A Little Bit Goes a Long Way


It’s amazing what criminals can do with just a few bits of incomplete personal data. According to an article published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, a little bit of information went a long way towards one fraudster gaining $52,000 in student loan funds he did not deserve.

The story states that more than 100 law and medical students from the graduating class of 2013 at two Georgia universities were victimized by two Atlantans who conspired to steal their identities with the intent to apply for student loans. (What a way to start out life after graduation. Welcome to the real world!)

One of the co-conspirators obtained the student names, partial Social Security numbers and birth dates and then solicited the help of another partner in crime who had access to credit reporting databases through her job. Together, they were able to come up with enough information to apply for $400,000 worth of student loans. (Well, that certainly seemed easy.)

Here’s how the scheme worked. In order to approve the student loan applications, the bank required student transcripts. The fraudster who originally obtained the student names used personal identifiers to gain access to passwords on one of the university’s online portals. Once he was in, the criminal ordered student transcripts and had them mailed to a few more alleged associates, who would forward the documents on to the scam’s mastermind once received.

After the loans were approved, the fraudster directed the proceeds into bank accounts that he opened in his victims’ names. Once the money was in the bank, he withdrew the funds via ATM.

The mastermind behind the scheme pleaded guilty to computer fraud and aggravated identity theft. He was sentenced to nearly five years in prison and ordered to pay back the $52,000 he stole in his unsuspecting victims’ names. The woman who helped him piece together the students’ personal information also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and will serve two years in prison and pay $26,000 in restitution.

It is extremely scary to think that this guy almost got away with $400,000 in fraudulently obtained student loans. But, just like he pieced together a lot of little bits of information to commit his crime, law enforcement officials are also pretty adept at the same game when it comes to stopping fraud. Congratulations to the team of investigators whose sleuthing efforts will certainly go a long way towards preventing this kind of fraud from occurring in the future.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Two Atlantans Get Prison Time for ID Fraud at UGA and Emory,” published by the Atlanta Business Chronicle on August 1, 2014.

Two Atlantans were sentenced Friday for stealing the identities of Emory University and The University of Georgia law students to apply for student loans.

According to U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Maario Coleman, 28, of Atlanta, got the names of more than 100 members of the 2013 class of graduating law and medical students at Emory University and five law students at UGA.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.