Money Laundering, Terrorism and Financial Institutions - USA Patriot Act Monitor

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9/24/2011 Business Travelers Beware: Free Hotel Computers Providing Internet Access Can Be Hacked. 

Ever check your bank balance on a hotel computer?  A recent government report describes an identity thief who traveled around the country, staying at high-end hotels, who installed a virus on computers available to the guests.  The virus detected when a guest entered account access information and relayed it to the identity thief, who then accessed the account himself. 

Identity thieves don’t always try to drain accounts any more.  They may not try to remove anything at all.  They take over the account, or probably a large number of accounts, and access the trading capabilities of the accounts to purchase large amounts of thinly traded stock.  When the price goes up, they sell stock they already own, perhaps in offshore accounts, realizing a profit.  The victims’ accounts are left holding nearly worthless securities.  The beauty of this kind of market manipulation, from the identity thief’s perspective, is that it’s far more successful than trying to drain the account.  The bells and whistles financial institutions are installing are most often designed to catch unauthorized withdrawals, not stupid trades. 

These and other scams will be discussed in the September issue of the USA PATRIOT Act Monitor.  We’ve also updated the Red Flag Checklist to include about a dozen new identity theft red flags that financial institutions should be watching for. 


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