The Father of Identity Theft

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Binary data with the word IDENTITY appears in the shadow of a hand. Concept for digital crime. Blue toned image.

Here are some famous fathers that you may have heard of: Vint Cerf, Father of the Internet; Jacques Cousteau, Father of Scuba Diving; and, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Fathers of the Airplane. It’s doubtful that you have heard of James Jackson, the self-proclaimed Father of Identity Theft. Ironically, the “Father of Identity Theft,” who is from the Memphis, Tennessee area, was recently convicted of identity theft fraud. Read on to find out more about this very interesting man who made a fortune off his deceased victims.

Mr. Jackson had a system. After reading through online obituaries and news articles about deceased individuals, he would investigate to see if any of them were credit card holders or if they held investment accounts. (Then, he’d use that info to impersonate the deceased. He convinced financial institutions and other companies to send him new debit and credit cards in their names.)  

Mr. Jackson recruited a co-conspirator to help him carry out his ruse. His partner in crime withdrew funds from the victims’ accounts and purchased gift cards. (One unfortunate victim lost $340,000 of stock.)

The demise of Mr. Jackson’s identity theft scam began to unravel when he called the local post office claiming to be one of his deceased victims. He inquired about a credit card package that should have been delivered that day to a house that happened to be vacant. Fortunately, the U.S. Postal Inspector and the Tennessee Highway Patrol Identity Crimes Unit knew that something was up. (They also knew that the former resident of the home had died.)

Investigators staked out the vacant house and watched the “Father of Identity Theft” walk across the street to his former neighbor’s vacant house, open the mailbox, pick up the credit card package, and walk back to his house. Later on, investigators noticed smoke coming out of Mr. Jackson’s home. When agents knocked on his door and no one answered, the agents found several small fires had been set to burn the evidence. (They also found Mr. Jackson pretending to be asleep.)

A search of the sleeping man’s home turned up a guide on “How to Find Anyone and Anything.” After exploring the man’s computers, investigators found searches of obituaries and news articles of people who had recently died. When agents searched his mother’s home, they found business cards that listed him as the owner of a company called “One You Security” and his corporate tagline, “because there should only be one you.” (I have to give it to him, that is clever.) His business cards also said he was the “Father of Identity Theft,” “Member of World Positive Thinker’s Club,” and “identity theft expert.” (Well, I think it is safe to say that we can rule out that he is no longer considered to be an identity theft expert and I doubt that he is very positive at the moment.)

After a week-long jury trial, the 58-year-old Memphis man was found guilty of 13 counts of mail fraud, identity theft, access device fraud and theft of mail. He also had prior convictions for similar charges in the Southern District of New York and the Western District of Tennessee. He faces up to 30 years in prison for stealing money from deceased victims, banks, financial companies and other unfortunate individuals. (If only he could find someone to impersonate him, take the blame for his crimes, then serve out his prison sentence. Good luck with that!)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article, “‘Father of identity Theft’ Convicted of Identity Theft,” published by Memphis Flyer on October 1, 2019.

His business cards proclaimed him to be the “Father of Identity Theft” and it was identity theft that, ultimately, earned a Memphis man convictions on a raft of federal charges Tuesday.

A federal jury found James Jackson, 58, guilty of 13 counts of mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, access device fraud, and theft of mail, according to U.S. Attorney Michael Dunavant.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.