Criminals are getting more creative when it comes to stealing identities.  Increasingly, we see in the news that fraudsters are targeting more vulnerable populations, including children, persons with disabilities, the elderly, veterans and the homeless.  Today’s fraud comes from a story about a different approach to targeting victims to steal their identities:  online classified ads.

In this case, two women in Nassau County, New York, were indicted on charges of grand larceny and schemes to defraud for allegedly using common Internet classified ad sites to post “ads for nonexistent jobs and apartments to steal hundreds of identities nationwide.”  They then used the identities to apply for bank loans and credit cards totaling more than $75,000.  (This is a new method of grabbing identities that we have not seen before.  These women get an A+ for creativity and an F for failing decency.)  The two women are also accused of filing fraudulent state income tax returns for more than $500,000 in refunds.  (Uh oh. Now these two know where the real money is in fraud.)

According to the article, between February 2010 and October of 2011, “the two defendants sent their victims employment and rental applications that asked for their name, address, birth date and Social Security Number and then used that information to file more than 250 false tax returns and obtain bank loans and credit cards.”

What tipped off investigators?  In 2011, the Department of Taxation realized that “hundreds of tax refunds were being claimed from more than 10 Nassau County addresses.”  (A technology solution that analyzes public records can catch this.)  Upon executing search warrants of the defendants’ homes, investigators found “hundreds of documents and notebooks with detailed records of the victims’ personal information.” If convicted, one of the women faces up to 15 years in prison, while the other faces seven years in prison.

This is a clear cut example of why people need to protect their identities and become better educated on the types of scams that are out there.  In this case, it took a government investigation to unravel the scam.  Here’s the question of the day:  “How can agencies more cost-effectively catch fraudsters?”

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