9 Plead Guilty to $20M Scheme to Defraud Soldiers.

Eight Alabama residents and one Georgia resident pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme in which they stole thousands of identities to file more than 7,000 false tax returns, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Alabama. Over the course of nearly three years, the group defrauded the government of approximately $20 million. A 10th accused conspirator is scheduled to appear in court April 6.

The group collected identifying information from a variety of sources, including a military hospital. Defendant Tracy Mitchell of Phenix City, Ala., worked at a military hospital in Fort Benning, Ga., where she had access to service members’ identifying data, including information about soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, according to a news release about the case. Court documents cited in the release say Mitchell used the information she accessed at the hospital to file fraudulent tax returns.

Other defendants took data from the Alabama Department of Corrections, a call center in Georgia where two of the defendants worked and two unnamed Alabama state agencies. This went on between January 2011 and December 2013.

Identity thieves favor the tax-return tactic as a way to cash in on sensitive data, which they can get by breaking into databases containing the information (aka a data breach) or following people’s paper or electronic footprints.

The success of a tax-related identity theft scheme depends upon thieves filing fake tax returns early in the season before victims do. This leads to a delay in refunds for those who are entitled to them, not to mention the hassle of straightening out identity theft and dealing with the consequences of someone using your personal information. Losing control of your Social Security number may mean years of identity theft problems, which can take time to fix.

Additionally, identity theft can lead to damaging information on your credit report, potentially hurting your credit standing and everything it’s used for, like getting loans or applying for an apartment. To look for potential signs of fraud, you can get your free annual credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, and you can get a free credit report summary, updated monthly, on Credit.com.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

This article by Christine DiGangi was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


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What to do When Struggling or Late with Credit Card Payments

I generally begin any debt relief consultation I do with people who reach out to my company in search of help with credit card debt with this question:

“What has you reaching out to a perfect stranger? What is going on with you financially”? Then, I shut up and listen. I am sometimes the first person the caller has ever spoken to about the situation they are in.

The responses I hear vary, as does the time someone will take to outline the details of their hardship. By listening closely, I am able to hear the stress and fear they have about their credit card debt. I often hear the struggles they have gone through to try and keep current with credit card bills, or the difficulty they have had in communicating with creditors and collectors.

The other day, I heard one of the simplest and shortest answers to my initial question that I have had to date.

“My Debt Is Crippling Me.”

While this response does not provide details I generally look to key off of in order to identify the debt pieces or solutions to putting the person’s financial puzzle back together, it said a great deal in a very powerful way.

Struggles with debt and credit can feel crippling.

Overwhelming debt debilitates in the same sense that someone with a physical disability is forced to deal with every day of their lives. The stress and fear with credit card debt problems can often manifest into actual maladies. The worry and frustration about bills, and the lack of money, carries over from one day to the next. What am I going to do at the end of the month when these other bills are due? When will I ever be out of credit card debt? How did I get trapped in a home now worth far less than I owe? What if I get laid off with no savings? How would I get by with maxed out credit cards and no income?

One of the overwhelming benefits to people we talk with is that we can reduce, or even remove the stress and fear they have about their debt problem in one phone call. How do we do that?

For most debt problems, there is a debt relief solution.

This gentleman did not feel crippled when we finished talking about his problem because I plainly laid out the facts of his finances (after several additional questions to be sure), and was able to point out to him the mathematical rational solution to his debt. His solution did not involve needing to engage my company for a product or service, as he was past the point of debt settlement or a creditor sponsored hardship plan being a viable option.

He learned that, unlike someone who has a physical disability for the rest of their life, his crippling debt could actually be cured and with little fuss or expense. He was not at all excited to know that his only real option was to file for chapter 7 bankruptcy, but he saw the wisdom in doing so and hung up the phone with no fear and less stress.

I asked him before we hung up from the call “How crippling is your debt now?”.
He replied “Not at all.”

5 debt management tools that can provide a solution to an overwhelming debt problem. Learn the details and relieve the stress.

There is nearly always an answer to recover from debt. The answers do often involve tough choices and some action steps that are not exactly a thrill to take, but can be arrived at through the process of elimination. Generally, I can walk through the following things and eliminate 3 or 4 out of the 5:

  1. Creditor monthly payment concessions
  2. Debt Management Plans through a credit counseling service
  3. Bankruptcy
  4. Debt Settlement
  5. Doing nothing (sometimes the right thing for brief period – couple months)

Knowledge removes the fear of the unknown, and unemotional, boring, old arithmetic is the compass to find your way to healthier finances.

My advice to anyone feeling crippled by credit card and other debt boils down to the “Four Gets”:

  1. Get real about your finances;
  2. Get informed about your debt relief options;
  3. Get a plan in place; and
  4. Get started

If you would like to start getting informed the same way the man who inspired this article did, consider scheduling a time to consult with CRN one on one, or get started with our no risk membership program.


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Those Furnishers of Bad Information Found In Your Credit Report Are Costing You Money

The credit report topic has been covered well on our web site, but mostly as it applies to people who need some form of debt relief due to a financial hardship. While that is an important topic and a concern for more and more people as a result of our tough economy – what about the furnishing of bad data on people who are managing their debts well?

What affect does bad information supplied to the credit bureaus have on your credit report?

Your credit score and loan product price modeling is calculated not just by your timely payment history, but is also based on your credit utilization, debt to income ratio and a few other key points.

Due to how information in your credit report is factored, mistakes made by those furnishing information about you to the reporting agencies can have a major impact on how much credit will cost you and whether you are approved for a credit product at all.

This morning, I read a good example of the type of damage that can be inflicted by a simple loan classification error:

Issue: Most scoring systems take data at face value with little or no interpretation. If you track the erroneous “Installment Loan” designation downstream, the credit scoring systems would see the following:

  • An installment loan for an extremely large sum (i.e. $200,000).
  • Duration of payments for these loans was reported as 30, however, the number reported for an installment loan is seen by Metro 2® as 30 months, whereas, the number reported for a mortgage is seen by Metro 2® as 30 years.

Result: Most credit scores would be calculated based on the facts reported — “Installment” loan of $200,000 with what looks like payment term of 30 months. In effect, a 30 month payback period would require each payment be approximately $6600, whereas a 30 year payback period would yield a monthly payment in the vicinity of $1000. The perceived debt of $6600 per month could potentially negatively impact multiple factors of consumer lending such as approval scores, debt ratios, bankruptcy scores, pre-screen scores, etc.

And those types of errors are just the tip of the credit reporting iceberg. From a potential litigation standpoint, data furnishers that do not invest the time and resources required to evaluate the accuracy and integrity of their credit reporting on an ongoing basis are making a potential titanic mistake.

To read the full article click here: troubling times ahead for credit bureau data furnishers

This type of loan classification error would seem easy for the furnisher to fix. Indeed, common sense dictates that it should be fixed.  It will cost money to do it though.

My experience with credit reporting agencies and furnishers of information that show on your credit report is that they do not always think with “sense”, but think more in terms of dollars and “cents”.

The key to “common-cents” and violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is that it is more profitable to do the wrong thing than the right.

Some credit report information furnishers get it absolutely bass-ackwards.

They seem to be saying “We know we have a problem and that it screws people over, but we will continue to do so until it is more cost effective to fix the problem than to continue to get sued”.

The linked article above speaks to a specific case in the 9th circuit that allows a class action to proceed against one company that may end up costing them between 29 and 290 million. My guess is that their legal defense bill alone would have covered the costs of auditing and correcting their reporting systems on a regular basis which would prevent actions like this from occurring.

It is a small wonder to me that more legal action is not brought against furnishers of bad information about you to credit bureaus.

Similar to the economy of furnishers and reporting agencies making changes only when it makes “cents” to do so, suing them for their transgressions and missteps has long been about the costs for bringing the action and what can be gained from doing so.

Perhaps this attitude will change with the potential for more class action lawsuits against credit reporting agencies and furnishers that can lead to tens of millions in costs.

Maybe there is a class out there forming to bring the particularly egregious practice of reporting a balance still due after a settlement on a past due debt is reached, accepted and funded, and where both parties agree that the debt is settled, there is no balance due, but the amount of debt forgiven remains on the trade line and shows that portion of the balance as outstanding when it no longer is!  I wrote about this practice recently. Read more about it here: Why Does Capital One Screw People Who Settle Their Debt.

It is as important now as ever before for people to take responsibility for policing the accuracy of their credit profile. No one else is going to do it for you.

If you find inaccurate, erroneous or out of date information – You Can Fix It!

You have the ability to dispute bad information with the reporting agencies and you can also send direct disputes to the furnisher of the information. If they do not correct the discrepancies after sending your dispute certified mail return receipt it may be the best use of your time to next consult with a skilled consumer law attorney.

There are not that many attorneys experienced with FCRA violations around the country, but a case they may bring can be filed in federal court, which may make speaking with one you find with an office outside of your state worth the effort.

To locate an experienced FCRA consumer attorney you can go to www.naca.net and search using your zip code to find one nearest you.

Two attorneys I know that specialize in this area are:

Jason Rapa in PA


Michael or Justin Baxter in OR


If you have a specific question about debt or credit, click here to post your question and get it answered.

If you have questions or feedback about this topic, feel free to participate in the comment section below.

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