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It's Easy To Steal Identities (Of Corporations) 140

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-things-that-aren't-corporations dept.
jfruh writes "Two lawyers in Houston were able to exploit business filing systems to seize control of dormant publicly traded corporations — and then profit by pushing their worthless stock. In many states, anyone can change important information about a publicly registered company — including the corporate officers or company contact information — without any confirmation that they have anything to do with the company in the first place. Massachusetts requires a password to do this through the state registry's website, but they'll give you the password if you call and ask for it. Long focused on individual ID theft, state governments are finally beginning to realize that corporate ID theft is a huge problem as well."
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It's Easy To Steal Identities (Of Corporations)

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  • Corporate Fraud? Deceptive conduct? Could the lawyers get disbarred?
    • by whoever57 (658626) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @01:32AM (#41278305) Journal
      Corporations are people too!
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Just like Soylent Green?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by guttentag (313541)

      Corporate Fraud? Deceptive conduct? Could the lawyers get disbarred?

      Fraudulently taking control of a dormant corporation and defrauding investors is not corporate fraud. It's business ethics (which is different from business intelligence). Get your oxymorons straight... "corporate fraud" isn't even an oxymoron!

      • Cheers for clearing that up. Still wondering if the lawyers involved can be disbarred though.
        • Cheers for clearing that up. Still wondering if the lawyers involved can be disbarred though.

          That would require *someone* in the legal system to have a shred of integrity. In short, no.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That would be a SOX violation. But as long as you donate to the DNC you will not be charged with such, just ask John Corzine who fraudently stole $1.2 Billion in 401ks and Holder's department said there was no wrong doing.

        I say go ahead and do it and just put 25% of what you make to the DNC and you will be free and clear. Why bother complaining about corruption when its so blatent and obvious anymore.

        • Actually the return on investment to RNC is even better. With DNC, you get to steal and void jail and your investors get stiffed. That is all. With RNC, you get to keep what you stole, your investors' losses will be made good by the government, you not only avoid jail time, you might get nominated to run for the President of USA.
    • by stephanruby (542433) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @01:50AM (#41278355)

      Corporate Fraud? Deceptive conduct? Could the lawyers get disbarred?

      I would hope so.

      Either way, now that the Federal indictment has gotten through -- getting disbarred is the least of their worries right now.

    • Could the lawyers get disbarred?

      Well, if a hacker can go to jail for hacking some online system then disclosing how they did it (to improve security, without even charging service fees), then Lawyers should face the same punishment too.

      • by Pieroxy (222434)

        Well, if a hacker can go to jail for hacking some online system then disclosing how they did it (to improve security, without even charging service fees), then Lawyers should face the same punishment too.

        But but but, they are not piraaates!

        Yaaaaaaar. We aaaaaar.

        *goes away limping*

      • Could the lawyers get disbarred?

        Well, if a hacker can go to jail for hacking some online system then disclosing how they did it (to improve security, without even charging service fees), then Lawyers should face the same punishment too.

        Actually, lawyer face more punishment. Not only can they go to jail and get disbarred, but after they get out of jail, it will be much harder for them to get a job again--actually, it will be illegal for them to work as lawyers unless the bar re-admits them.

        • Thats not MORE punishment, thats the same punishment we all face, loss of prospects.
          • Thats not MORE punishment, thats the same punishment we all face, loss of prospects.

            If all prospects are equal, sure. But (1) nobody can hire the disbarred attorney as an attorney, even if they want to, and (2) it is a crime for him to work as an attorney. Felons who work in other fields can be hired, it's just hard for them to find a job, and they are rarely legally prohibited from working in a profession they've dedicated their lives to.

    • The sad thing is that they need not have bothered with the ID theft. They could have touted the stock and profited anyway without getting control over the company, quite legally.
  • Boo frickin' Hoo (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sconeu (64226)

    As Munchkin said, this is just fraud. Corporations are NOT people, they can't have their ID stolen.

    And given the way that the corps have been raping the public lately, I find it hard to be sympathetic.

    • by diamondmagic (877411) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @01:44AM (#41278333) Homepage

      Obviously, corporations are not people are not companies are not businesses, otherwise we wouldn't make the point of distinguishing them with different names.

      Also obviously, ID "theft" isn't really theft, because you aren't (fully) denying that person their own identity.

      TFA (if you bothered to read it) is about "identity thieves" who masquerade as executives of the corporation, when they are in fact not. The point here, is that corporations are agreements (contracts) among people, and "corporate ID theft" causes illegitimate harm to very real individuals.

      Overall, the point of TFA is better authentication is needed for government and other organizations who do business with the corporation (i.e., properly authenticating the members of the corporation as people with the lawful ability to make such decisions).

      • by TheLink (130905)

        Also obviously, ID "theft" isn't really theft, because you aren't (fully) denying that person their own identity.

        ID theft is called ID theft because back when it was fraud it was the Bank's problem. Whereas now that it's "ID theft" it's the Customer's problem.

        See the difference? OK so I'm being a bit too cynical...

        • by DarkOx (621550)

          I think the grandparents point, and I agree. Is that to be consistent in our own thinking we should really call it, "identity infringement".

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        Thats all just confusing. Why not just make up a new term for it. I'll call if "fraud."
      • by pjt33 (739471)

        Obviously, corporations are not people are not companies are not businesses, otherwise we wouldn't make the point of distinguishing them with different names.

        That's about as obvious as humans not being people, because we distinguish them with different names. You may reach the right conclusion, but it's not for the right reason.

      • Corporations are a way to shield a person or persons from liability when they do great evil collectively. They are merely a legal way for the kid who owns the most toys to keep them no matter what he does.
    • It is fraud, and the idea of it being ID is probably just a misleading title conjured up to snag page views.

      That said: Corporations are not the victim here. The investors who end up buying worthless stock are.
    • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @02:06AM (#41278395) Journal
      This is the dumbest comment I've ever read. Do you even think before spewing your hate? If your user id weren't so low I'd think you just came here from youtube.

      This has nothing to do with whether corporations are people, even an IP packet has an ID. And packets can have their ID stolen. What sequence of logic did you go through to convince yourself that corporations can't have their ID stolen merely because they are not people?

      Secondly, you have to understand that real people got ripped off here, in bad stock deals, etc. You're not supposed to feel sorry for the corporation, you're supposed to feel sorry for the people who got ripped off.
      • by dbIII (701233)
        Not as dumb as a guy with a quote from a theoretical physicist that is mangled in a such a way as to pretend the guy thought theoretical physics is worthless!
        • by khallow (566160)
          That observation would interesting if it were at least correct. I bet the quote is mangled solely because it's too long for a sig otherwise. The full quote is:

          The fundamental principle of science, the definition almost, is this: the sole test of the validity of any idea is experiment

          compared to mangled quote:

          "THE [fundamental principle of science]: that the sole test of validity for any idea is experiment."

          We see that while things have been moved around slightly, no change in actual meaning has occurred.

          • You sir, are correct. Thankyou.
            • by dbIII (701233)
              The above looks disturbingly like one person taking two parts of a conversation. Am I seeing sockpuppet accounts at work? If so that would explain a few phantomfive and khallow global warming denial and nuke fanboy threads that look very similar from each poster - but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and just assume you both read the same stuff.
              Either way, the "almost" is incredibly fucking important and leaving it out twists the meaning and pretends you have Feynman on your side when you say stupid
              • Let's see if you understand basic grammar. In that sentence, what does "almost" modify? Does it modify in any way the clause "the fundamental principle of science?" No it does not, I thus retained the original meaning of the quote, and in your misunderstanding, you have insulted me. You should commit seppuku.

                Do you really think Feynman didn't want to test his theories about physics?
                • by dbIII (701233)
                  Do you really think a theoretical physicist meant that theoretical physics is not science until it is tested?
                  That is what you are implying by mangling the quote.

                  It's amusing that you go on about "basic grammar" after taking something out of context and mangling it in such a way, and I care as little about your grammar as you apear to care about the scientific process, which oddly enough starts some time before the final answers of an experiment come in.
                  • Do you really think a theoretical physicist meant that theoretical physics is not science until it is tested? That is what you are implying by mangling the quote.

                    How does it imply that? I understand it to mean that we don't know if it's true or not until it's tested. And that is correct, we don't know if a hypothesis is correct until it is tested.

                    • by dbIII (701233)
                      Doesn't your dictionary contain the words IDEA and INVALID ?
                      Anyway, now you know why I think you are "dumber" than the post above that you labelled "dumb".
                    • I care not what you think, if you are not scientific.
                    • by dbIII (701233)
                      Considering you have your own private definition that excludes a lot of what the one in the dictionary covers I really do not care. I'll leave you to get back to your "scientific" MSCE tasks.
        • The quote is 'mangled' to make it fit in a sig. How do you think it differs in meaning from the original quote? Because if it differs in meaning, I will definitely fix it.
      • by Salis (52373)

        That just means he's ignorant AND old.

    • Corporations are NOT people, they can't have their ID stolen.

      What about LLPs (Limited Liability Partnerships)? Are they people? We use a DBA (doing business as ___) so that the three of us can more easily collect earnings via selling a product of our collaboration. (The alternative: Buy our software! Just send three separate payments to three different folks! -- Uh, no.) LLPs help limit the liability from each other, not from the business entity itself (it's purpose is to keep me from being liable for things my colleagues do). A LLP is a legal fiction just lik

  • An unexpected side-effect of "corporations are people too" ?

  • Corporations 101 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 09, 2012 @01:50AM (#41278349)

    A corporation is a "legal entity" (a concept not unlike like a domain name or a handle) created through voluntary consent of the people who established a binding contractual agreement. Different individuals may be subject to different contracts and perform different functions: part-owners, partners, board members, employees of various levels of responsibility and compensation, and of course (usually quite informally) the customers.

    Before investing in a company, an investor (or a consultant / broker acting on her behalf, or the institution facilitating the exchange, or an industry publication, etc) can investigate the company and see if it has sufficient policies to ensure secure operations, which would include preventing unauthorized individuals from issuing authoritative communications on behalf of the corporation. If the involved people fail to do this, it is their fault, and they are responsible for their losses.

    The involvement of government bureaucrats in this process should not be necessary. Even the supposed benefits that governments provide to corporations (a centralized registry, undue liability limitations, etc) ultimately do more harm to the marketplace than good. The government currently exists as the default arbitrator [wikipedia.org] and enforcer of contracts, but there's no need for this function to be a monopoly [wikipedia.org]. In a sufficiently advanced society, multiple agencies can exist to protect Rights and enforce contracts [wikipedia.org] - just as long as boundaries of their jurisdiction (which need not be geographical) are clearly and openly defined in advance.

    Corporate law should be like programming - you have to think about security and implement appropriate restrictions yourself.

    (Signed: AlexLibman's sockpuppet [slashdot.org].)

    • by bmo (77928) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @02:46AM (#41278491)

      >The involvement of government bureaucrats in this process should not be necessary.

      >should

      You use that word, but we don't live in that fantasy land.

      --
      BMO

    • Corporations would not exist without governments; a corporation is not just an agreement between shareholders, it's a bundle of rights that are enforced against the world, by the State. The shareholders enter into the corporate ownership agreement because they know that they'll be protected from personal liability by the actions of the corporation, among other reasons. The only way they can do this is if the State says they can and is willing to back up that statement with the support of the courts and the

  • I'm sorry on three counts. A) I read the article; B) I read the author's profile; and C) I lost it and disregarded everything I read when the author described himself a cyber-this and cyber-that and having provided commentary on cyber-whatever.

  • by BuypolarBear (2713397) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @04:53AM (#41278777)

    I'm the CEO of Lifelock and we're putting together a special package for corporations to prevent this kind of thing from happening. Additionally, if you'd like to invest in our company(whose stock will obviously be rising soon because of this great new service) I'd be more than willing to sell you a few shares right now.

  • The Federal and State governments will deal with this immediately. New laws will be passed and significant resources will be allocated in law enforcement to keep corporate identity theft from occurring. Those caught will be given significant jail time and fines.

    If you as an individual have your identity stolen you will still be shit of of luck. No authority will be looking for individuals using your identity. You will have to spend huge amounts of time and effort proving to federal, state and business enti

  • by Frankie70 (803801) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @06:21AM (#41278935)

    Identity theft is not really a crime. It's like Music or Movie Piracy. You are just creating a copy of another person's identity. You are not depriving him of his identity. Once the copy of the identity has been made, both of them can use the identity.

    • Errr.... no. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sirwired (27582) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @06:39AM (#41278965)

      I hope you were joking.

      Two people cannot use the same identity at the same time. Attempts to, say obtain two valid Driver's Licenses, Passports, and voter registrations simultaneously doesn't work too well. Not to mention the fun around tax time.

    • by trout007 (975317)

      Just in case anyone is interested there is an important difference between copying and trying to present that copy as an original work from a person or company. If you didn't have laws granting monopolies of IP like copyright and patents you would be able to copy works and sell them. But you wouldn't be allowed to commit fraud. What's the difference? You would be able to sell a copy of a design, movie, or song but you couldn't represent it as produced by the original creator. Take fashion. You could create

  • The offices of Exxon Corporation has changed. Please remit all payments to: Exxon Corportation PO Box 3764 Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • by argStyopa (232550) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @07:53AM (#41279255) Journal

    "...the scammers took control of the companies and then obtained legitimate CUSIP numbers and stock trading symbols that were then used to push the worthless stock on unsuspecting investors...."

    Hi, I have a stock to sell you. It's for a company that may appear to have been founded in 1975, but there is no history, no financial statements, no background, no product, and nothing really to back up what I'm telling you the stock is worth. How many shares would you like? But it has a legitimate stock trading symbol!

    Seriously, this is only a tiny step away from selling the Brooklyn Bridge or land in Florida. If someone is so stupid that they would invest their cash in such a company with no research, I'd say they deserve to lose that money. If a hedge fund or something is stupid enough to invest in such a fund, that manager should lose his job at least, and the reputation of the fund should suffer by public announcement of their stupidity.

    Really people, what part of 'caveat emptor' is too complicated to understand?

  • "Hi, state bureaucratic offices? This is Steve Ballmer. After the window Windows 8 debacle, I would like to disband and unfile this little corporation I own."
    "Yes, I have controlling rights, just delist it. The company and its products are worthless anyway."
  • I registered an LLC a few weeks ago. After a few days I wanted to change the name of the LLC. All I had to do was agree that I had the legal right to change the business documents by hitting the okay button. No password. No identity check. Just had to hit the okay button.

    This theft doesn't surprise me. Its way too easy to do.

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @11:23AM (#41280463) Homepage

    This problem is related to "shelf corporations", ones with no activity that are still considered active. It's an abandoned account problem. What's probably necessary is to "lock" corporations that don't show any activity (annual report, tax return) in 18 months. Some countries and states mark corporations as "inactive" when they are, and may need to tighten up on how "inactive" status is ended.

    Some US states, notably Nevada, don't require reports of a change in control. Those are especially vulnerable. Often, the "corporate officers" listed for a Nevada company are all an employee of some "Incorporate in Nevada" service that originally filed the paperwork. So there's no way the state of Nevada can validate that change requests come from a legitimate party.

  • who no longer have clients and are now looking for other lines of work

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