Here’s a Vote for Cleaning Up the Rolls

When you read as many reports, studies, analyses and similar materials as I do, it’s difficult to be shocked by many of the facts that emerge. But check out these numbers from the Pew Center on the States regarding voter registration:

  • 24 million vote registrations either invalid or largely inaccurate
  • 1.8 million dead people still listed as active voters
  • 2.75 million who are registered to vote in more than one state
  • 51 million (estimated) voting-age U.S. residents who are not registered

Here’s a portion of the NPR story on the findings.

Election officials say one problem is that Americans move around a lot. And when they do, they seldom alert the local election office that they’ve left.

Ben Skupien, a registered voter who now lives in Northern Virginia, is pretty typical. He has moved repeatedly over the years and says he’s probably registered to vote in about a half-dozen states.

"The assumption, I would think, is that they would do the courtesy of letting the other states know that if you’re registered with a new state, [the old registration] would no longer apply," said Skupien.

In fact, states seldom share such information. The Pew study found that almost 3 million people are registered to vote in more than one state.

Voters also die, which leads to another problem, says Linda Lamone, who runs Maryland’s elections.

"If a John Smith lives in Maryland and goes to another state, say on vacation, and dies," Lamone said, "the law of the state where John Smith dies dictates whether or not the Maryland vital statistics people can share that information with me."

And even when they do — or if a person dies in-state — there’s often a delay before election officials are alerted. It’s also not always clear that the individual on the death certificate is the same one who’s registered to vote. Election officials still have to do a lot more digging to avoid accidentally taking someone off the rolls who is very much alive.

Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed says it’s amazing how many times his state has come across names on the voter rolls that appear to be the same person, but turn out not to be.

"We’ve even had cases, in very small counties, people [with the] same name and same birth dates," added Reed.

He said that has led to inaccurate reports that "dead" people are voting. He admits there have been a few cases in his state where widows or widowers have cast ballots for former spouses, but he said such fraud is very rare.

Still, election officials say it’s important that the public have confidence in the system.

So Washington and seven other states — Oregon, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Utah and Nevada — are joining a pilot program to share more voter information and other databases, to try to make their lists more accurate. 

FDIC: Businesses, Beware of Fraudulent Letters

A special alert from the FDIC:

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has received numerous reports of fraudulent e-mails that have the appearance of being from the FDIC.

The e-mails appear to be sent from various "@fdic.gov" e-mail addresses, such as "subscriptions@fdic.gov," "alert@fdic.gov," or "accounts@fdic.gov."

They have subject lines that read: "FDIC: Your business account" or "FDIC: About Your Business Account."

The e-mails are addressed to "Business Customer" or "Business Owner" and state "We have important information about your bank" or "…financial institution." They then ask recipients to "Please click here to find details."

They conclude with, "This includes information on the acquiring bank (if applicable), how your accounts and loans are affected, and how vendors can file claims against the receivership."

These e-mails and the link included are fraudulent and were not sent by the FDIC. Recipients should consider the intent of these e-mails as an attempt to collect personal or confidential information, or to load malicious software onto end users’ computers. Recipients should NOT access the link provided within the body of the e-mails and should NOT, under any circumstances, provide any personal financial information through this media.

Financial institutions and consumers should be aware that other subject lines and modifications to the e-mails may occur over time. The FDIC does not directly contact consumers in this manner nor does the FDIC request personal financial information from consumers.

For your reference, FDIC Special Alerts may be accessed from the FDIC’s Website at Alert/2011/index.htmlwww.fdic.gov/about/subscriptions/index.html.www.fdic.gov/news/news/Special. To learn how to automatically receive FDIC Special Alerts through email, please visit

Questions related to federal deposit insurance or consumer issues should be submitted to the FDIC using an online form that can be accessed at http://www2.fdic.gov/starsmail/index.asp.

Sandra L. Thompson 
Director
Division of Risk Management Supervision

Fraud Carries a Heavy Price Tag

It doesn’t take much these days to incite worry in the business world. Phrases like “recession” and “tax increases” have enough of an impact right now to leave everyone biting their fingernails.

But there is one word that pops up (far more often than you’d like to think), that can cause as much damage as the global economy or the bills that Congress passes.

That one little word causing all the stress: Fraud. 

Basically, it’s the crime of cheating people. And it can be costly. About 5% of a company’s annual revenue is lost to occupational fraud and the median loss by all companies due to fraud is $160,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) in its 2010 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud & Abuse.

And, while those figures are high, the manufacturing and mining industries see an even bigger increase in their median fraud losses. In manufacturing, that number is $300,000. But mining takes the cake with fraud losses costing around $1 million.

The report, which includes findings from the 2008 and 2009 calendar years, shows that for manufacturers, corruption was the leading fraud scheme and represented nearly 49% of the cases.

Additional findings reveal that 10.7% of the total fraud cases came in manufacturing industries, ranking it second overall. The total number of fraud cases reported by manufacturers is 193, also the second highest.

Switch to mining, and the number of fraud cases reported is 12, which is the lowest total. Those numbers, specifically in the mining industry, show that a large number of cases are unreported and money continues to go right out the door.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Thanks to agencies like the ACFE, there are plenty of tips and information available for companies to curtail fraud in the workplace. Some of the first guidelines for battling fraud include setting an ethical tone at the top, establishing a proper code of ethics and carefully screening job applicants.

While the potential for fraud exists wherever there is money to be had, instituting some new policies and being proactive in the approach to company fraud can end up costing less in the end, and benefitting the employer, employees and customers.

Social Media: TMI is Never a Good Thing

Are you ever hanging out with your friends and maybe you overindulge them with a fact or two about your life or some strange proclivity you have, only to have them exclaim, "TMI!" (meaning "too much information")? Then you’re like, "TMI? Why don’t you just say ‘too much information?’ What’s with the ridiculous abbreviating all the time? Just say actual words, people. Social media is destroying our culture!"

Anyway, an article from Boston University’s Bostonia sheds an illuminating light on why giving away "TMI" on social media outlets could in fact be extremely detrimental for those who do the sharing:

“People participate in online social networks because they want to share,” says (Evimaria) Terzi, a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of computer science, who has developed a mathematically derived “score” that can help users control their privacy. “People who might be introverts in their real life suddenly have these online personas and become extroverts. You want to appear cool to your online friends. And you can be cool by revealing something, like your photos. You want to show off.”

The problem, she says, is that information that most people consider perfectly safe for sharing can, in mathematically skilled hands, be puzzled together to reveal things that few people want others to know.

In a recent experiment, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University were able to deduce the Social Security numbers of five million Americans born between 1989 and 2003, mining information that is typically shared on social networks and other data from publicly available sources.

Sifting such data through complex statistical correlations, the Carnegie Mellon researchers hit pay dirt for almost a tenth of Americans born in the target years. Meanwhile, MIT researchers studying 4,000 Facebook student profiles correctly determined, in most cases, whether the profile was that of a gay man, even though the users had not disclosed their sexual preference.

A recent study in Consumer Reports found that 52 percent of social network users disclose information that could leave them vulnerable to cybercriminals. Information considered dangerous by the magazine includes a full birth date, which can help identity thieves get access to bank accounts and credit card accounts and other information; disclosing vacation dates and other absences (3 percent of Facebook users reportedly advertise when their homes will be unoccupied); and posting a child’s name with photos or captions.

Beware of Resume Fabrications in Tough Times

Communications firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas out of Chicago released an article warning employers to be wary of resume fudgers, especially with so many applicants these days. Here is an excerpt for your company to heed:

As millions of Americans struggle with long-term unemployment, the temptation to stretch the truth on one’s resume to gain a competitive advantage is becoming harder to resist. Some desperate job seekers are going so far as to establish fake references. However, the payoff may not be worth the risk, according to one employment authority.

“There is very little proof that any form of resume boosting directly results in a job interview, much less a job offer. In contrast, there are scores of examples of individuals who have been eliminated from candidacy or fired after a fraudulent resume was uncovered,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., the global outplacement consultancy which provides job-search training and counseling to individuals who have been laid off…

They also added this list:

Top Resume, Interview Fabrications

Education: Listing degree from a school never attended; inflating grade point average and graduate honors; citing degree from online, non-accredited "education" institution.

Job title: Making up a title or boosting actual title by one or more levels in hopes of obtaining better salary offers.

Compensation: Inflating current or previous salary and benefits to secure more money from prospective employer.

Reason for leaving: Saying it was a mass downsizing when the discharge was based on performance; asked to leave, but saying you quit; underplaying or completely hiding poor relationships with superiors.

Accomplishments: Overstating one’s contributions to a team project or company performance; claiming to have received special recognition; exaggerating level of participation in an important aspect of the business.

Too Many Governments … Here and Elsewhere

Indiana needs local government efficiency. It didn’t happen legislatively in 2009, but it will return next year. The Chamber and its allies won’t rest until taxpayer dollars are treated as gold, nepotism and outright fraud become relics of the past and our state moves away from a system that is now nearly 160 years old.

We, of course, are not on an island. A Kansas researcher lists his home state and four neighbors as topping the list in fewest residents per government unit. Yes, they (for the most part) share rural characteristics, but that in itself is not a valid excuse. Paul Soutar writes:

While government efficiency may be a challenge for large rural states, it’s not an insurmountable one.  Utah is very close to Kansas in terms of population and area, with 2,645,330 residents and 82,144 square miles, but has 9,761 residents per general-purpose government.

The difference is not a matter of geography or population but instead the number of governments.  Kansas has 2,084, compared with 244 in Idaho and 271 in Utah.

Read the full story.

Scam Alert: USLBA Wants YOUR Money

Investments in chambers of commerce and other legitimate business organizations are beneficial at all times. We at the Indiana Chamber, and many of our colleagues, are passionate about what we do. That’s why we take it somewhat personally when others try to use the “association” name to illicitly extract your hard-earned money.

Here’s the latest: A letter from the U.S. Local Business Association informing your company that you have won a Best of (insert local community) award. It instructs you to simply fill out the order form to receive your plaque. At the end, you learn that this plaque will cost anywhere from $100 to $700, according to various reports.

The problems, cited by various Better Business Bureau chapters and others:

  • There is no way to contact the company other than e-mail
  • Web site domain registration for the organization has been completed privately
  • You must provide and submit information about your company before finding out the cost of the award plaque
  • Before you agree to accept the award, the organization already has a press release on its web site stating that you are a recipient

The “vanity scam” label comes from the fact that you might (I repeat might) actually get an overpriced plaque you can hang on the wall and look at. It means absolutely nothing, however, and, in fact, will probably be a detriment as customers or clients will at some point realize that you have been a victim, not a victor.

At least one Indiana company reports receiving this solicitation (example here). To all, be forewarned.