Consumer Alert: Fake documents used in identity theft scam

How did one ring of scam artists steal millions of dollars? Details inside their operation explains why you're one of the best victims - whether you know it or not.

"These people didn't work. They lived off of this scam. Some lived very lavishly and many of them didn't think they would never get caught," Al Herzog, a U.S. Postal Inspector, says.

Herzog is talking about the scam artists who created fake documents to get bank loans, mortgages and credit cards.

"Ring of people who eventually learned from one another on how to commit this crime," Herzog says.

Initially, this ring of scammers used their own identity and information to apply for pricey car loans.

"The individuals were submitting fake pay stubs and W-2 forms," Herzog says. "And falsely inflating their income to qualify for these loans."

This approach had limited success.

Once their credit was ruined they would obtain stolen Social Security numbers and fake names to apply for additional loans.

"In many cases they established fake credit on their fake SS number to make it look like they were paying off loans they didn't have," Herzog says. "This allowed them to get additional loans in that fake name."

The group's ring leader mastered the art of falsifying documents along with the shell games needed to get an application through the process.

"She went off on her own and became her own one-woman crime wave," Herzog says. "She is responsible for $1.6 million of the $2.5 million dollars in losses in the case."

To figure that out, Postal Inspectors poured through more than 30,000 documents.

"Everybody pays for this type of thing in your credit card rates and your loan rates," Herzog says. "In the end the genuine customers of the credit unions ended up paying for the losses."

17 people were convicted on bank, wire and mail fraud charges in this case and more arrests are expected.

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