This year, one of the biggest identity theft rings originating from Minnesota was prosecuted—spanning 14 states and involving hundreds of victims. Total theft exceeded $2.5 million, and major retailers and banks were victimized.
Just who was part of this ring is mind boggling; the participants included a receptionist with the state Board of Psychology; and employees at the St. Paul Postal Credit Union, Wells Fargo Bank and other major companies. Insiders generally have direct access to client data and can do the most damage.
Victims of identity theft aren’t necessarily gullible and naïve. As just mentioned, one of the ring participants was the receptionist. She gave Social Security numbers of psychologists to the ring leaders.
One of those psychologists found out her identity had been stolen when a bank called her to report that a woman claiming to be her had attempted to get $4,000 cash back from a $6,800 check she tried to deposit. At another bank, the imposter tried again with a fake driver’s license in the victim’s name that had a photo of the imposter.
The imposter eventually confessed to cashing fraudulent checks and using fake checks and driver’s licenses with names of actual people. Her fraudulent purchases exceeded $154,500.
- Other participants purchased high-end products with fake checks printed from special equipment, then returned them for cash refunds or gift cards.
- They also printed fake IDs and recruited about 10 people to enlist over 100 more to do the check cashing and product purchasing.
- A ringleader would often sit in a car while their help cashed a fake check, then the proceeds would be split.
- Thieves obtained personal information by breaking into homes, mailboxes, cars and businesses.
- The scam even sucked in family and friends. One ringleader had his two sons in on it.
This goes to show you how susceptible the public is to a mastermind of an extensive identity theft ring. Makes you think you can’t even trust the receptionist of the company you work for.
All that being said, account takeover generally can’t be prevented when organized criminals get a hold of account numbers. However new account fraud, when thieves use your Social Security number, can mostly can be prevented with identity theft protection.