Many of the headlines about ID theft make it seem like it is a crime committed by foreign hackers or domestic gangs with a great deal of experience and technical ability. But when police raided the Lake Mary, Florida apartment of unemployed 19-year-old Luis Flores and his roommate, Kyah Green, they were startled to say the least.
To start, police found statements from a local bank branch showing wire transfers received from the Kardashian clan matriarch, Kris Jenner's, American Express account: one for $65,000 showed up on a March/April 2013 statement, the other for $6,251.99 showed up on the May/June 2013 statement.
They also found a portable hard drive that contained personal information from the likes of Tom Cruise, Beyonce Knowles, First Lady Michelle Obama, Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Vice President Joe Biden, Department of Justice head Eric Holder, NJ Governor Chris Christie, Mel Gibson, Ashton Kutcher, Bill Gates, retiring FBI Director Robert Mueller, imprisoned former Penn State coach, Jerry Sandusky, and others.
How did these two get this treasure trove of information on A-list celebrities and then turn it into hard cash?
It was all too easy.
Court documents show that computer hackers published personal information for several celebrities back in March and Flores jumped on acquiring it. The pair were able to change addresses on accounts and obtain replacement cards that were mailed to the Florida apartment by calling credit card companies and pretending to be their famous targets.
This brings us back to Kris Jenner.
According to court documents based on information received from an American Express security investigator, on May 19, 2013 the company's card division received a call from someone claiming to be Kim Kardashian. After providing personal identification information and answering security questions, the caller accessed Kardashian’s account and changed the primary social security number on the account to Flores' number. Flores and Green also called about Kris Jenner’s account and similarly answered questions with identifying information.
The caller also allegedly changed the address on the account to the Lake Mary apartment. They then ordered a replacement card, which was shipped overnight to Florida. The next day, two additional emergency replacement cards were ordered — one for Kim and another for Kris.
At that point, they ordered wire transfers from Jenner’s account which were sent to a bank account set up by Flores and were quickly withdrawn in 11 transactions.
There are several lessons that can be taken from this hard-to-believe theft of identity. The most obvious is if it can happen to these A-listers, it could certainly happen to you and me. Moreover, this case shows us that once armed with our personal information ID theft scammers can quickly turn the information into cold hard cash at our expense.
The moral here is to be constantly vigilant and protect our personal information.