Identity theft pertains to crimes in which a person assumes the identity of the victim by getting access to his or her confidential data. The criminal impersonates the victim with the intention to derive financial gain or malign the victim’s reputation. Some of the personal data that can be misused for identity theft include credit card info, bank account number, Social Security number, and other identifying information.
Identity theft is on the rise in the U.S.; victims have ended up with debts and a bad credit file. The victim ends up with substantial debt and a harrowing time in correcting erroneous information on the credit file. Some criminals have even committed crimes using a victim’s name and identity. Thousands of dollars can be spent repairing the damage.
Chibueze Chidozie Nwafor
On April 4, 2013, Nwafor in Montclair was convicted of identity theft and tax fraud, and sentenced to almost six years in federal prison. Nwafor, 27, also known as ‘Cheeze,’ has been ordered to pay $118,474 compensation to the IRS. Cheeze had used the names and Social Security numbers of people familiar to him to submit false returns. He prepared tax returns in 2009 for many people, including a tax refund of $7,773. In 2010, Cheeze filed a tax return on his own behalf claiming false deductions and received $32,789 from the IRS.
On May 7, 2013, Thompson was sentenced to 30 months in jail for his role in a stolen identity refund conspiracy case. In January 2012, he and his co-conspirators filed more than 27 false tax returns for the year 2011, asking for $91,304 in refunds. Thompson got access to a database of individuals through an employee of a debt collection company and a prison guard. Thompson was working as an independent contractor for an Internet cable company. He hacked the Internet connection of customers he was giving service to. Then he used his personal laptop and specialized knowledge to take over the customers’ Internet accounts. Thompson made it appear as if the false tax returns were filed by him and directed the refunds to be credited to his prepaid debit cards.
Thomas William Quintin
On May 8, 2013 in Denver, Colorado, Quintin was sentenced to 63 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $626,451 to the IRS. From July 2009 through October 2009, Quintin had formed a team that made a database of thousands of deceased individuals and submitted their false tax returns to the IRS, claiming a total of $1,834,011 in refunds. They even formed a company called Total Tax and Accounting with an office in Englewood. Quintin and his partners obtained names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and other identifying information of deceased individuals online, which they used to file returns. They also obtained employer identification numbers (EINs) of various businesses. Their modus operandi was to falsely claim that the deceased individuals were employed in these companies during 2008, earned income and had taxes withheld. Quintin claimed tax refunds on the basis of this income tax holding.
Larry Nee Northern, Jr.
Northern, from Tampa, Florida, was arrested and sentenced to 32 months in prison on May 9, 2013 on charges of identity theft and stealing government funds. Court documents prove that on October 6, 2011, Northern was caught by law enforcement for breaking traffic rules. When he was being checked, he was in possession of $15,700 cash, prepaid debit cards of various companies, store money cards, confidential corporate documents of a local healthcare concern, and illegal drugs. The documents had personal information, such as Social Security numbers of various people. The police soon discovered that he had fraudulently filed income refunds, the proceeds of which were credited to these prepaid debit cards and store money cards.
Identity theft can be done through social media too, as Maria Crane learned the hard way in June 2013. This lady from Minnesota has been running a company which teaches children horse riding and sells horse supplies and tack gear. She also runs a Facebook business page representing the company. Crane says that when she was typing the name of her business in Google, she found out that someone else had created a fake profile of her company with images and links that led to her actual website. The fake Facebook profile also contained a request for people to donate money to Crane’s horse rehab program. Of course, the funds went into the fraudulent bank account. Crane got the fake profile shut down but she is still in the dark about who had set it up.
Like Crane, there are many who are falling prey to online identity thefts that also include scamming through social media. Hence it is important that if you are business owner, regularly conduct Internet searches of your name and check if there are fake profiles or pages for your business. If so, immediately contact the social media company and have them removed.
This article was written together with Robert Tritter, an aspiring lawyer who hopes to soon make the world a better place. He strongly recommends taking a look at the ID theft services from Protect Your Bubble to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of Identity Theft.