Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Credit Card Identity Theft Alert!
The Boston Globe is frantically attempting to rectify
a major distribution blunder after accidentally releasing the credit
card numbers of up to half its subscribers, the paper said yesterday.
As many as 240,000 people around New England may have been victims of
last weekend’s distribution blunder, it said.
Globe subscribers’ names, addresses and credit card numbers were
inadvertently sent out with 9,000 bundles of the Worcester Telegram &
Gazette’s Sunday edition after internal reports were recycled as routing
slips or "toppers" placed on top of bundles....
The Globe has contacted the four major credit card companies — American
Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa — to explain the situation and is
contacting the banks of affected customers.
The Boston Herald
Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Globe goofs in releasing subscribers’ credit numbers
Credit and bank card numbers of as many as 240,000
subscribers of The Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette were
inadvertently distributed with bundles of T&G newspapers on Sunday, officials of
the newspapers said yesterday.
The confidential information was on the back of paper used in wrapping newspaper
bundles for distribution to carriers and retailers. As many as 9,000 bundles of
the T&G, wrapped in paper containing subscribers' names and their confidential
information, were distributed Sunday to 2,000 retailers and 390 carriers in the
Worcester area, said Alfred S. Larkin Jr., spokesman for the Globe.
In addition, routing information for personal checks of 1,100 T&G subscribers
also may have been inadvertently released.
The Globe and T&G, which are both owned by The New York Times Co., share a
So far, newspaper officials said, there have been no reports that the financial
information has been misused.
The Boston Globe
Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Subscriber credit data distributed by mistake
Globe, Worcester paper affected
We regret to tell you of an unfortunate event that occurred
over the weekend which we are working diligently to address.
Confidential credit and bank card account information of Boston Globe and
Telegram & Gazette subscribers who pay for their home delivery subscriptions by
credit card was inadvertently disclosed on the back of slips used to label
bundles of the Worcester Sunday Telegram. The bank routing information of some
Telegram & Gazette subscribers who do not pay by credit card may also have
appeared on some of these newspaper bundle sheets.
The records of approximately 240,000 customers may have been released....
A hotline has been established for concerned customers who may have questions
regarding their accounts. That number is 1-888-665-2644.
The Boston Globe
Wednesday, February 1, 2006
An important message regarding
the confidential financial information
of Boston Globe subscribers
Chip Ford's CLT Commentary
If you are a Boston Globe or Worcester Telegram &
Gazette subscriber paying by credit card or check, you may have just
become victim of "an unfortunate event," as Globe publisher
Richard H. Gilman termed it.
Your credit card or bank routing number may now be in
the public domain, subject to identity theft and/or fraud. If
you're a Boston Globe or Worcester Telegram & Gazette subscriber, you
should act immediately to protect your financial security or what
remains of it.
Almost a quarter-million Boston Globe and Telegram &
Gazette subscribers are affected by this incomprehensible security
give-away. I haven't read that any subscribers of its parent
company, The New York Times Publishing Company, are also affected.
I'm in the midst of an eight-month battle against a
fraudulent credit collection scam. I have fought tooth-and-nail to
claw my way inch-by-inch to first successfully removing myself from its
cross-hairs, and; second, to end the widespread and ongoing fraud that's
preying upon others across the nation. This battle has not been
easy: don't let it reach that point for you. (See: "Merchants'
Credit Guide Co. -- A notorious rip-off scam") And for me it
isn't over yet.
Just two weeks ago, because of that battle, I pulled
my credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies:
Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. There it was, the "inquiry"
last June from the scam collection agency, listed on my Experian credit
history. Since finding it, I've arranged to have my credit history
"frozen" for the next 90-days: nobody gets it from any of the Big
Three without my expressed permission or me being personally notified.
(You can obtain a free copy of your credit history from all three
companies once in every 12-month period by going to U.S. Federal Trade
website.) Subsequently I was also able to correct
some inaccuracies in my personal credit history through the three
Unfortunately, the credit card I use for CLT's
newspaper subscriptions is not primarily in my name, but is a CLT
business expense-related credit card. Therefore, it's not covered
in my personal credit report or by the "freeze" limiting my personal
credit information. So Barbara and I spent considerable time this morning
on the phone: CLT will no longer use a credit card to subscribe to
the Boston Globe. Barbara spoke with CLT's credit card issuing
company to further protect us.
The Boston Globe's "hotline" was busy for over half
an hour before I was able to finally redial through; then I was on-hold
for about five minutes -- with the usual lame apologetic customer
service mantra, "We apologize for your
inconvenience." I told the Globe "representative" I finally spoke
with that this "unfortunate event" will cost dearly today's productivity
in Massachusetts among its quarter-million affected subscribers. I
cancelled CLT's credit card subscription and was assured that the credit
card number was immediately purged from any/all of its databases.
But it was one of those passed out to anyone who wants to use
I ran our telephone number and zip code as required on the
Globe's online "resolution" page. The Boston Globe website returned
Yes, we have located your name on the list of impacted accounts. We have tried
to recover as much of the data as possible from our retailers and branches,
but we recommend that you monitor your bills and report any
unauthorized transactions to your bank or credit card company immediately.
As a further precaution, we also recommend that you place a fraud alert on
your credit file. If you have further questions, please contact The
Globe hotline at 1-888-665-2644.
We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience that this incident may
The bold highlights and underscores are mine -- [Chip]
Leaving early for work in a snowstorm is an inconvenience;
having to stop for groceries on the way home is perhaps an inconvenience;
needing to detour around road construction enroute is an inconvenience;
having your e-mail service disrupted for much of the day is a big
Having your credit card number and address disclosed to the world, subject to
identity theft and fraud is not an "inconvenience"!
Just having to now contact your credit card company and the
credit reporting agencies to alert them to potential identity theft and fraud is
more than simply an "inconvenience." When you punch through the menu
choices and sit on-hold interminably waiting for "the next available
representative" -- as I did with The Boston Globe itself earlier once I redialed
through half-an-hour of busy signals and finally reached the "please hold"
message -- you'll agree, and you'll be lucky if that's all it costs you.
It's one thing when scammers and identity thieves
obtain your credit card information deceptively, nefariously,
fraudulently. It's another entirely when a business you're
supposed to trust inexplicably publishes your confidential financial
information, circulates it. Making your credit card and bank
routing numbers available is unconscionable; today it is inexcusable --
and chilling. Somebody needs to take
responsibility for whatever fraud occurs -- punishable by damages.
"We apologize for your inconvenience" just doesn't cut it.
If you are a Boston Globe or Telegram & Gazette
subscriber, be warned and protect yourself. At the very least,
inspect your credit card bills very carefully each month for alleged
debts you don't owe.
For follow-up see:
World of trouble unfolds over
Globe identity gaffe (Feb. 2)
Hot lines deluged after
T&G, Globe leak (Feb. 2)
The Boston Globe
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Budget would hike spending 5.3 percent
By Scott S. Greenberger, Globe Staff
Capitalizing on the Bay State's rising tax revenues, Governor Mitt
Romney unveiled a $25.2 billion state budget yesterday for fiscal 2007
that would raise overall spending by 5.3 percent and funnel more money
to most areas of state government, from state colleges to prisons to
Although annual spending increases have sometimes exceeded 5.3 percent
during Romney's tenure, which began in 2003 in the midst of a fiscal
crisis, he has never proposed a budget with such a large boost.
The governor's blueprint is the starting point for Beacon Hill's budget
debate, which typically concludes in June after the House and Senate
have weighed in with their own plans. The 2007 fiscal year starts July
Romney had already revealed the key components of his proposal, a 7.3
percent increase in school aid and a 17 percent jump in other help for
cities and towns.
Yesterday he highlighted increases in other areas and renewed his call
for a cut in the state income tax rate. Legislative leaders, saying the
state cannot afford it, have resisted cutting the rate to 5 percent,
which voters called for in 2000. Citing rising revenues and the will of
the voters, the Republican governor has proposed lowering the tax rate
to 5.15 percent next year and to 5 percent the year after.
Michael J. Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a
business-funded group, said that while the local aid increases are
significant, "the other areas of the budget, despite modest increases,
remain well below where they were five years ago, certainly in
Romney would raise spending in two areas that were hit hard during the
budget crisis: environmental programs and public health. The Department
of Environmental Protection, the Department of Conservation, and other
environmental agencies would receive increases of about $4.8 million, or
2.6 percent. The Department of Public Health would get an additional $25
million, a jump of about 6 percent.
Return to top
State House News Service
Wednesday, January 26, 2006
Romney budget would raise spending by $1.3 billion
By Jim O’Sullivan
Gov. Mitt Romney’s budget for the next fiscal year proposes a 5.3
percent hike in spending, drawing on revitalized state revenues to
invest substantially in programs that were pared during the recent
Based on a tax revenue projection of nearly $19 billion, Romney’s plan
includes a phased, two-year rollback of the residential income tax, and
a boost of more than $250 million in spending on
kindergarten-through-high school education. With an eye on the debate
over a health care reform law crackling on Beacon Hill, Romney followed
through on last week’s promise to funnel $200 million to a health care
reserve that he hopes will make it easier for Democratic legislative
leaders to reach an accord.
The Republican governor’s "balanced budget," which now heads to the
Democrat-run Legislature, would enlarge total state spending over this
fiscal year by $1.3 billion to $25.19 billion – the budget also used
federal reimbursements and fee revenues. Over the past four years,
budgetary increases have averaged 3.7 percent, Romney said. Last year,
his initial budget plan would have bolstered spending 2.4 percent.
"We’re generating the surpluses that allow us to invest where we care
most deeply," Romney said at a press conference here. "And for me,
that’s education, it’s health care, it’s supporting our municipalities.
And, of course, it’s listening to the voters and doing what they, in a
democratic system, told us to do."
Earlier this month, Romney told local officials at an annual convention
that he would push non-school local aid to climb by $198 million to
$1.353 billion, a 17 percent hike.
Early objections to Romney’s budget included doubts about how the state
could bankroll the plan.
Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation,
questioned whether state revenues could underpin the Romney budget.
Widmer said the governor’s budget may be $500 million out of balance.
"In fiscal crises, we have to dip into resources," Widmer told reporters
after the administration’s presentation. "But in better fiscal times we
should not be spending any more than we’re taking in in any given fiscal
Widmer acknowledged the "ironic" nature of his criticism, given that
Democrats and local officials have historically pilloried Romney for not
spending enough. He called the governor’s spending propositions "very
Romney communications director Eric Fehrnstrom said Widmer’s criticism
didn’t take into account this year’s surpluses, which mean next year’s
revenues are growing off a larger base.
The Romney budget includes several "savings" proposals. Romney would
freeze nursing home reimbursement rates that have stayed ahead of
inflation while nursing home usage has declined, netting $102 million.
By raising state employee group health insurance contribution
percentages to 25 percent from their current 15 percent levels, Romney
said, another $85 million could be saved.
Since 2001, the cost to the state of furnishing health insurance to
state employees, both active and retired, has soared by almost 30
percent. The Legislature briefly agreed to increase the portion of
health care costs paid by state employees, but this year restored
previous benefit ratios, citing recovering state revenues.
The budget also calls for the elimination of the Inspector General’s
office and consolidating its powers under the state Auditor, saving
another $2.6 million. Lawmakers have rejected that idea in the past.
Through the final budget he files as the Commonwealth’s chief executive,
Romney wants to alter significantly the state’s formula for parceling
out school aid. The new policy would determine Chapter 70 distributions
by taking into account residential incomes and property values in a
manner that is similar to a funding method the Senate has twice
Currently, the formula weights property values heavily, and schools
adversely affected by the current formula have been clamoring for a
Romney’s budget takes a step towards implementing a new capital gains
tax law. It appropriates $60 million to reimburse taxpayers who paid
taxes in 2002, before passage of a law this year that changed the date
of that tax hike. The $60 million would be drawn from the state’s
so-called rainy day fund, which Romney said would still rise to a record
Repeating his call for rolling back the personal income tax, the
governor’s plan puts forth a staged, two-year plan sliding the 5.3
percent rate back first to 5.15 percent, then to 5 percent, the level
decreed by voters in a 2000 vote. Those rollbacks would cost the state
$132 million in calendar 2007 and $488 million the next year, according
to the governor’s office.
Fielding questions from reporters after his presentation, Romney said
that proposal’s fate in the Legislature, which has traditionally
resisted the voter mandate, would be "kind of hard for me to predict."
"It’s very hard to go to the voters and say, 'We still need your money.'
And, I think for that reason, that there will be a recognition that
bringing it down, in a stepped fashion, will work," Romney said, noting
that he would prefer a one-year reduction to 5 percent.
The new Chapter 70 plan also incorporates enrollment trends, including
cuts to 23 school districts that show enrollment declines. Romney said
that the decision was made intentionally to discourage local officials
from preventing population growth by cutting funding for 23 communities,
a savings of under $1 million.
"We decided that that’s the wrong message to send," Romney. "Even though
the number is small, we do want to communicate to cities and towns that
if their schools are shedding students – because people don’t want to
enroll in their schools or move to their towns or they’re not opening
their doors to housing – that there will be a consequence of less
In addition to its core spending directives, the document contains 91
outside sections, including a transfer of the Alcoholic Beverage Control
Commission from the Treasury to the Executive Office of Public Safety.
Several of the state’s largest spending priorities are funded
"off-budget," and not included in Wednesday’s discussion: the public
employee pension system, the state’s share of the Massachusetts Bay
Transportation Authority budget, and the school building assistance
The House of Representatives on Wednesday almost immediately referred
Romney’s plan to its Ways and Means Committee. The document will wend
its way through the House and Senate, respectively, before a conference
committee returns the plan to his desk. The new fiscal year begins July
Romney was joined at the late-morning press conference by Cabinet
members and other high-ranking administration officials, including
Administration and Finance Secretary Thomas Trimarco, in his first
budget cycle as a Romney aide.
Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, a candidate for governor, led off the budget
presentation, highlighting spending increases in a number of programs –
including substance abuse, domestic violence, and homelessness
prevention – that she called "near to my heart."
One line item Healey hailed was $750,000 for the establishment of a
"witness protection board," an anti-violence initiative tailored to
prevent gangs from intimidating witnesses.
Despite the 17 percent proposed leap in a local aid account, Romney
said, "It’s by no means a time of luxury in our municipalities. It’s
still very tight – It’s still a time for conservative spending in our
communities, and they don’t feel like they’re awash in cash by any
Medicaid spending would rise 3.4 percent, from $6.8 billion to $7.1
billion, while the state adds 30,000 new "lives" to the rolls, Romney
said. Due to sound management of drug costs, he said, the Bay State’s
Medicaid spending growth is "either the lowest or near the lowest rate
of growth in the entire nation."
While acknowledging that many senior citizens have encountered problems
subscribing to the new program, Romney said that the federal Medicare
Part D changes have saved the state nearly $100 million. He is proposing
a reduction from $92.2 million to $59.6 million in the state’s
Prescription Advantage, with the difference going toward the
implementation of the Part D changes.
"It’s hard to tell at this point what it’s going to cost, but we do know
it’s going to cost significantly less," said Sue Kirby, director of the
Massachusetts Senior Action Council. "As we’re sitting right now, it
looks like that’s going to cover what’s there."
Higher education funding is marked for a 5 percent jump, with individual
institutions receiving money based on changes in their enrollment
figures. Romney’s "House 2" budget calls for an 80 percent, $8 million
drop in Lottery advertising.
"We don’t think it’s terribly effective in generating additional
revenue," Romney explained.
Lottery officials have touted advertising as an effective means of
drawing customers to their games and boosting revenues to cities and
towns. "We couldn’t disagree more," said Lottery spokeswoman Beth
Bresnahan, pointing to an uptick in Lottery revenues over the last three
years, when the commission’s advertising budget had been restored after
its elimination in FY97.
Bresnahan said, "Our advertising capabilities have a direct effect on
our ability to increase revenues and maximize the local aid return to
cities and towns. We’re hoping the Legislature will take that into
consideration when crafting their budgets for the next fiscal year."
One outside section would privatize urban skating rinks, an effort
Democratic legislators have battled in the past. Sen. Jack Hart, the
South Boston Democrat whose district includes two rinks, said reflexive
community resistance to the privatizations has eased as their physical
conditions have declined. Efforts to outsource other rinks have garnered
positive reviews, Hart said.
"It hasn’t been met with fierce opposition of late, because I think
people want to engage in the discussion about what the long-term fate of
the rinks are," Hart said.
Grants for the Massachusetts Cultural Council would decline by $1.4
million to $6 million, a cut Hart said was short-sighted. The council
distributes arts promotion grants for non-profits, schools, communities,
"It’s unfortunate that the governor seems to be unaware of how tourism,
arts, and culture really play a huge role in our economy here," said
Hart, chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural
The state’s fiscal shortage taught policymakers lessons in resource
management, Romney said.
"We can economize and, in some agencies and some departments, the
reductions were a good thing. They allowed us to look and see what
things were really essential and what things were not," he said. Douglas
Foy, Romney’s secretary for development, said the Department of
Environmental Protection, which falls under his purview, is an example
of savings through regulatory changes, such as paperwork costs
transferred to computers. Foy called it "trying to get leaner and meaner
at the same time."
While one $3.2 million investment would aid mentally ill homeless
people, the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, which offers rental
housing assistance to homeless families, would see a $2 million drop.
Overall, lawmaker reaction to Romney’s announcements was muffled, as
leadership remained intent on resolving conference committee
disagreements on four different bills.
Senate President Robert Travaglini, an East Boston Democrat, said
Romney’s restructuring of the Chapter 70 formula was not a novel
venture. Senate Ways and Means chairwoman Therese Murray (D-Plymouth)
had earlier approached him "to revisit and to modify the existing
equation" already, he said.
"She is the chairwoman of Ways and Means. When she comes to the
president and asks me to look at a condition that she finds disturbing,
I’m going to look at it," Travaglini told reporters before the
governor’s press conference. "And she’s already done that. So the
governor is just reinforcing a condition that was brought to my
attention by Senator Murray a year and a half ago asking me, in some
way, to give some time and energy to that condition. And I’m going to do
Rep. Harriet Stanley (D-West Newbury), a self-described "fiscal
conservative," said of the governor’s proposal, "I think that it
reflects some needed spending, and I don’t say that lightly."
Of Romney’s suggested changes to the school aid system, Stanley said, "I
think that the governor was right on to tackle the Chapter 70 funding
formula. I don’t think he got where we need to go, but there has been no
legislative process so far."
Return to top
The Boston Globe
Thursday, January 26, 2006
A Boston Globe editorial
Rejiggering school aid
With state revenues on the increase, this is a good year to reconsider
the formula that provides education aid to Massachusetts school
districts. Governor Mitt Romney, in his budget filed yesterday, proposed
an overall increase that would benefit communities whose income levels
do not match their high property values. The Legislature, as it
considers his plan, needs to keep in mind the purpose of the 1993 school
reform law -- to help communities that lack the taxing ability to
provide a quality education.
Some communities have accused the state of maintaining an unfair school
aid system. These complaints grew sharper as overall assistance declined
as a percentage of school spending because of the budget crisis. Four
years ago, state aid comprised 40.9 percent of total school spending.
This year, the figure stood at 36.6 percent.
It is sound policy for the governor to propose an increase in school aid
of $275 million. Even more may be justified depending on projections of
state revenue growth. Legislators need to make sure that, as his budget
message says, the new formula is ''directed to districts in greatest
need of assistance." Additional aid should not go to wealthy communities
that can easily afford to raise the money on their own.
The governor would increase the foundation budget for each student --
the amount the state guarantees to the neediest communities -- from
$7,903 to $8,345. The higher figure would reflect a better estimate of
inflation. The Legislature needs to consider whether this might be
raised further to offer teacher training and support not considered as
important a decade ago as they are today.
The growth in tax revenues offers the governor an opportunity to redress
an injustice to cities and towns -- the decision by the Legislature to
divert lottery income to the state. The lottery money should go where it
was intended, to help pay for local services. Romney's budget also
contains an incentive for housing construction and reserves $200 million
for new health insurance initiatives. But there's pent-up demand for
higher education and other state services that were pared back during
the budget crisis. It's unwise to cut the income tax this year, as
While state revenues are on the rise, another decline is inevitable in a
few years. The governor, however, expects the rainy day fund, which
provides a reserve to soften economic downturns, to stabilize at about
$2.6 billion -- hardly enough to protect state programs from the ravages
of a recession.
The need to increase the state's reserves strengthens the argument
against a tax reduction. Cutting taxes now would be like rebuilding the
New Orleans levees just as they were before Hurricane Katrina.
Return to top
The Boston Herald
Thursday, January 26, 2006
A Boston Herald editorial
Kiss for the commonwealth
Gov. Mitt Romney’s parting gifts — a huge boost in local aid, plus new
money for health care, housing and education outlined in his budget
yesterday — come at a hefty price. Politically, he won’t be around to
pay for it. So does he care if the state spends more than it takes in
Maybe not. Michael Widmer, president of the Mass. Taxpayers Foundation,
says Romney’s $25.2 billion budget is off by half-a-billion dollars.
Spending goes up by $1.3 billion, but revenue is only expected to grow
by $800 million. "We don’t see how this state is going to pay for it on
an ongoing basis," said Widmer, usually the last guy to question
budgetary largesse. We’re wondering ourselves. But it makes for nice
Return to top
NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes
only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml