ID theft, or identity theft, is a situation in which someone assumes another person’s identity to obtain a benefit in that person’s name without having to pay for it. Anyone committing this crime is guilty of fraud.
There are millions of cases of identity theft every year, costing victims and companies millions of dollars.
ID theft can be committed by giving a police officer another person’s name or by stealing someone’s social security number, credit cards, or insurance information to obtain records or to file false claims. The information is often used to gain access to someone’s bank accounts.
Celebrities at risk
Celebrities are particularly vulnerable to identity theft because of their wealth and name recognition. Tiger Woods was victimized by Lemar Taylor for $50,000 worth of merchandise by using different lines of credit with different department stores. He also applied for loans and received a California driver’s license in his name. He was caught when he tried to purchase a used luxury vehicle, which aroused the suspicion of the dealer. Mr. Taylor was given a 200-year prison sentence under California’s three-strikes law.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was defrauded out of $10,000 by a Newark, New Jersey man who managed to siphon funds from the mayor’s personal bank account to an E-trade account he set up. A campaign worker for the mayor, Odalis Bostic, also attempted to defraud Mayor Bloomberg out of $400,000 by setting up a phony company with its own bank accounts and forging the name of the mayor’s financial manager on two checks drawn on the mayor’s bank account. Because of the size of the checks, a hold was placed on them and the forgery exposed.
The greatest ID thief of all time may be Abraham Abdallah, a busboy at a Brooklyn, New York restaurant. In 2001, using his computer skills on a library computer, Abdallah was able to steal the identities of Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Warren Buffet, Ted Turner, Martha Stewart and nearly 200 others. For about six months, Mr. Abdallah removed millions of dollars from celebrities’ bank and brokerage accounts. He was arrested after he attempted to transfer $10 million from the Merrill Lynch account of Thomas Siebel. When arrested, he was found to have possessed some 800 credit cards and lists of social security numbers of his victims and their credit card information.