Local Firm Works To Expose, Prevent ID Theft

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — It’s tax time, and a lot of people file online.

However, if you think your information is secure, it may not be, especially if you have a teenager at home who shares music and other files.

One local firm is working to expose identity theft though, and they are also helping people and companies prevent it.

They are a modern-day version of Sherlock Holmes; high-tech sleuths whose magnifying glass is the computer screen. Their archenemy is identity thief, an unseen criminal who is bent on stealing your personal, medical and financial information.

Inside Tiversa in Cranberry, computer scientist Rick Wallace has found a mother-load of tax returns stolen from personal computers throughout the country.

With this information, a thief can file phony tax returns and collect your refund, while using your financial information, your social security number and those of your spouse and children for all kinds of other thefts.

“The IRS will tell you this is a $20 billion fraud per year,” said Robert Boback, Tiversa’s founder. “They don’t publicize that widely because they can’t stop it.”

Boback says the problem is so-called file sharing. These so-called peer-to-peer networks provide a portal for hackers to get all the information off your computer.

“Your electronic tax return, your resume, your personal photos, your social will now be available around the world for people to get, to gain access to,” said Boback.

In the trove of stolen returns are those of several people in our area.

“It was really sickening, quite honestly,” said JaneAnn Fucci, a local identify theft victim.

For years, Fucci filed her tax returns using Turbo Tax. But at the same time, one of her kids was using the computer to share music files.

As a result, they inadvertently exposed those files to a hacker – who has sold the family’s personal information all over the planet.

“It’s been passed to Florida among other places in the United States, as well as overseas,” said Fucci.

Tax returns are only one example of information being stolen.

Computer expert Keith Tagliaferri has found stolen patient information from a doctor’s office – the files were exposed by a third party biller.

“You can see the providers name is listed here, but you can also see the person’s first and last name, their SSN, their phone number, their address, their city,” said Tagliaferri.

Now highly sensitive information regarding those patients is on the black market.

“Were they there for psychological evaluation, there are cancer patients here, there may even be some people here who are HIV positive,” said Tagliaferri.

Tiversa has become a world leader in finding these leaks and plugging them for clients.

“While the FTC will guide you to say that identify thieves are getting your social security numbers out of dumpsters, they’re not. They’re using your computer,” added Boback. “They’re getting your personal information and committing identify theft.”

Meanwhile, Tiversa is working with Fucci to make her files safe and help her defend her credit, but every time she logs on to her home computer she thinks of the bad guys.

“It’s just a reality of today’s world, I guess. Used to be Jesse James and the bank robbers, if you’re riding the train,” said Fucci. “Well, today the internet is the train.”

  • Concerned viewer

    Why not do a follow up story to explain how to protect this information? This is just half of the story.

  • Richard

    One way to help protect yourself (and your data) online is to use a firewall. It can either be software (McAfee, Norton, etc.) or hardware based. Keep your anti-virus/firewall software updated, run weekly scans and it also doesn’t hurt to run a program once a week to check for malware. Malware Bytes is free and does a competent job. If this sounds like a lot of bother, imagine the bother it would be if your information was compromised!

  • Kevin

    Unfortunately, McAfee, Norton, and other anti-virus companies DO NOT prevent this from happening. They are only configured to detect KNOWN viruses/malware. File sharing applications are neither a virus or malware so therefore it will not work for that. I also noticed in the piece that one it mentioned medical records and insurance information being leaked, from apparently a hospital. I wonder what UPMC and Highmark do to prevent losing patient information via file sharing networks….or was the example UPMC or Highmark, since the story involved Pittsburgh??? This is a BIG problem that is not easily fixed.

    • Richard

      Kevin, you seem to have missed my suggestion of a FIREWALL. Of course anti-virus and malware software aren’t going to prevent someone from compromising an internet connected PC but a FIREWALL has a shot at it. The anti-virus/malware suggestion was in ADDITION to my main suggestion of a FIREWALL.

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