According some of the country’s top leading experts of cyber and financial crimes, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Every year, around 15 million people report being victims of identity theft, which results in $50 billion worth of financial loss. That means over 7 percent of adults living in the country are victims of this malicious crime. Identity theft can involve everything from medical theft, creating fake social network profiles, child identification theft and even stolen passports being used to carry out political assassinations! Here is an overview of the top 10 craziest cases of identity theft, counting down to the one we think is quite possibly one of the craziest of all.
10. Marcos Lopez
Marcos Lopez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, was able to successfully use the stolen identity of Adam Brackin, a 15-year-old high school student for over a decade before being caught by local and federal law enforcement authorities. It took years for authorities to catch up with Lopez, whom they alleged never kept a consistent place of residence or form of employment. Authorities are still puzzled to this day how Lopez was able to obtain Brackin’s information. Some experts say that many Mexican gangs and drug cartels also run elaborate identity theft rings and sell information to unknowing undocumented workers to make their transition in the United States easier. Identify theft involving social security information of children is a growing trend in identity theft and can have an impact on children and teenagers as they get older.
9. Wendy Brown
Wendy Brown, a resident of Green Bay, Wisconsin illegally used her 15-year-old daughter’s identity to enroll in a local high school and join a cheerleading team. According to documents filed by the local district attorney, Brown wanted to relive her childhood dreams of being a part of a cheerleading squad. Brown’s, whose daughter lived in Nevada, took advantage of her absence to illegally use her identity to enroll in a local high school and join the school’s cheerleading squad. According to officials at the school, Brown went as far as actually attending parties with kids. The school started looking further into Brown after she only showed up for the first day of classes. According to Wendy Brown’s mother this is not the first time she had been in trouble for identity theft-related crimes.
8. Anndorie Sachs
Anndorie Sachs was the victim of medical identity theft, a growing and alarming trend in identity theft-related crime. Someone stole her driver’s license, walked into a hospital and delievered baby, leaving her with a $10,000 bill in her name. According to leading identity theft experts, millions of people find themselves being the victim of this uncommon form of identity theft where people use stolen identities to receive medical treatment. Since the rise in medical identity theft, many hospitals and other medical facilities began requiring multiple proofs of indentity before admitting patients for treatment. Millions of people have found themselves saddled in debt because of this form of identity theft. Many people have been able to defraud medical facilities and insurance companies out of treatments and prescriptions using someone else’s name.
7. Raphael Golb
Raphael Golb, a New York University religious studies professor and the son of a respected Jewish studies scholar, was charged with 51 counts of identity theft, aggravated harassment, criminal impersonation, forgery and unauthorized use of computers in a NYU library after authorities alleged that he used fake online personalities to defend his father’s intellectual contributions. According to documents filed in a New York City courthouse, Golb engaged in an online campaign using fake aliases, names and plagiarized documents in order to defend his father’s intellectual contributions and theories surrounding the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls. Golb’s father, a world renowned scholar based out of the University of Chicago holds a minority opinion on the origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls. After feeling that his father’s intellectual contributions were being deliberately left out of mainstream coverage, Golb took the internet to engage in a relentless campaign using fake aliases to defend his father’s name.
6. Chrystal Trammell/Rebecca Nakutis
Nowadays, criminals are even using social networking sites to perpetuate identity theft crimes. Chrystal Trammell, a recent college graduate and single mother, fell victim to identity theft when 21-year-old Rebecca Nakutis created a fake Facebook account using Trammell’s information. Charges filled in Johnston County, North Carolina allege that Nakutis used the fabricated Facebook profile to send fake threatening messages to herself, mother and friends that inevitably led to getting a restraining order filed against Trammell. Trammell, who was in a child custody dispute with Nakutis’ husband, fought long for months against the restraining order that restricted her from seeing her child. She eventually discovered that Nakutis created a false Facebook profile using her information to trump up false harassment charges against her. Eventually, Nakutis was arrested for identity theft and Johnston County dropped the restraining order against Trammell.
5. Abraham Abdallah
Abraham Abdallah was a high school dropout, but also ran one of the most elaborate internet-based identity theft schemes in recent history. The restaurant busboy was able to breach credit card companies, banks and other financial brokerages using the identities of some of the world’s richest people. According to the New York City Police Department, Abdallah was able to steal millions of dollars from people like movie director Steven Spielberg, CNN Founder Ted Turner, financier George Soros and billionaire Warren Buffet, all from a computer inside of a Brooklyn, New York City-based library. Abdallah successfully conned banks by posing to be financial representatives for many of these individuals. He was eventually monitored and arrested after the FBI received information from a financial institution that one of their clients did not request a large transfer of money.
4. Nicole McCabe
Nicole McCabe, an Israeli ctizien originally from Melbourne, Australia found herself tied up in one of the most mysterious identity theft cases in recent history. According to news reports, Israeli Mossad agents used her Australian passport to gain entry into the United Arab Emirates to carry out an assassination against Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a ranking member of the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas. She was not the only one involved in the elaborate identity theft scheme; two other Israeli citizens unknowingly had their identities mixed up in the assassination. They now live in fear that members of Hamas will be seeking retribution for the murder of one of their members.
3. Amar Singh and Neha Punjani-Singh
This couple operated a $13 million criminal enterprise that relied on an elaborate network of over 100 scam artists. The couple received information about unknown individuals from identity thieves back in countries like Russia and China. Sensitive information like credit card numbers was stolen using skimming devices. Credit card information was loaded onto counterfeit credit cards that were then used to go on extravagant shopping sprees. Amar Singh potentially faced up to 250 years in prison, but was only sentenced to five to 10 years in prison while his wife pled guilty to petty larceny and was dismissed with a conditional discharge sentence. This case was called the largest and most sophisticated identify theft conspiracy according to Queens-based US District Attorney Richard Brown.
2. Todd Davis
Todd Davis, the CEO of LifeLock, a leading provider of identity theft protection services has been the victim of at least 13 identity theft crimes. The CEO, who proudly used to boast his actual social security number on billboards and other print advertisements, learned back in 2007 that his information had been used to take out a $500 personal loan, open an AT&T cell phone account and obtain other forms of credit. Ironically, LifeLock was fined $12 million back in 2012 by the Federal Trade Commission for engaging in deceptive advertising. Apparently, the Federal Trade Commission felt as though that the company’s $10 monthly service that claims to protect individual identities from sorts of scams is actually a scam itself. The FTC also alleged that the company’s $1 million guarantee to compensate customers for financial losses in the event that they were victims of identity theft are also bogus.
1. Philip Cummings
Phillip Cummings, a former help desk employee who worked at Teledata Communications, Inc., a Long Island, New York City-based software company, orchestrated one of the largest identity theft scams of the 20th century. Cummings, a Carterville, Georgia resident had used his access to credit report information at the software company to re-sell credit reports and other information to a Nigerian-based, International identity theft ring. The elaborate criminal network apparently robbed over 30,000 victims of $100 million and the scheme went on for several years before the FBI found out and put an end to it. Interestingly, what set off investigators was that representatives from Ford Motor Credit discovered that they had been billed by the software company for thousands of credit reports that they never ordered. During the FBI’s investigation, it was later discovered that other companies had been billed for credit reports as well. Apparently, Nigeria is one of the world’s leading hotspots for identity theft and other forms of extreme financial crimes that have robbed people worldwide of billions of dollars.
Bonus: Frank Abagnale
The famed con artist, check forger and impostor, now a leading security and fraud consultant working with the FBI was spotlighted in the Leonardo DiCapri film, “Catch Me If You Can.” He gained notoriety for impersonating a variety of people such as an airline pilot, doctor, US Bureau of Prisons Agent and lawyer. He escaped from police custody twice and even prison all before the age of 21. He eventually was caught and served time for his crimes. After being released from prison, Abagnale started working for the government to help teach them how to prevent a variety of financial and identity theft crimes. Eventually he started Abagnale and Associates, one of the world’s leading financial security consulting firms.