Category: Crime

Social Security impostor scam: It’s growing, and this is how it works

To scammers, your Social Security number is a gold-plated and diamond-encrusted asset, and now they have a new way to try to steal yours and get paid.

Consumer advocates are raising an alert about a twist to an old impostor phone scam. It’s called the “Social Security impostor scam.” A blog at the Federal Trade Commission recently wrote: “In the shady world of government, the SSA scam may be the new IRS scam.”

Here’s how it works:

You get a call with a warning that your Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity or because it’s been used in a crime. You are asked to confirm you number or told you need to withdraw money from the bank and buy gift cards.

The phone call may be a robocaller with a message to “press 1” to speak with a “support representative” from the government to reactivate your Social Security number. The scammers use technology to spoof your Caller ID to make it look like the Social Security Administration is really calling.

More: New scam aims to trick you into giving up your cell phone account information

More: These robocalls don’t want to talk to you, they just want you to call back, FCC says

In the last 12 months, people filed more than 76,000 complaints about Social Security impostors, reporting $19 million in losses. The median reported loss last year was $1,500, the FTC said.

People are asked to give up the personal identification numbers (PINs) on the back of gift cards or use virtual currencies like Bitcoin to pay. (According to the FTC’s consumer alert, people withdrew money and fed cash into Bitcoin automatic teller machines.)

After handing over the gift card numbers to the “Social Security office,” one consumer interviewed by Fraud.org was told he would receive a refund equal to the amount he paid to unfreeze his account from the Federal Reserve. Of course, the refund never came and the man lost nearly $20,000. 

“One scammer will try a new twist on an old scam or try one new wrinkle that gets them more money,” said John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud with the National Consumers League. “Scammers like to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to using the latest techniques to defraud consumers.”

The scammers can be clever. With numerous data breaches that have hit corporate America, fraudsters may already have accurate personal information about you, including your real Social Security number, Breyault said. The information is used to build trust and make the call seem more legitimate, he added.

According to Fraud.org and the FTC, here are some important things to remember:

  • Don’t trust your phone’s caller ID. Scammers can make it look as if the Social Security Administration is calling and even use the agency’s real number.
  • Don’t give your Social Security number, other personal information, to a caller on the phone.
  • Social Security will never suspend your number, according to Fraud.org. If anyone tells you something different, you’re being scammed.
  • Social Security will never call you and demand money. No government agency will demand you pay something using gift cards or Bitcoin either.
  • If you have a question, check with the real Social Security Administration. The administration will never contact you out of the blue. The agency’s number is 1-800-772-1213.
  • Talk about the scam with friends, family and neighbors. Report government impostor scams to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

At Nipsey Hussle’s Memorial, Los Angeles Comes Together to Mourn

LOS ANGELES — Thousands of mourners are expected to gather in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday to honor the life of Nipsey Hussle, the Grammy-nominated rapper who was fatally shot last month and whose success and commitment to redeveloping South Los Angeles made him a local hero.

The funeral, billed as a “celebration of life,” will be held at the Staples Center. All tickets for the event, which were free, were claimed online within minutes of being made available earlier this week. The arena’s capacity is 21,000.

Tens of thousands of fans are expected to gather around the venue, where a public memorial for Michael Jackson was hosted in 2009. The two-hour service will begin at 10 a.m. local time and will be followed by a procession from the Staples Center through South Los Angeles.

Hussle, born Ermias Joseph Asghedom, channeled his upbringing and adolescence as a gang member into music that spoke powerfully to many who live in Los Angeles’ most vulnerable neighborhoods. As his star rose in recent years, Hussle brought investments and attention back to the area, earning the adoration of his neighbors and fans.

Though he developed a following far beyond Southern California, his death last week struck a particularly painful chord among residents of the Crenshaw District, where he grew up. His clothing store on Slauson Avenue in South Los Angeles, The Marathon Clothing, had become a potent symbol of local success and black entrepreneurship, a theme he addressed regularly in his music. His fans clung to lyrics that melded familiar rap bombast with exaltations about self-discipline and long-term financial planning, a break from a music culture that often emphasizes flashy spending.

The store transformed into a makeshift memorial on March 31 after Hussle was gunned down there over a “personal dispute,” according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The suspect, Eric Holder, was apprehended by authorities two days after the shooting.

For days outside the store, fans prayed, lit candles and left hand-written letters addressed to Hussle. One of the mourners was Candace Cosey, 32, who remembers him as Ermias from their time attending Hamilton High School together in the early 2000s, a magnet school on the West Side of Los Angeles. She recalled how Hussle would sell mix CDs to her and others at school, and how he later started selling music in the neighborhood out of his trunk.

She came close to tears as she pulled out a picture of him from the high school yearbook. “If you grew up here, you either knew him directly or you knew someone who knew him,” she said.

Even as his career took off, Hussle remained approachable and “big hearted,” she said. As he amassed fame and wealth, he continued living modestly while making investments in businesses in the neighborhood. And he could be very generous. When a colleague passed away several years ago, Ms. Cosey approached Hussle’s team to see if he could help with the funeral expenses. He contributed several thousand dollars, she said.

“He was about uplifting us. He hired people from the neighborhood who wouldn’t have had a job otherwise. He took care of so many people, and he invested in what he believed in, here, because he grew up here,” she said. “We have to keep that work going. It’s what he was about.”

[Read more about the community’s reaction to Hussle’s death.]

Hussle’s death has drawn attention far beyond the Crenshaw District. Celebrities and political leaders across the country have offered their condolences to Hussle’s family and friends. In an interview last week, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles praised Hussle’s contributions to South Los Angeles, a community that he acknowledged has been historically overlooked by the city’s political establishment.

Mr. Garcetti said Hussle embodied the very idea of black entrepreneurship, a critical component of lifting the community and its residents.

“He represented redemption and hope. He had come from the world of gangs and gotten out,” he said. “This is a devastating shock to the stomach. He was really ambitious — he wanted to get African Americans into tech, on top of his music game, on top of his businesses.”

“Then to be killed in such a clichéd way, by guns, for a beef in South L.A., it feeds into too many stereotypes,” he said.

Velma Sanders, 60, said she did not listen to Hussle’s music but, as a lifelong resident of South Los Angeles, she felt pride watching his career grow in recent years. His presence, she said, was felt by everyone.

“He would be out here. He showed you that he didn’t fear where he grew up. He was proud of it,” she said. “He was building up this community, giving back to this community. He took that money and instead of buying something luxurious, a big home or whatever, he put it back in his community so these would not be vacant buildings. It’s just beautiful.”

[Read an assessment of Hussle’s music and its place in hip-hop.]

Manuel Pastor, a professor of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California who has researched the demographics and culture of South Los Angeles, said Hussle’s killing “felt like a kick in the stomach.” He described Hussle as “a hometown guy lifting up his hometown.” Nothing illustrated this more, he said, than when Hussle and his girlfriend, the actress Lauren London, posed for a photo shoot in GQ in February at locations around South Los Angeles — not Hollywood, not downtown Los Angeles, not New York.

“This really hit hard. This was a hometown guy who stayed home,” said Mr. Pastor.

Mr. Pastor said Hussle had left the gang life but never rejected the culture of the community. Alienation and the search for identity amid violence and poverty often feed into gang culture, something Hussle spoke about openly.

“He did what many people ask of black celebrities, to come back to their community,” said Najee Ali, an activist in South Los Angeles who knew Hussle. He said the community is accustomed to feeling left behind when one of its own makes it big and finds fame.

“They all leave,” he said. “Hussle was the only one to stay in the community. He believed in the slogan, ‘Don’t move, improve.’ That’s what made him special.”

Hasani Leffall, 35, who knew Hussle, once worked for the rapper’s stepfather at a South Los Angeles restaurant called Bayou Grille. To emphasize the depth of feeling over Hussle’s murder within the black community of Los Angeles, he mentioned the murders of Tupac, Biggie Smalls, even Malcolm X and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Even with his fame, money and the support of the community, Hussle couldn’t escape the violence of the streets he rapped about.

Mr. Holder, the suspect in the killing, is an aspiring rapper who knew Hussle when he was younger. Mr. Holder, Mr. Leffall said, “represents a dark side about L.A., and a dark side about just men in L.A., in Crip life. There’s always somebody that just doesn’t like you, doesn’t like the fact that people love you.”

California Has a High Rate of Police Shootings. Could a New Open-Records Law Change That?

LOS ANGELES — After her son, Eric, was killed by the police in Los Angeles two years ago when officers mistook a water pistol he was holding for a real gun, Valerie Rivera channeled her grief into activism. She joined Black Lives Matter and lobbied the State Legislature to open to the public California’s records on police shootings, which have long been hidden.

She wanted, she recently wrote in a court filing, to “understand what really happened, and to advocate for change so that officers do not kill civilians, and are held accountable when they do, so that other families do not have to suffer as mine has.”

Her efforts paid off. Under a new state law, Ms. Rivera and other members of the public can now request to see the investigative records, prying open for the first time California’s strict secrecy laws regarding police shootings and serious misconduct by officers.

But, just as activists and state lawmakers have sought to bring decades-old investigative records to light, police unions have tried to jam the door shut. While police departments have said they would comply, police unions up and down the state, including in Los Angeles, have filed lawsuits challenging the law, arguing that it shouldn’t be applied retroactively. The union lawsuits have succeeded in some jurisdictions in getting temporary stays from the court.

The debate has opened up old wounds in a state that has been plagued by a high rate of killings by police officers, and it has showed how contentious and complex criminal justice reform can be, even after reform measures are passed.

California may be one of the most liberal states in the nation — its politics have shifted substantially in recent decades amid sweeping demographic changes — but paradoxes abound, especially when it comes to police matters and criminal justice. The state has the largest death row in the country, and voters, in a ballot measure, have demanded that the state speed up executions.

It also has one of the highest rates of police shootings in the country. Though there is no central database to track police shootings nationally, an analysis of data from 2013 to 2017 by Mapping Police Violence, an advocacy group that maintains a database of police killings, ranked the Bakersfield Police Department as the fifth deadliest in the country.

Now, at least on paper, California has gone from one of the most secretive states on police shootings to one of the most open. New York, by contrast, strictly limits the amount of information on police shootings that is made public.

Some other states, including Alabama, Georgia and Florida, are more transparent than California, according to research by the American Civil Liberties Union. These states allow open access to a broad range of police files, including disciplinary records of individual officers, and not just those concerned with police shootings.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/12/us/california-police-records.html


Jay-Z on ‘Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story’ and Activism

In the six-part docu-series “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story,” the filmmakers Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason recount the teenager’s life and his deadly encounter with George Zimmerman in a gated townhouse community outside Orlando. Through interviews with key players, including Mr. Martin’s family and Don West, a defense lawyer for Mr. Zimmerman, the directors zero in on what they see as a flawed criminal justice system. They also make an argument that the divisive case (in which Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter) galvanized both the Black Lives Matter movement and white nationalists.

The documentary makes a case for viewing Trayvon Martin’s death and the Zimmerman verdict as a turning point that galvanized progressive political activists and white supremacists alike. Did it help spark your own desire to be more publicly outspoken about politics?

I wouldn’t use that as the catalyst. So many things have been going on and the whole climate in America has changed again. I mean, obviously, I think it was the pendulum swinging back from Obama being president. I feel like it was festering and I think the Obama administration just brought those frustrations to another place where people can spread the propaganda of hate.

Also, on the flip side, we’re looking at people who, in areas like Middle America, were not really taken care of. You know? They vote for Democrats because their parents voted Democrat and America was a different place at that time. The middle class was allowed to thrive and there was steel in Indiana and the car jobs in Detroit and all these places where these factories were to provide a way for you to start somewhere in low income, get middle class and then maybe end up with the house of your dreams. This was the American dream and it was real. Then that America changed and no one addressed that.

The filmmakers and Mr. Martin’s parents hope “Rest in Power,” which debuts Monday on the Paramount Network and BET, moves Mr. Martin beyond the realm of symbolism and demonstrates the costs of ignoring these issues. “I hope people walk away knowing who Trayvon Martin really was,” Sybrina Fulton, Mr. Martin’s mother, said.

“I want people to walk away having a clear view of what this country is about right now, and not what they thought it is,” she added.

The docu-series was first announced in early 2017 as part of a production partnership between Jay-Z and The Weinstein Company. But the Weinstein Company and Harvey Weinstein have been scrubbed from the credits of “Rest in Power” since the publication of sexual assault and harassment allegations against Mr. Weinstein in The New York Times and The New Yorker last year. (The company did not have editorial input on the series, according to Paramount, which said it “owns and financed the project” in full. Ms. Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, have said that the Weinstein Company owes them money for the rights to their book, which served as source material for the documentary.)

SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/29/arts/jay-z-interview-rest-in-power-the-trayvon-martin-story

Urban Lives Saved by Suburban Gun Mayhem

crimescene(The Root) — Shortly after the Jovan Belcher tragedy I was asked on a television program whether or not theNFL player’s high-profile murder-suicide and sports announcer Bob Costas’ courageous comments about gun violence in the incident’s aftermath would have any impact on gun control in America. I answered that they would not. The reason? Because as I noted during that interview, historically our country has only addressed the issue of gun violence when it touches the lives of those with whom our leaders are most likely to identify. Rarely are those likely to be incidents involving people of color suffering domestic violence or teens of color from low-income communities who are victims of urban gun violence.

Instead the gun tragedies that have actually moved our elected officials to significant action on gun control have been those incidents in which victims are most likely to remind our leaders of their own friends, families and communities, incidents like the 1993 shooting on a Long Island Rail Road train, which killed commuters from New York’s professional class or the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, which made gun control the cause célèbre of white suburban moms, culminating in the Million Mom March in 2000.

Now it appears another incident is poised to finally move our leaders to action once again, 13 years after Columbine. The murder of 20 children and six adults in the quiet and normally safe enclave of Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 is forcing a conversation about gun control that the shooting of 26 residents in one night inChicago this summer — resulting in the deaths of two teens and injury of 24 others — could not. As previously noted in an analysis by the now-defunct the Daily, more Chicago residents, many of them urban youth, were killed by gun violence in the first half of 2012 than American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan during the same period.

Just think about those numbers for a moment.

CONTINUE READING

Jazz Saxophonist’s Daughter One of Victims in Conn. School Shooting

ana-marquez-greene-jimmy-greenThe New York Amsterdam News is reporting that jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene’s daughter was one of the many children killed in the Newtown, Connecticut shooting. Ana Marquez Greene was one of the first 20 children identified at Sandy Hook Elementary. The family reportedly moved from Canada to Connecticut this summer. She attended the school with her older brother who was unharmed in the shooting. Read more at the New York Amsterdam News