Tuesday, March 08, 2005


5 1/2 on ID theft

I'm glad to see this being taken seriously, and deemed a criminal matter, since identity theft is becoming so prevalant in the United States.
A Nigerian national who used personal information from ChoicePoint Inc. and other companies to commit identity theft against thousands of people was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in federal prison.

Besides his term, Adedayo Benson, 38, was ordered Monday to pay nearly $155,000 in restitution to 10 financial institutions.

Authorities said Benson opened "mail drops" to which he redirected mail from victims' credit card companies, then used the cards to make fraudulent purchases and get cash advances.

His sister, Bibiana Benson obtained the information by opening accounts with several public records database firms, including ChoicePoint Services, Advantage Financial and Equifax, while posing as a real estate agent.

Adedayo Benson pleaded guilty to charges related to fraudulently obtained credit cards. Bibiana Benson was sentenced to 4 1/2 years after pleading guilty to unlawful use of identification.

ChoicePoint last month publicly announced a different security breach involving scammers who posed as small business customers to access sensitive data for identity theft.

We have to pull RAP sheets on a daily basis, and the RAP alone tells me everything I need to know about your criminal history, your drivers license number, and even your social security number. But, if you don't work in law enforcement, chances are you'll have to take alternate routes to gain access to personal information, all of which is readily available if you're willing to sit down and create the accounts that are needed to grab it. As stated, this guy setup accounts with private companies such as ChoicePoint and Equifax, all of which collect your information and resell it to various companies. Now, the argument can be made that companies such as ChoicePoint and Equifax aren't the safest things in the world, as anyone who wants to spend a few months to pass a real estate exam can simply register to acquire the information, but it's a little thicker than that. The best way to stay off the radar is to protect yourself, and do your best to make sure that your private information isn't tagged. Here's the definition of identify theft:
Identity theft laws in most states make it a crime to misuse another person's identifying information -- whether personal or financial. Such data (including social security numbers, credit history, and PIN numbers) is often acquired through 1) the offender's unlawful access to information from government and financial entities, or 2) lost or stolen mail, wallets and purses, identification, and credit or debit cards.

I highly recommend looking through Federal Code Section 1028: Fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents and information.

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