personal records. But the company acknowledged that it has not yet alerted consumers about their possible vulnerability to identity thieves. AIG said it plans to mail out advisories to the affected consumers by the end of this week.

“So far, we’re not aware of any misuse,” says AIG spokesman Chris Winans, adding, “We didn’t want to inadvertently inform the thief that he had a computer with sensitive information on it.”

Winans says the lost records were submitted to AIG by 690 different insurance brokers, on behalf of possibly thousands of employers, seeking group coverage for a type of supplemental medical insurance for catastrophic claims. The lost records include names and Social Security numbers, he says.

Though I’m extremely irritated at AIG’s delay in notification, the bigger point is that no company can guarantee that sensitive information won’t be burglarized.

Red Cross worker pleads guilty to identity theft

A former American Red Cross employee pleaded guilty Monday to stealing the identity information of blood donors so she could open credit accounts, U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said.

Lonnetta Medcalf, 20, of St. Louis, used Red Cross donor records to gather personal information, Hanaway said. The Red Cross gave Medcalf access to the information so she could make phone calls and encourage more donations.

I can’t think of anything the Red Cross could have done to prevent an unscrupulous employee with access to sensitive information from doing what MedCalf did.

PayPal Fixes Identity Theft Flaw

Hacker found a new way to steal credit card numbers and other personal information from PayPal users. While PayPal managed to finally fix it, it (was) yet unclear how many people have been scammed.

According to Netcraft, users were tricked into accessing a URL hosted on the real PayPal web site. When accessing the page, the victims were presented with the following message:

“Your account is currently disabled because we think it has been accessed by a third party. You will now be redirected to Resolution Center.”

Afterwards, they were to an external server in Korea, which presented a fake PayPal Member log-in page, used to get the info from unsuspecting visitors.

Holy moly. How did somebody put a page on the REAL PayPal site?

* * * * *

The bad guys and gals can, and will, get access to personal information. The only way people can be sure that the bad people won’t be able to open up new accounts when it happens is if they have a credit freeze on their credit files. The, only, way.
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Selected Previous Posts:

  • June 15, 2006 — E-Mail to My Congressperson Advocating Universally Available Credit Freeze
  • Sept. 23, 2005 — More Proof That “They” Don’t Really Care about Preventing Identity Theft
  • Aug. 10 — What May Be the Mother of All Data Thefts Proves Why Data Encryption and Credit Freezes are Needed, NOW
  • July 19 — Identity Theft: It’s Time for National Credit Freeze Legislation

The FCC and Equifax Lose Data, Proving That We Should Get the Ability to Freeze Our Credit Files

Nope, I am not kidding.

First, the Federal Communiations Commission story:

The government agency charged with fighting identity theft said Thursday it had lost two government laptops containing sensitive personal data, the latest in a series of breaches encompassing millions of people.

The Federal Trade Commission said it would provide free credit monitoring for 110 people targeted for investigation whose names, addresses, Social Security numbers – and in some instances, financial account numbers – were taken from an FTC attorney’s locked car.

Equifax, an opponent of providing universal credit freeze availability to consumers, suffered a similar humiliation recently (HT Credit/Debt Recovery), and will hopefully be called onto the carpet over it:

Equifax laptop with employee data stolen

ATLANTA – Equifax Inc., one of the nation’s three major credit bureaus, said Tuesday a company laptop containing employee names and Social Security numbers was stolen from an employee who was traveling by train near London.

The theft, which could affect as many as 2,500 of the Atlanta-based company’s 4,600 employees, happened May 29 and all employees were notified June 7, spokesman David Rubinger said.

Employee names and partial and full Social Security numbers were on the computer’s hard drive, though Rubinger said it would be almost impossible for the thief to decipher the information because it was streamed together.

….. No other employee information was on the computer, he said, and there was no customer data on the computer.

Even so, the company has provided employees free access to its credit monitoring service, and it has encouraged them to put a fraud alert on their credit file.

Is anyone not yet convinced of the need for legislation giving consumers the ability to freeze their credit files at their sole discretion?

Kelo New London Update: Barriers to a Finalized Deal Remain

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:06 am

UPDATE, June 30: It’s Over

See below for links to all previous posts.
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There still are some barriers to a final deal between the City of New London and the two remaining Fort Trumbull holdouts (Susette Kelo and the Cristofaro family), and the saga is not totally over, despite the misleading headline at CBS News.

The June 24 story from AP lays out the uncertainty in the minds of the holdouts:

Later Friday, Kelo disputed the characterization of the deal and said: “There’s talks. That’s it.”

The five other property owners in the case had already settled with the city and handed over their properties. The city’s development arm, the New London Development Corp., first condemned the properties in 2000.

Michael Cristofaro, Pasquale’s son, praised Rell and the Department of Economic and Community Development for trying to find a fair solution. However, he said he’s still not sure about the outcome.

“There’s a lot of details in the negotiations that we haven’t totally agreed on and we’re working on those,” he said. “When Susette and I make our statements next week, I think everyone will be pleased with the results that the state has come up with.”

Cristofaro acknowledged the tentative agreement could still fall through.

The New London Day’s June 24 story (registration required after one day; paid subscription required after seven days) tells us more:

….. The weeks of discussions have involved financial incentives and the possibility of moving the houses taken by eminent domain, but one of Cristofaro’s sons, Michael Cristofaro, said Friday that moving his father’s longtime house out of Fort Trumbull had been ruled out.

“It’s too costly, too big, and there are too many power lines,” he said. “I don’t want to go through that.”

Rell and Mayor Beth A. Sabilia have both proposed relocating the houses in recent months, but the plans failed over disagreements over who would own the homes. Sabilia declined to comment Friday on whether negotiations still involved moving Kelo’s home.

….. But Michael Cristofaro said there’s a 90 percent possibility of coming to a conclusion by next Friday.

“I still feel my family will still be able to stay in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood,” he said.

Kelo, meanwhile, said she had no details to share.

“I would if I had some, but I have none,” she said. “Call me back Friday.”

….. The tentative agreement “takes into account the homeowners’ attachment to their homes in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood,” Bullock said, but he would not elaborate, citing the sensitive nature of the negotiations.

“If anything is going to cause a breakdown in negotiations, it’s giving a play-by-play of the details,” he said.

Though moving either house looks like a daunting task to me, a look at the relative sizes of the two homes shows you why Kelo’s (on the left) would appear to be the easier to move of the two:

Kelo House Cristafaro

There would appear to be other logistical barriers to a final settlement that have to do with the developer’s current plans:

Sabilia said only that no single-family residences are allowed on the parcel known as 4A, where one proposal would have relocated the plaintiffs’ homes, under the Municipal Development Plan for Fort Trumbull.

The state Department of Environmental Protection reiterated this week in a letter to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission that, under coastal management regulations, the absolute limit of residential housing units on the Fort Trumbull peninsula is 80.

Developer Corcoran Jennison has an application pending to build 66 apartments and 14 townhouses in Fort Trumbull.

Mike Cristofaro didn’t leave too much doubt as to where they stands on how well different parties have treated him:

Michael Cristofaro said he was grateful to the state for “starting to treat property owners with fairness and respect.”

“Our door’s always been open to fair negotiations,” he said.

Finally, in a separate New London Day article on Saturday, one of those who settled in the week leading up to City Council’s June 5 eviction vote was very vocal about who deserves credit for getting things to this point:

William Von Winkle seemed to sum up the feelings of many of them.

“It’s over. It’s just over,” he said. “How much more can you print?”

Von Winkle did express appreciation for Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s 11th-hour involvement in the negotiations between the plaintiffs and the city.

“Rell for governor,” he said. “She’s the best. I’ve got to say that. She made something that couldn’t happen for eight years happen.”

We’ll most likely have to wait until the end of the week to see if the two holdouts got what I consider their bottom-line demands met: staying in their homes, the homes remain in Fort Trumbull, and they receive the immediate-family-transfer titles the Governor Rell advocated.
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Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (062606)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:01 am

Free Links:

  • Economic ho-hum jobs update“Bemis Company Inc., based in Neenah (Wisconsin), is adding 500 jobs at its Oshkosh facility, while Buechel Stone Corporation in Chilton is adding 100 jobs in Calumet County. The new jobs will be formally announced at ceremonies at each company today, which will be attended by Gov. Jim Doyle.”
  • Remarkable news about skyscrapers in Chicago

    In this city where the skyscraper was born, it is thriving like never before.

    Luxury condominium towers and office buildings that climb 600 feet and more are sprouting up all over downtown. Along the Chicago River, the Trump International Hotel and Tower is inching its way up to a planned 92 stories.

    Plans are in the works for a nearby 124-story skyscraper, the Fordham Spire, that would knock the Sears Tower from its perch as the tallest building in the United States.

    Since 2000, no fewer than 40 buildings at least 50 stories high have been built, are under construction or are being planned. It’s a surge in high-rise construction that hasn’t been seen here since the 1960s and 1970s when the Sears Tower, John Hancock Center and other buildings helped give the city one of the most distinctive skylines in the world.

    Pretty courageous building, I would say, when 30% of the country as of June 22 said that we’re still in a recession. (/sarcasm)

  • An article written in early 2005 (HT the R-Rated Whistleblower’s e-mail; web link here), claims that “While it is politically incorrect to mention, over the years, more Americans have been killed as the result of our unsecured border with Mexico than lost their lives in the Twin Towers on 9/11.” And many of them become irretrievable fugitives simply by crossing back into Mexico.
  • USA tech job doldrums? Not Quite:

    America’s Tech Demise Greatly Exaggerated

    IT execs are raking in more than ever, smaller tech markets are blooming across the country, and the field boasts growth despite a slowing market.

    Most promising of all is that the students who have returned to top technology programs are, judging by their summer jobs and internships, doing more impressive and innovative work than ever.

    These students, taking on summer jobs from Wall Street to Yahoo, startups to the Department of Homeland Security, are applying their computer science knowledge in a host of traditional and non-traditional environments.

Positivity: “The Miracle Kid”

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:01 am

Not to disrespect the miraculous element in this story (of which I only excerpted about half), but to me this is one of those “miracles” that appears to be the result of at least as much determination to recover as it does divine intervention (and of course, there is synergy between the two):

The ‘Miracle Kid’
June 25, 2006

….. Tragedy struck (Zach) Gauvin, a senior varsity football and baseball player at Leominster High, in the early morning of April 19, when his 2000 Chevrolet Blazer veered off the road at the intersection of I-190 and Route 117 and then hit a guard rail, according to the state police.

Gauvin, who was being followed by best friend T.J. Magnell, a star shortstop on the baseball team, was unconscious when found and was LifeFlighted to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester where he was originally listed in critical condition.

According to Gauvin’s mother, he was diagnosed with severe head trauma, a collapsed lung, a fractured jaw and chipped bones in his foot.

“We didn’t realize how bad he was because he didn’t have a scratch on his face,” said Maryann. “It wasn’t until later on when they went over his MRI. They weren’t sure what his prognosis would be.”

Gauvin was placed in a medically induced coma where he would stay for a week and a half.

“About a week and a half of intensive care we were on wit’s end … we wondered if he’d remember us and if he’d be the same kid that he was,” said Maryann.

But, according to Maryann, one of the first things her son did when he woke up was laugh.

On May 10, Gauvin was transferred to the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, pediatric unit in the Mass. Eye & Ear Building where’s he currently undergoing countless hours of physical, occupational and speech/language therapy.

“On May 10th he couldn’t even sit up by himself and now he’s walking,” said Maryann. “He’s got a brace on his leg, he still has double vision but he’s more aware and alert. Even the doctors here call him the miracle kid because of how far he’s come in a short amount of time. The doctors say the kids that recover the best are the ones that are good students and good athletes.

“He works hard and he’s got a great attitude. He never gets frustrated.”

Besides being a good student and a good athlete, one characteristic that has Gauvin constantly pushing forward is his drive and will to succeed.

“Zach is a person who, like Vince Lombardi says, the makeup of a champion is a person who makes the pursuit of success an all-the-time thing, not a sometimes thing,” said Leominster American Legion coach Sid Rafuse. “He’s an all-American kid who works hard and never complains. That’s why I think he’ll beat this. This is another goal that he has set for himself.”

Gauvin is slated to leave Boston on Wednesday and finally go back home.

“(This) Wednesday I’m home for good. It’s awesome, I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed,” said Gauvin.

While at home, Gauvin is supposed to go to the outpatient at HealthAlliance Hospital/Burbank in Fitchburg three times per week for all three therapies, according to Maryann.

“His personality hasn’t changed, he’s still the same Zach,” said Magnell. “He’s a tough kid. Last week he said to me that he got himself into it, now he’s going to get himself out of it.”

What Gauvin wants to get into again is a baseball uniform. That’s another goal he’s set for himself.

“I’m hoping to walk soon and play high school baseball next year … I’m one of the captains,” he said.

Leominster varsity baseball coach Emile Johnson, who picked up his 600th career win earlier in the season when Gauvin connected on the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 8th inning to defeat Doherty, 6-5, on April 15, knows Gauvin’s strong will may eventually get him back on the baseball diamond.

“From a coaching standpoint it was the most trying situation I’ve had over the years, but it brought our team closer together,” said Johnson. “You talk about one of the high points in my career and in a matter of a couple days the low point.

“He’s one of our captains next year. Baseball is his No. 1 sport. I pray that it will happen, but it’s going to take a miracle. But if anyone can do it he can do it. He strives, he strives and he strives. He wants it bad.”

One of Maryann’s goals for her son is to watch him graduate from Leominster High next year.