Identity Theft Ring Operates From Federal Prison

For nearly a year, a prisoner at Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution operated an identity theft ring from his jail cell. “Federal prosecutors say the man was able to get personal information communicated to him while in the prison, including names, addresses, and Social Security numbers of credit card holders at various department stores. He would then contact the stores and add additional users to the accounts or open new accounts in the person’s name.”

His eight accomplices, who used the fraudulent credit accounts to spend more than $250,000, recently pled guilty to charges related to identity thefts.

This type of organized crime ring is made up of many players, including:

Kingpin: This ringleader intimidates those on the outside into acting on his behalf while he’s behind bars. His associates are primarily motivated by money, but the kingpin often relies on violence to keep them in line.

Insiders: Department store employees had access to account data. These insiders violated the trust of their employer and fed the information to the ringleader in prison.

Mules: Street level criminals who don’t mind being recorded on surveillance cameras will often use the stolen accounts to make big-ticket purchases in stores.

Store clerks: Mules often need a cohort at the register who allows a purchase to be made without checking the mule’s ID.

Fences: The fraudulently purchased merchandise end up being handled by a fence, who sells the items on the black market or trades them for drugs. Fences often interact with drug dealers, who tend to have the money for purchases.

A similar group targeted Apple stores, obtaining stolen account numbers, which they used to forge credit cards and buy laptops, iPhones, and other items. Again, a ringleader orchestrated the scheme from behind bars.

This is what we are up against: organized criminals with no consideration for the law, working in trusted positions with access to our information. You can shred all day and limit the amount of information you give out. But your identity is at risk, no matter what.

It is important to observe basic security precautions to protect your identity. However, the safety of your information with corporations and other entities that you transact business with is very often beyond your control. Consumers should consider an identity theft protection product that offer daily credit monitoring, proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, and alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your accounts. McAfee Identity Protection includes all these features in addition to live help from fraud resolution agents if your identity is ever compromised. For more tips on protecting yourself, please visit http://www.counteridentitytheft.com

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee Consultant and Identity Theft Expert. See him discussing identity theft on YouTube. (Disclosures)

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