Low-hanging Fruit

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There are several reasons why identity thieves are leaving credit card fraud behind and going for auto finance fraud. Basically, chips in credit cards have made it more difficult to conduct fraudulent transactions, auto finance fraud is low-hanging fruit and identity thieves are lazy. (I doubt there are many interviews with identity thieves confessing this, but you have to admit that the idea is plausible.) Two men from The Bronx, New York with a mission to drive off in a brand new car without paying for it succeeded. The deceptive duo worked together to commit identity theft fraud by using stolen personal information to speed off without incurring any debt.

The two New Yorkers mapped out their scheme to acquire vehicles using stolen personal information. Using forged driver’s licenses and stolen social security numbers, one of the identity thieves raced into a Larchmont, New York Lexus dealership where he represented himself as a buyer who needed auto financing. Once approved, the identity thief drove off the lot with a new car, debt free. (Unfortunately, their victim got stuck with the bill.)

Fortunately, authorities put the brakes on this fraudulent operation, but not until after a total of five vehicles were stolen across multiple locations in Westchester County over four months. Both New Yorkers pleaded guilty to identity theft fraud: the 29-year-old man who supplied the stolen personal information to his partner in crime and the 34-year-old man who fraudulently applied for auto financing and drove away with new wheels.

After a failed attempt at stealing another car from a Toyota dealership in Mount Kisco, the driver also pleaded guilty to a second count of identity theft fraud. The two convicted identity thieves were sentenced to up to six years in prison, with a minimum of two years to be served before becoming eligible for parole. The man who supplied the stolen personal information must pay $78,600.26 restitution to his victims for “stolen property and/or the cost to recover the stolen vehicles” and the driver must pay the district attorney’s office $52,507.08.

It seems that it is getting more difficult to protect personal information from being stolen. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself from identity theft. Always monitor your credit report for suspicious activity. You are entitled to one free credit report, once a year from each of the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. (Space the requests out every four months so that you are keeping tabs on your credit regularly.) You can also put a security freeze on your credit history. (This prevents credit, loans and services from being approved in your name without your consent.) These suggestions will go a long way toward preventing any collisions with identity thieves seeking to do harm.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Bronx men get prison time for identity-fraud scheme used to buy cars in Westchester,” posted on lohud.com on November 26, 2018.

Two Bronx men have been sentenced to prison for what the authorities say was an identity-fraud scheme used to buy high-end cars from Westchester dealerships.

Jankely Hidalgo, 29, and Jonathan Sevilla, 34, were sentenced to 2 to 6 years in state prison on Nov. 21 after pleading guilty to in October to first-degree identity theft, a felony, involving the theft of a car from Ray Catena Lexus of Larchmont in Mamaroneck, the Westchester County District Attorney’s office said.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.