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THE FIRST TIME I COMMITTED IDENTITY THEFT

This story is taken from the transcripts of one interview with Ray, early in 2014.

"The first time I committed identity theft, I remember specifically. I had a cousin who was in the army and he had passed away, from natural causes. And for some reason I was wondering—and this would have been around 1984 or '85.

I had just gotten my first credit card. I think it was a $300 Sears card. I applied for it and I got it, and it was so easy. I think I was 19 at the time. And I wondered, for some reason I wondered about, if this would work for somebody who had passed away. I had my cousin's information so I sent away for a card in his name, the same card that I had just applied for in my own name, and I got it in the mail. It was so easy.

So from there I proceeded to build that credit profile up for about a year and a half. I got a Visa, a MasterCard, Discover card, a couple of department store cards and then I just blew them out. I'd get like a $1,000 limit on each card and then just spend it all and never pay the bills.

And I always used a PO Box for the address, so I could just walk away from the PO Box, not pay it and that's where the bills would go to. And it worked.

That was the first time I ever committed identity theft and from there on it was a pretty regular thing for me to do. Back then it was never a full time occupation. It was always a side occupation. I worked for the phone company, Bell Atlantic, and then I worked for an alarm and telephone company.

Later on I went to work for AT&T, got a top level security clearance and went to work for the National Reconnaissance Office, NRO, and that's how I got out to California. And the whole time, identity theft and fraud were my passion. I went to work eight hours a day, but at night and on the weekends I was on the computer and mostly just doing not identity theft but what I would call identity creation.

I noticed when I was younger that my sister and I both got our Social Security cards at the same time. And this was when we were around 14 years old. And they came in the mail because my parents had gotten divorced and for some reason my dad had to get us Social Security numbers.

They both came at the same time and her and my Social Security numbers were only three digits apart. And I remember noticing that they must issue these numbers in sequence. So it stayed in my mind and when I was older, in my early 20s and I started to focus on identity creation, I asked somebody else who had a child, I said did you get your kid a Social Security number yet, and what is it?

So I took that number and I just added four or five numbers to it, and this is before I knew how Social Security numbers were area indexed, how they were distributed, what form they took, what all the rules were for Social Security and how they issued numbers.

I was constantly playing with the numbers. And I figured this would be a new number that the Social Security Administration had issued to a minor, someone who's 2, 3, 4 years old, and they wouldn't be using it for credit purposes until they were 18 or 19.

So I also did some research and found out that when the Social Security Administration issues these numbers, they don't really share anything with the credit reporting companies like TransUnion, Equifax, or TRW back in the day. And so I started playing with that and I would just make up an identity.

There would be no file under that Social Security Number with those credit reporting agencies until I presented them with a number and applied for credit. And even in most cases, the first time you do that it's turned down for lack of credit. But just because of that application, a file has now been created with those companies.

So the next time you do it, you have a much better chance of getting that $200-$300 card back then. And then a few years later they came out secured credit cards, where you would pay a $75 initiation fee and give them $300. And they would give you $300 in credit as long as they held $300 of your money.

When they started doing that, and that was in the late '80s, every credit instance, as long as I had a Social Security Number that was recently issued, wasn't an adult and they hadn't created a credit record yet, I knew it would work. When I would present that number to the credit reporting agencies, and it was a virgin number, 100% of the time I would be able to get a $300 secured Visa card. And once I got that, I knew that profile was gonna be good.

Sometimes I would make five identities in a month. And this is when I was working regular jobs and doing different things, going to night school. Once I got that card, I knew within 18 months I would have maybe $12,000 in credit between the Visa, MasterCard, Discover card, a couple of store credit cards, because once I had that card, within 2-3 months, they started sending me pre-approved applications and now I just have to send them back.

And within eighteen months I would have enough money where it would make it worthwhile to blow that identity out - use the cards to buy some big ticket items, get big cash advances, expensive merchandise from stores, and then just walk away from that account, that identity."

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