AG Hood Warns Consumers of Scam Websites Posing as Equifax

September 19, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood is warning consumers to use extra caution when accessing information telling them if they have been impacted by the recent Equifax data breach.

“Consumers should make sure that they are accessing the correct website through the correct Equifax link,” said General Hood. “We have seen links that are extremely similar to the legitimate Equifax link—some that are off by just one number—so we want to prevent consumers from having more damage done to their personal information.”

The correct link to use to check on potential impact through this breach is www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. It is a properly registered site; however, scammers are producing hundreds of websites very similar to this link that are not legitimate, with new ones continually popping up. Shortly after Equifax established its legitimate website, other domains were registered, tricking consumers into using fraudulent websites and putting their personal information at additional risk. In this instance, websites can be verified by accessing it directly from the Equifax site and by not clicking embedded links in emails or other websites.

“People need to go online and check if they’ve been affected,” said General Hood. “When you click on the link, it asks you to enter the last six numbers of your Social Security Number, then it tells you whether you were potentially impacted. In our office, we found that two out of three people were possibly impacted by this breach.”

Equifax has reported the incident potentially impacted the personal information of 143 million U.S. consumers, including 1,299,254 Mississippians. The information that was stolen primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers, and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers, were accessed. Equifax also identified unauthorized access to limited personal information for certain U.K. and Canadian residents and is working with regulators in those countries.

Equifax is offering a free service to consumers called TrustedID Premier through the website previously listed, which will provide complimentary services such as credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. Consumers should also take steps to place security freezes on their accounts.

To place a security freeze, contact each of the nationwide credit reporting companies and supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other personal information. There may be a fee with companies other than Equifax; however, General Hood has asked that Equifax reimburse consumers for these fees, which range from $5 to $10. After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting company will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze.

The following information is from Equifax for those who enact a security freeze:

  • If consumers request a security freeze online: Consumers may place, temporarily lift, or remove a security freeze to an Equifax Credit File by going to http://www.equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance/?/CreditReportAssistance.
    Equifax does not currently email or mail the individual 10-digit PIN to consumers. It is available on the screen, and the consumer is asked to print the PIN from the screen. The Equifax technology team is aware of some limited situations in which consumers are unable to view their PINs. It has been determined that this is caused by users’ browser settings. Equifax is working on a fix for this issue. In the meantime, Equifax is displaying a phone number that consumers may call to receive a PIN.
  • If consumers request a security freeze over the phone or via U.S. Mail: Equifax will mail consumers their individual, 10-digit PIN at the address on file.
  • Refunds for recently placed credit freezes: Equifax intends to automatically refund consumers who used credit cards to place a security freeze on their Equifax credit file starting at 5:00 PM EST on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. Equifax is also planning to refund consumers who paid by check or money order, but the company is still finalizing the details of executing those refunds.
  • Requesting a new PIN: Consumers who have older PINs and wish to receive a new one can call (866) 349-5191 to speak to a live agent; provide identity verification information; and receive a replacement PIN.

To place a security freeze with each of the other nationwide credit reporting companies, consumers should contact:


Tupelo Woman Arrested for Posing as Highway Patrol Trainee to Raise Money

September 18, 2017

Natasha Lesha Stephens, 30, of Tupelo

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of 30-year-old Natasha Lesha Stephens for fraudulently acting as a highway patrolman recruit to raise money online.

Stephens, of Tupelo, was arrested at her home Friday by Investigator Lee McDivitt with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, with assistance from detectives with the Tupelo Police Department. Stephens set up a GoFundMe page online to raise $1,000 for what she listed as required items for Mississippi Highway Patrol Cadet Class 62, to which she claimed on the page that she had been accepted.

In describing the fake campaign, Stephens wrote: “I have been blessed with the opportunity to become a part of something much higher than myself. I have been accepted in the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol Cadet Class 62 that begins this October. A list of required items has been given. Unfortunately I am unable to financially obtain those items. I am asking for help in order to be able to be apart of this opportunity. The cost is $1000. Any donations will be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Help spread the word!”

Stephens is charged with one felony count of wire and mail fraud. She faces up to five years in prison. A charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

“Our office has gotten this fraudulent page shut down,” said General Hood. “Do not give money to this person, and if you already have, contact our office immediately.”

To contact the Consumer Protection Division, call (800) 281-4418 or visit agjimhood.com.

This case was investigated by McDivitt, with assistance from detectives in the Tupelo Police Department, and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Patrick Beasley.


AG Hood Joins Multistate Investigation into Equifax Data Breach

September 15, 2017
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Today, Attorney General Jim Hood joined 31 attorneys general in requesting credit reporting firm Equifax disable links for enrollment in fee-based credit monitoring services in the wake of the firm’s massive data breach impacting 143 million people.

Mississippi is part of a multistate investigation into Equifax, which was launched when Equifax publicly disclosed the breach last week. Equifax is offering free credit monitoring services in response to the breach, and a letter sent to Equifax by this group of attorneys general objects to the inclusion of terms of service that required consumers to waive their rights, the offer of competing fee-based and free credit monitoring services by Equifax, and Equifax’s charge for a security freeze with other credit monitoring companies like Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis.

“We believe continuing to offer consumers a fee-based service in addition to Equifax’s free monitoring services will serve to only confuse consumers who are already struggling to make decisions on how to best protect themselves in the wake of this massive breach,” the attorneys general wrote. “Selling a fee-based product that competes with Equifax’s own free offer of credit monitoring services to victims of Equifax’s own data breach is unfair, particularly if consumers are not sure if their information was compromised.

The attorneys general also said that, although Equifax has agreed to waive credit freeze fees for those who would otherwise be subject to them, the other two credit bureaus, Experian and Transunion, continue to charge fees for security freezes. The attorneys general said that Equifax should be taking steps to reimburse consumers who incur these fees to completely freeze their credit.

In an additional letter sent to Equifax last week, the attorneys general requested information about the circumstances that led to the breach, the reasons for the months-long delay between the breach and the company’s public disclosure, what protections the company had in place at the time of the breach and how the company intends to protect consumers affected by the breach.

To see if your data was comprised, visit this secure link: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/

General Hood reminds consumers to be diligent by watching their bank accounts and credit card statements.

“It’s important to not just watch your accounts now, while this breach is in the news, but to continue to monitor them months from now for potential impact down the road,” said General Hood. “We cannot assume things are safe anymore. We must do our part as consumers to be sure our personal information is secure.”

General Hood urges consumers to:

  • Report any suspicious activity to your bank or credit card company right away. Any delay in reporting the fraudulent activity could make it harder for you to get that money back.
  • Check your credit report periodically and be sure to dispute any information that is not accurate.
  • Put a credit freeze on your credit report. A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, which makes it much more difficult for criminals to open false accounts in your name. However, placing such a freeze should be considered carefully since the lead time needed to unfreeze it may be significant.
  • Consider two-factor authentication when using financial services online. For most two-factor authentication, also known as two-step verification, users receive a security code via their phone or mobile device that must be entered in addition to a password.
  • Avoid unsolicited emails that seek even more personal information or financial data. Following a large-scale data breach, scammers may attempt to steal a consumer’s identity or access bank accounts by sending out fake notices.

For more information about data breaches, identity theft or other consumer issues, call (800) 281-4418.

Click here to download a copy of the letter sent to Equifax by the group of attorneys general.


Lucedale Man Arrested for Failure to Pay Child Support

September 15, 2017

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of 45-year-old Ernest Wade Creech for failing to pay child support for nearly eight years.

Creech, of Lucedale, turned himself in to the Greene County Sheriff’s Office Thursday following an August indictment by a Greene County grand jury on one felony count of non-support of a child. The indictment states he willfully neglected or refused to provide for his child between October 2009 and August 2017 in the amount of $59,685.00. Creech’s arraignment is scheduled for September 28 at 1:00 p.m. Investigators Michael Stevens and Merritt Barry—both with the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division—assisted in the arrest.

Creech faces up to five years in prison, full restitution, and a $500 fine. A charge is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the Attorney General’s Child Desertion Unit and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Kimberly T. Purdie, also of the Attorney General’s Child Desertion Unit.

 


Woman Arrested for Insurance, Wire Fraud

September 13, 2017

Shaquanna Bush, 24, of Lexington

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of 24-year-old Shaquanna Bush on insurance and wire fraud charges.

Bush, of Lexington, was arrested at her home Thursday by the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office. She was charged with filing a false insurance claim for damages to a vehicle and for communicating the false information by telephone and other forms of communication across county and jurisdictional lines for the purpose of executing a devised scheme and artifice to defraud. The investigation revealed that the damage to the vehicle was preexisting and had been the subject of a prior insurance claim. Bush did not profit from the fraudulent claim due to the insurance company verifying the damage as preexisting and denying the fraudulent claim.

Bush is charged with one count of insurance fraud and two counts of wire fraud, all of which are felony charges. She faces up to 13 years in prison and $25,000 in fines. A charge is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by Kenneth West and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Steven Waldrup, both with the Attorney General’s Insurance Integrity Enforcement Bureau.


Sumrall Man Arrested For Embezzling Money from Insurance Customers

September 12, 2017

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of 30-year-old Brian Hudson, who is charged on a six-count indictment out of Lamar County.

Hudson, of Sumrall, turned himself into the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office Monday on two felony counts each of wire fraud and embezzlement as well as one misdemeanor count each of embezzlement and uttering forgery. While working as an insurance agent, Hudson embezzled more than $34,000. He converted customers’ premium payments for his own use and changed the mailing addresses of customers without their permission in order to receive their refund checks, which he also converted for his own use.

If convicted on all six counts, Hudson faces 21 years behind bars, $32,000 in fines, and full restitution. His bond was set at $15,000, and an arraignment was scheduled for October 2 at 1:00 p.m. A charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by Michael Stevens with the Attorney General’s Insurance Integrity Enforcement Bureau, with assistance from the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Steven Waldrup with the AG’s Public Integrity Division.


Lexington Woman Arrested for Insurance Fraud After House Fire

September 12, 2017

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of 42-year-old Matoya Hillie Reaves on insurance fraud, wire fraud, and false pretense charges.

Reaves, of Lexington, attempted to defraud Liberty Mutual Insurance Company by filing false claims, including fake invoices appearing to be from Ashley Furniture and other businesses, for items she claimed were destroyed in a fire at her home. The indictment states Reaves received unlawful payments in excess of $500. She was arrested Friday by Investigator Anita Ray with the Attorney General’s Office and booked into the Holmes/Humphreys Regional Correctional Facility.

If convicted on all counts, Reaves faces up to 18 years in prison and $25,000 in fines. A charge is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by Investigator Anita Ray and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Steven Waldrup, both with the Attorney General’s Insurance Integrity Enforcement Bureau.

 


Southwest Mississippi Man Arrested for Attempting False Pretense

September 11, 2017

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of 45-year-old John M. Chance, Jr. on one charge of attempting to commit false pretense.

Chance, of Brookhaven, turned himself in to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office Friday. He was indicted last month by an Adams County Grand Jury for attempting to obtain the release of an insurance policy assignment by presenting false release forms to the Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District, which is based in Natchez. The indictment states Chance delivered those forms seeking to obtain funds in an amount greater than $500 on insurance policies written by Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company but that the scheme failed when the Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District determined that the release of assignment forms being presented by Chance were fraudulent.

If convicted, Chance faces up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. His bond was set at $5,000, and an arraignment was scheduled for September 21 at 1:30 p.m. A charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by Michael Stevens with the Attorney General’s Insurance Integrity Enforcement Bureau and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Robert “Bob” Anderson with the AG’s Public Integrity Division.