6 Famous Identity Theft Cases in Recent Years

CALVIN FELLOWS

Identity theft is becoming a major problem for citizens in the U.S. In 2020, identity theft caused Americans a total loss of $16.9 billion. According to a study by Proofpoint, a cybersecurity company, about 33% of Americans have experienced identity fraud.

With the increased use of social media and the internet, scammers and fraudsters are constantly developing new ways of stealing personal information. And when criminals obtain information from databases, the amount of money stolen can be in the millions.

It’s crucial to learn about identity theft to better protect your security and privacy. These are some of the most interesting and famous identity theft cases in recent years, so you can better understand what not to do.

Famous Identity Thefts Cases

Nicole McCabe: Identity Theft and Assassination

The identity of Nicole McCabe was supposedly stolen in 2010 by the Israeli Intelligence Agency, Mossad, and used in the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Originally from Australia, she had lived in Israel for a couple of years and was six months pregnant at the time.

While driving in her car, she heard on the radio about the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, the chief of logistics and weapons for the Hamas organization. She was shocked to hear her name, listed as one of the suspects.

The assassination squad had stolen her identity to perpetrate the crime, along with the identity of two other Australians and various people from the UK, Ireland, France, and Germany. Luckily, the identity theft was quickly reported and confirmed by authorities, and the situation was solved relatively soon. 

Phillip Cummings: Stole and Sold 33,000 Credit Reports

One of the most famous identity theft cases of recent years was that of Phillip Cummings. The 35-year-old, Phillip Cummings worked at a small software company in Long Island. He worked there briefly for a year, from 1999 to 2000, but before leaving the company, he stole the credit reports of about 33,000 people across the US.

The software company, Teledata Communications, makes “credit prompter boxes,” easy-to-use credit check terminals for more than 25,000 American companies. These terminals make it easy for businesses to perform routine credit checks.

Before leaving, Cummings and an accomplice from the company left with a spreadsheet of usernames and passwords that allowed them to access credit reports at the three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The thieves sold the information to criminals who made between $50 and $100 million.

Kenneth Gibson: Stole Info From Thousands of Employees and Customers

From 2012 and 2017, Kenneth Gibson worked for a software company as an IT professional. There, he could access thousands of customers’ and employees’ personal information. He stole data methodically during the five years that he worked at the company.

Gibson set up a computer program that would read people’s information from the list and automatically open fake accounts. He used those accounts to methodically transfer minute amounts of money. This system ran 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, and over time he opened more than 8,000 fraudulent PayPal accounts. He went unnoticed because he moved money in small transfers.

Eventually, he was caught because he asked PayPal to send him a check. Usually, he would retrieve cash from an ATM, but he got careless. The name on one of the checks PayPal sent him matched a victim’s name.

He was sentenced to 4 years in prison and supervised leave for 3 more years and community service. He had to pay $1 million in compensation and sell assets to restore the $3.5 million that was stolen.

Nakeisha Hall: Stole People’s Information While Working for the IRS

A shocking identity theft case from recent years involved an IRS worker. Nakeisha Hall worked for the IRS in the Taxpayer Advocate Services branch. In theory, she was helping people who had been victims of tax fraud, but in reality, she was stealing personal information during her work.

From 2008 to 2011, she accessed IRS databases and stole people’s names, birth dates, and Social Security Numbers. She used the information to submit fraudulent tax returns and request refunds on debit cards. She stole about $400,000 and was sentenced to 9 years in federal prison.

Turhan Armstrong: Made $3.5 Million by Stealing Children’s Personal Information

In 2017, Turhan Armstrong was convicted for managing a $3.3 million scam using stolen identities, mostly from children. He was sentenced to prison for 21 years for a variety of crimes, including aggravated identity theft, financial institution fraud, and credit card fraud.
Armstrong stole personal information and Social Security Numbers to open credit cards and bank accounts, take loans, and buy cars and homes. He often stole the SSN of immigrant children who had left the U.S. because neither the children nor the parents would check the credit reports.

Identity theft rings like this one that use a stolen SSN are one of the most prominent financial crimes in the U.S. Children are given an SSN at birth and usually don’t have a credit history until they try to apply for a student loan or enroll in college, which makes them an easy target for criminals.

David Matthew Read: Impersonated Actress Demi Moore and Spent Over $169,000

In 2018, 35-year old David Matthew Read impersonated actress Demi Moore and reported her no-limit American Express card was stolen. He obtained her SSN and other personal information online. Then, he intercepted the new card at a FedEx by pretending to be Mooore’s personal assistant and went on a shopping spree that lasted 25 days.

With the card, Read spent over $169,000 online and in luxury New York stores. The FBI identified him with surveillance cameras that caught him shopping at stores with the card.

Credit Card fraud is a growing problem in the U.S., affecting both consumers and businesses. Fraudulent credit card charges have a reduced liability, but you have to report the crime as soon as possible.

Unauthorized credit card charges reported within two business days have a maximum liability of $50 in most states. Credit card fraud reported under 60 calendar days has a liability of $500. If you miss these deadlines, there might be no limits. If you are an identity theft victim, you can read about your rights on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Read more interesting security information on our Blog

How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

These cases prove that identity theft can happen to anyone, from children to celebrities. Also, because identity theft can happen in different ways, the first step you should take is to learn about it.

You can try getting yourself a plan on ID theft protection from great service providers with good reviews like lifelock or identity guard which have been excellent ever since.

Be aware of how criminals steal personal information and what you should do as a victim. Acting quickly is crucial as an identity theft victim to minimize damage and avoid the time-consuming stress of fixing the problem.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Calvin Fellows is a former military security agent and police detective who headed security administration. Calvin is experienced and knowledgeable in all avenues of personal and corporate security, and is dedicated to educating people on how to preempt any physical or cyber security attacks before they happen.

calvin fellows //  Security Expert

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