Photo (cc) by Bank of England
NBC News wrote about a federal indictment unsealed last week which alleges more than a dozen people were involved in a crime ring that stole hundreds of millions and slipped through the U.S. credit system without notice.
They had a staggering 25,000 fake credit cards across more than 7,000 stolen and faked identities over 28 states. They made up Social Security numbers, and got themselves listed as authorized users for accounts tied to real ones. They made up fake stores and processed payments through them. They made fake utility payments, paid from fake addresses. It’s mind-boggling to think how anyone could come up with the plan and manage the logistics of it.
The trick was, with both real and fake identities, not to play their hand too soon. The crooks pretended to pay bills and patiently built up good credit for the accounts, then used them for fraud. Many were run through (real but apparently complicit) jewelry stores in Jersey City, where expensive transactions are common and perfect cover for flipping good credit into cold hard cash.
It’s easy when you’re both the fake customer and the fake seller: you have one buy something on a credit card, and then the fake seller gets paid by the credit card company just like a real seller would. Rinse, recycle, repeat. As the article points out, that’s a lesson for anybody whose identity may have been stolen: Just because you aren’t ripped off right away, don’t assume you’re in the clear.
18 people have been charged so far, ranging in age from 31 to 74. Most lived luxurious lives in or around New York City. If found guilty, each could face up to 30 years in prison and a teensy-tiny fine of $1 million. (They stole over $200 million.)
You can see a list of their names and get more details on the crazy case at Justice.gov.