Florida has long held the dubious honor of having the highest rates of identity theft in the country, according to the Federal Trade Commission. In fact, Florida cities hold several of the top ten spots for major metropolitan areas around the country reporting the highest incidences of identity theft and related crimes.
Of the problems in Florida, the South Florida metro area made up of Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and West Palm Beach actually holds the top position in the entire US for identity theft rates, with more than 18,000 cases in 2014 alone. But the FBI has made another dent in the problem with the arrests of two individuals who led an identity theft ring.
Apart from selling identities to other individuals, Rodríguez García, 51, and González Aguilera, 33, used stolen personal data to buy high-end electronics from a variety of retailers in the area. Both suspects were arrested following information from a third identity theft suspect who’d purchased information from Garcia and Aguilera and was caught using it in a retail store. This suspect, whose name is not released,agreed to assist law enforcement in recording phone calls to the pair under the pretense of buying identities.
Compared to major scale hacking events that compromise the identifying information of millions of consumers, this might seem like a low-level crime. After all, how much impact can two individuals actually have? In reality, though, small-time identity theft rings can operate for long periods of time and result in a significant number of victims before they’re stopped. In situations such as this recent bust, thieves typically open accounts using stolen information then purchase items like expensive electronics which they can later sell online, sell to individuals, or even return to the store for a refund. It might seem like a very roundabout process, but many thieves would rather do all this legwork and take all this risk in hopes of making some fast money off the backs of their victims.
In addition to the identity theft charges for possessing their victims’ stolen names, Social Security numbers, and more, the suspects have been charged with access device fraud. That particular crime involves any use of a stolen, altered, fraudulent, or otherwise invalid credit card without the account holder’s permission.