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Victims Targeted in Identity Theft

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Atlanta, GAIf you thought identity theft was just for small-time criminals looking to make a little money, you might want to think again. Identity theft fraud can make thieves millions of dollars, making identity theft scams worth their while. Some people involved in ID theft can rack up millions of dollars in fraudulent transactions, not only benefiting themselves but also financially harming any victim of identity theft.

One man in Georgia recently pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft and counterfeit trafficking, following a raid that uncovered more than 675,000 stolen credit card numbers at his home. Using those stolen credit card numbers, the man reportedly carried out more than $36 million in fraudulent transactions, according to The Wall Street Journal (04/21/11). The US Department of Justice said the man obtained the numbers by either hacking into the credit card databases of businesses or by buying the numbers in online discussion forums.

The accused could spend at least 10 years in prison for the charges against him and a $250,000 fine.

Meanwhile, it is not just middle class people who are at risk of identity theft. Wealthy people and celebrities could also become victims of identity thieves. An article in the Los Angeles Times (04/23/11) reports that a couple has been accused of creating 200 blank access cards and fraudulent paperwork for celebrities, including Tommy Lee Jones and Tim Burton.

The couple could be charged with identity theft and forgery. The hotel room they were reportedly staying in had computer equipment, scanners, hard drives and a stolen identification card. The Glendale News Press (04/23/11) reports that one of the accused was standing by a vehicle when he was approached by a police officer. The officer found a hypodermic needle on the man, and black tar heroin and methamphetamine in his vehicle. A search of the hotel room uncovered equipment allegedly used for identity theft.

The man was on parole for previous embezzlement charges.

There is no word on whether Tommy Lee Jones or Tim Burton were actually victims of identity theft or if the theft was merely in the planning stages.

Identity thieves can use stolen credit card numbers to make purchases, but they can also use stolen identities to obtain mortgages in someone else's name. An elderly woman who lives in Queens learned in 2007 that someone impersonating her husband, who died in 1986, sold her home to a man who had himself stolen the identity of an innocent woman. The man who purchased the house received a mortgage for more than $500,000 from Wells Fargo and disappeared.

According to the New York Post (04/26/11), even though eight people pleaded guilty in the case, Wells Fargo initially filed a foreclosure on the home. The bank reportedly later changed its mind and decided not to foreclose on the home.

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