October’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month often focuses on how you can boost your data security. Taking steps yourself is smart, but did you know that numerous government and local law enforcement agencies are also working hard to stop identity fraud?
The Secret Service plays a major role in tracking down cyber thieves both at home and abroad. Other players include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US Postal Service (USPS), US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), and the IRS.
US Attorney’s offices nationwide then prosecute these serious crimes. Here are just a handful of the cases brought or finalized during the first week of October, 2017:
- In Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., ICE-HIS and the Plantation Police Department investigated the case of a 59-year-old woman who was accused of depositing $28,000 in stolen checks into her bank account. She ultimately pleaded guilty to a single count of aggravated identity theft. According to the US Attorney’s Office for Southern Florida, she worked with a partner who grabbed the checks from mailboxes in Plantation and Ft. Lauderdale. She faces up to 30 years in prison at her sentencing in December.
- In Tampa, Fla., a 38-year-old man pled guilty to aggravated identity theft in a case involving more than $400,000 in bogus IRS refund claims. He and co-conspirators operated their scam for over two and a half years before IRS investigators, with help from the FBI and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, shut down their operation.
- A 31-year-old man in Grand Rapids, Mich. was indicted on charges involving $150,000 in bogus student loans and aggravated identity theft. He allegedly used multiple identities to apply for federal loans and Pell grants but never attended college. Multiple local and national agencies, including the Grand Rapids Community College Department of Public Safety, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, the FBI, and IRS worked together to investigate this case.
- A total of $1.7 million in improper credit charges was linked to a group of five individuals in Georgia. All five have pleaded guilty to charges of credit card fraud. In addition, two defendants face aggravated identity theft charges. One individual worked as a bank teller, and several were employed at a private mail sorting facility where they removed credit cards from the mail. The US Postal Inspection Service and the US Secret Service teamed up on the investigation.
- The IRS and FBI jointly investigated the case of a 71-year-old woman from Hawthorne, Calif. She was convicted in a phony heiress scheme where 50 investors contributed more than $5.6 million to pay the ailing heiress’s medical bills in return for a share of her estate. A federal judge sentenced her to 71 months in prison plus supervised release after her incarceration.
- In Wichita, Kan., a 29-year-old female resident faces a minimum of two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to two counts of identity theft. When she was arrested in a stolen car in 2016, she had in her possession stolen mail, authentic and fraudulent driver’s licenses, student IDs, credit cards, and Social Security cards. In her hotel room, investigators found a laminated price menu for identity theft services.
- In Brooklyn, N.Y., three men are charged with conspiring to engage in identity theft to steal tax refunds from legitimate taxpayers and wire fraud. In another IRS investigation in New York, the owner of Pace Financial Services in Springfield Gardens is charged with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and filing fraudulent tax returns.
These stories represent just a few of the cases filed or closed by US Attorneys between October 2 and 7 of 2017. Federal charges of aggravated identity theft carry a minimum two-year sentence that must be in addition to other time served.
It’s important to know that individual cases of identity theft are actively being investigated and prosecuted. However, you must still stay vigilant when it comes to protecting your identity. Cybersecurity Awareness month is a great reminder to be wise and proactive in protecting your information.