9. Anndorie Sachs
Anndorie Sachs was one of the people who helped push medical ID fraud into the spotlight. When a Utah Division of Child and Family Services officer came to her door to tell her that her newborn tested positive for drugs and that her four other children were about to be taken away, her response, "What newborn?" was thoroughly ignored. She quickly made the connection to the theft of her driver's license about a month prior, but even when she finally convinced the DCFS agent of that, she still had other problems to untangle.
Not only had a drug-addicted woman abandoned a baby in a hospital under her name, but she had altered Sachs' medical records as well. Because of the information privacy laws in place to prevent fraud, Sachs wasn't even allowed to look at her own record to fix the problems. And considering she has a blood clotting condition that could kill her if the wrong type was administered, that was a big deal. Not to mention that she had to fight off the hospital from trying to collect on a $10,000 bill. Ultimately, nobody -- not the police, not the hospital -- was in any particular hurry to help her sort her life back out.
(Image via YouTube)
8. Henrique Constantino
Henrique Constantino wasn't particularly damaged, it doesn't seem, by this particular incident, but it's no less fascinating. Marcel da Rocha Nascimento was a drug runner who learned to fly airplanes by working with smugglers on the Brazil/Paraguay border. He lived a bizarre life, making a lot of claims, getting away with all sorts of crazy things, but the most famous was when he lived the life of Henrique Constantino, whose brother was the CEO of Gol airline. Constantino lived the high life, and Nascimento even showed up at Carnaval do Recife impersonating him. He might have gotten away with it, too, until he climbed into bed with a woman who knew the real Constantino.
In prison, he was approached by filmmaker Mariana Caltabiano, who turned a series of interviews with him into a book and a comedic docudrama casting Nascimento as an antihero. Part of the real lesson here is that while you may look at movies like Catch Me If You Can and marvel at how a person could get away with that kind of fraud "back then," before digital information caught up with us, it's apparently still very possible to just wander around committing large-scale fraud in broad daylight, as long as you're smart enough.
7. Adam Brackin
Angie Brackin had a rude awakening one day when she received a phone call asking her why her son had failed to report thousands of dollars from factory work. She pointed out that he was a little tied up being a fourth-grader and hadn't had an awful lot of time for factory work. That was the start of a grueling process of discovery, in which the Brackins learned that a man named Marco Lopez had been living and working under Adam's social security number for 14 years -- since just months after Adam was born.
After a year-long investigation, Lopez was finally arrested on 10 different felonies related to the fraud. Fortunately, Indianapolis police were working to help Adam un-wreck his credit score, but it's not an easy thing to do. The poor kid had over a decade's worth of ruined credit before he even got started in life.
6. Simon Bunce
Of course, the fallout of identity theft isn't limited to only financial consequences. In 2004, Simon Bunce, a former pilot for the Royal Air Force, was arrested on charges of child pornography. Bunce had done no such thing -- but his credit card number had.
The police weren't in any particular rush to help him, but with his wife standing by his side, he began investigating what happened. It was Bunce himself who dug through records of the company in question and found where his card had been used by someone in Indonesia. He eventually convinced authorities he was innocent -- and after months of searching his computers and hard drives didn't turn anything up, they finally dropped the charge and gave him back his equipment.
But Simon had a hard road ahead -- he had to forgive and reconnect with family that had disowned him, including his father. He had to take a job that paid a quarter of the job that he was fired from. (He now sells encryption services, naturally). And of course, he's left with a strong predilection for cash transactions -- not that anyone blames him.
(Image via YouTube)
5. Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey
Abraham Abdallah was working as a busboy in Brooklyn when he was nabbed for fraud totaling $78 million. While Abdallah lacked a formal education, he knew how to find information. Working from the Brooklyn Heights Library with a copy of the Forbes 400 Wealthiest Americans, Abdallah called up the banks of the rich and famous -- George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, and more. Using widely-available information like mother's maiden names or birthdates, he would pose as a financial advisor to garner account information, which he would then use to get more account information on another, later call.
All in all, he wound up stealing millions of dollars worth of goods, from 217 of the Forbes 400, apparently just for the sake of doing it. He was living in poverty when he was picked up, despite the wealth he had amassed.
4. Margot Somerville
Margot Somerville, a California grandmother, lost her wallet on one of San Francisco's famous trolleys. Months went by and she moved on, until the next year when she was suddenly compelled to remember what had happened. It turns out that someone had grabbed everything out of her wallet and was writing thousands of fraudulent checks in her name in Colorado.
Somerville lost $20,000 to the fraud, and spent another $60,000 trying to clear her name with a high-powered defense lawyer, but part of what makes her angriest is that if she hadn't been able to afford that, she would have been completely steamrolled by law enforcement (many identity theft victims are, all the time). In ID theft cases, the victim is usually the first person to be accused, and it's hard to get the law to even look at other people. In Somerville's case, it was a year before authorities checked fingerprints on the fraudulent checks and found that hers weren't on there, and they ignored a polygraph. (Not that polygraphs are perfect, but if you're going to ignore the results, why bother administering one?)
All in all, Somerville spent a lot of time and money clearing her own name, and if that sounds like it's emerging as a theme, you're not wrong.
(Image via YouTube)
3. 44 Residents of Jackson County
Terry Lee Morrow, Jr. was working as a used car dealer around Kansas City, Missouri when he suddenly realized that he had both easy access to auto loans, and a ton of names, birth dates, and social security numbers that people had given him over the course of business. He promptly took out over $1 million in fraudulent car loans, and then turned around and sold the debts to automotive finance companies. Selling debt is what creditors do when they don't think that they're going to get paid. It's a last-ditch effort that nets them a little money and gives someone else the chance to gamble on getting back the entire debt. But in this case, it got Morrow a huge profit, since the debt was never real in the first place.
All in all, Morrow made over $478,000 from selling loans he made in the name of 44 victims. By the time Morrow was finally sentenced in 2014, victims were still trying to put their lives together, including one woman who lost her job when she was unable to get a car with the credit that Morrow had wrecked. It took her 18 months to get the loan removed from her credit report, and she had to work two jobs closer to her house to make up for the job she lost. Morrow seemed genuinely remorseful and seemed to want to be punished at his trial. In the end, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
(Image via KCTV)
2. Amar Singh and Neha Punjani-Singh
We've tried to keep the focus on the victims here, but sometimes the criminals are too striking to leave alone. Amar Singh and his wife Neha Punjani-Singh were at the forefront of a global ID theft operation that involved 111 people, stealing a total of $13 million over a period of about 15 months in 2010-2011. They would collect information about people in Russia and China, or simply use "skimmer" devices at restaurants and shops, to steal credit card information. They then sent out "shoppers" to go purchase expensive items with the fake credit cards and IDs that they made with the identity information they had stolen. Then they'd turn around and sell the items somewhere else, and pocket the money.
A plea deal helped Singh turn a 250-year prison sentence into one with a maximum of 10 2/3 years.
(Image via The NY Post)
1. Wendy Brown
You remember that really early episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer where one of the aspiring cheerleaders was being possessed by her own mother, in a desperate attempt for her mom to relive her glory days? Wendy Brown of Green Bay decided to give the idea a spin. The 34-year-old woman had a 15-year-old daughter, living out of state with her grandmother. So Wendy naturally assumed her own daughter's identity, picked up a pom-pom, and went back to high school for some wacky hijinks. Except the "wacky hijinks" included bouncing a check for $134.50 for cheerleading supplies, and being caught by the school's truancy officer after missing a ton of class.
Brown's mother -- who now has custody of the teen being impersonated -- said that this wasn't the first time that Wendy had been in trouble for identity theft crimes. For her part, Brown wasn't sentenced to jail, but she definitely didn't get off clean. She was sentenced to three years in a mental hospital.
While Brown's case is sort of goofy, it does drive home an important lesson: more often than not, identity theft is committed by family members. Uncles who wind up on hard times and have access to personal info, even parents with bad credit who open new lines up under their own children's social security numbers. Identity theft isn't just something that happens because your wallet got stolen or some jerk sitting at a computer across the world hacked Amazon. It can happen in the home, too.
(Image via CBS News)