If you use the internet and social media a lot, you might have revealed some personal information and be a target of identity theft.
The Federal Trade Commission reported that the Consumer Sentinel Network took in over 1.4 million cases of identity theft in 2021.
The number of cases is quite alarming, so you might want to be proactive about your online privacy now.
We searched the web for the most recent identity theft cases and read several identity theft articles. We found out that ID thieves are constantly developing new ways of stealing personal information, so it’s important to know the latest ones they’ve got.
At the end of this article, you’ll learn the top mistake to avoid when using the internet, so you don’t risk your privacy and information. So keep reading and avoid doing all the wrong things regarding your online activities and compromising your information.
What are the famous identity theft cases in recent years?
Government agencies have warned about it, but what are some real life examples of identity theft in recent years?
Below are the names of identity thieves caught and prosecuted for their schemes.
1. The David Matthew Read case
Did you know that even Demi Moore has become a victim of credit card fraud?
In 2018, David Matthew Read and Marc Higley pretended to be Demi Moore’s assistants, reported that the actress’s credit card was missing, and requested a new one. He even made a fake ID badge to make it look like he was working for the actress.
Read picked up the new credit card and spent more than $169,000 at online stores and shops, including Apple, Bloomingdales, and Nordstrom.
But how did he execute the crime?
According to Read, he gets his victims’ Social Security Numbers (SSN) and other personal details from the internet. After obtaining such information, he writes letters requesting new credit cards under the victims’ names.
2. The Kenneth Gibson case
This is one of those identity theft stories that will make you realize that even big businesses are not spared from fraudsters.
From 2012 to 2017, Kenneth Gibson worked as an information technology professional for a large company in Nevada. His job allowed him to access and copy employees’ and customers’ personal information.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Gibson opened 8,000 fraudulent accounts with PayPal and an online payment company under his victims’ names.
After the accounts were verified, he would apply for credit accounts, then withdraw the cash using a debit card.
The FBI reported that Gibson’s scheme resulted in approximately $3.5 million in losses.
3. The Turhan Armstrong case
In 2020, the US Department of Justice reported that Turhan Armstrong was sentenced to more than 21 years in prison and ordered to pay $3.3 million for committing credit card, loan, and real estate fraud schemes.
He used the SSN of children and people who had already left the US and used their information to apply for credit cards, purchase homes, buy cards, and open bank accounts.
It may seem like the perfect scam because his victims no longer monitor their credit reports. Fortunately, the police discovered that Armstrong did not report any income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from 2009 to 2017, yet he acquired several properties during the said years.
4. The Luis Flores, Jr. case
The 19-year-old Luis Flores and his 41-year-old mother, Kyah Green, tried to steal Kim Kardashian’s identity, so this goes to the list of famous identity theft cases.
Aside from Kim Kardashian, he also targeted Tom Cruise, Ashton Kutcher, and Paris Hilton. The police even discovered that he had the SSN, bank details, and credit reports of Bill Gates, Michelle Obama, and Beyonce.
He eventually transferred more than $71,000 to a bank account he controlled. But in 2014, he was sentenced to 3.5 years in federal prison, putting a stop to his criminal acts.
5. The Nakeisha Hall case
Nakeisha Hall’s job included helping victims of identity theft, but she chose to abuse her position as an IRS employee. She compromised taxpayers’ identities and attempted to steal over $1 million from the agency.
In 2016, she was finally sentenced to 9 years of prison. The judge also ordered Hall to pay $438,187 as restitution.
6. The Phillip Cummings case
If you’re wondering, “What is the biggest case of identity theft,” here’s the answer you’re looking for.
The 35-year-old Phillip Cummings accumulated $50 million to $100 million of income by accessing credit reports from the three credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
He stole the identity of 33,000 unsuspecting victims, then applied for loans and opened bank accounts under their names.
In 2005, Cummings was sentenced to 14 years due to his years-long fraudulent acts.
These stories have shown how easy it is to have your identity stolen, but you can do something to prevent it.
How has identity theft changed over the years?
Before, identity theft could only happen by physically stealing wallets or bags to get IDs, credit cards, and bank cards. Scammers could also dig through the trash for sensitive information from physical mail.
But with the wide use of the internet and technology, fraudsters have become more creative. As we’ve learned in the recent identity theft cases, identity thieves can now get their victims’ SSN and other personal details from the internet.
They can also hack sensitive information shared on public WiFi and unsecure websites.
What are the common identity theft categories?
Here’s what we found to be the top 7 identity theft categories in recent years.
- Financial identity theft
- Medical identity theft
- Criminal identity theft
- Synthetic identity theft
- Child identity theft
- Business identity theft
- COVID-19 stimulus scam
Scammers illegally acquire other people’s personally identifiable information (PII) to commit such fraud and earn thousands of dollars.
How to protect yourself against identity theft?
Despite the rising number of identity theft victim stories, you can still protect yourself against this fraud.
- Keep your physical documents in a safe and digitize them.
- Use passwords with at least 12 characters, including alphanumeric and special symbols.
- Refrain from giving personal or sensitive information over the phone, especially to strangers who claim to be government employees.
- Check your bank statements, credit card statements, and credit reports regularly for suspicious activities.
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) to block access to your internet transactions.
Don’t provide confidential information without a VPN. It’s the top mistake to avoid, so you don’t risk your online privacy.
What should you do in case of identity theft?
If you suspect that you’ve been a victim of identity theft, it’s important to act fast.
Here’s what you can do:
- Go to https://www.identitytheft.gov/#/ to file a report.
- Get an affidavit from the Internal Revenue Service.
- Report the identity theft incident to your bank, credit union, and the police.
- Call the three main credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit profile.
- Change all your passwords and lock access to your debit and credit cards.
You shouldn’t skip any step to ensure that you protect your information and stop the thieves from stealing from you.
Can an ordinary person like you prevent identity theft?
Even though the David Matthew Read case and other incidents have shown us that popular persons can also become victims of ID theft, it’s still possible for you to prevent this fraud.
You can store your documents in a safe place inside your home, use long and unique passwords, be careful when providing personal information, check credit reports, and lastly, use a VPN for your online privacy.