What Happened After a Reporter Tracked Down The Identity Thief Who Stole $5,000

What Happened After a Reporter Tracked Down The Identity Thief Who Stole $5,000 (msn.com)



from the who-done-it dept.

“$5,000 in cash had been withdrawn from my checking account — but not by me,” writes journalist Linda Matchan in the Boston Globe. A police station manager reviewed footage from the bank — which was 200 miles away — and deduced that “someone had actually come into the bank and spoken to a teller, presented a driver’s license, and then correctly answered some authentication questions to validate the account…”
“You’re pitting a teller against a national crime syndicate with massive resources behind them,” says Paul Benda, executive vice president for risk, fraud, and cybersecurity at the American Bankers Association. “They’re very well-funded, well-resourced criminal gangs doing this at an industrial scale.”

The reporter writes that “For the past two years, I’ve worked to determine exactly who and what lay behind this crime…”
[N]ow I had something new to worry about: Fraudsters apparently had a driver’s license with my name on it… “Forget the fake IDs adolescents used to get into bars,” says Georgia State’s David Maimon, who is also head of fraud insights at SentiLink, a company that works with institutions across the United States to support and solve their fraud and risk issues. “Nowadays fraudsters are using sophisticated software and capable printers to create virtually impossible-to-detect fake IDs.” They’re able to create synthetic identities, combining legitimate personal information, such as a name and date of birth, with a nine-digit number that either looks like a Social Security number or is a real, stolen one. That ID can then be used to open financial accounts, apply for a bank or car loan, or for some other dodgy purpose that could devastate their victims’ financial lives.

And there’s a complex supply chain underpinning it all — “a whole industry on the dark web,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit that helps victims undo the damage wrought by identity crime. It starts with the suppliers, Maimon told me — “the people who steal IDs, bring them into the market, and manufacture them. There’s the producers who take the ID and fake driver’s licenses and build the facade to make it look like they own the identity — trying to create credit reports for the synthetic identities, for example, or printing fake utility bills.” Then there are the distributors who sell them in the dark corners of the web or the street or through text messaging apps, and finally the customers who use them and come from all walks of life. “We’re seeing females and males and people with families and a lot of adolescents, because social media plays a very important role in introducing them to this world,” says Maimon, whose team does surveillance of criminals’ activities and interactions on the dark web. “In this ecosystem, folks disclose everything they do.”

The reporter writes that “It’s horrifying to discover, as I have recently, that someone has set up a tech company that might not even be real, listing my home as its principal address.”

Two and a half months after the theft the stolen $5,000 was back in their bank account — but it wasn’t until a year later that the thief was identified. “The security video had been shared with New York’s Capital Region Crime Analysis Center, where analysts have access to facial recognition technology, and was run through a database of booking photos. A possible match resulted…. She was already in custody elsewhere in New York… Evidently, Deborah was being sought by law enforcement in at least three New York counties. [All three cases involved bank-related identity fraud.]”

Deborah was finally charged with two separate felonies: grand larceny in the third degree for stealing property over $3,000, and identity theft. But Deborah missed her next two court dates, and disappeared. “She never came back to court, and now there were warrants for her arrest out of two separate courts.”

After speaking to police officials the reporter concludes “There was a good chance she was only doing the grunt work for someone else, maybe even a domestic or foreign-organized crime syndicate, and then suffering all the consequences.”

The UK minister of state for security even says that “in some places people are literally captured and used as unwilling operators for fraudsters.”

Money will say more in one moment than the most eloquent lover can in years.


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