Sneaky ID thieves always one step ahead in schemes
By Tom Mashberg/ Exclusive
First of three parts
Peter Kochansky knew he hadn't bought a Porsche, but there it
was among his bills - a luxury car loan in his name for $40,000.
That wasn't the half of it. As Kochansky, a lawyer from
Somerville, soon learned, a notorious identity thief was racing
around the country, running up credit charges and emptying bank
accounts, all in Kochansky's name.
The thief, Shawn Pelley, now in federal prison, always seemed a
step ahead. When Kochansky canceled his credit cards, Pelley stole
$7,000 from a Fleet account Kochansky shared with his wife, even
though Pelley had no PIN number.
Reporters get credit for simple ID switch
By Thomas Caywood and Tom Mashberg
Second in a three-part series on identity fraud.
Identity theft ain't rocket science. Trust us.
To test the retail credit industry's claims of tough new ID
fraud protections, two Herald reporters swapped Social Security
numbers and set out to steal each other's identities.
Despite our lack of criminal expertise, within hours we had a
$10,000 credit line at one store and a $1,300 account at another.
The experiment began at Dana Ross Studios in the South End,
where $60 buys a convincing-looking 'Massachusetts identification
card' - complete with digital signature, holograms and a faux
magnetic strip along the back.
No questions asked. Cash only. We walked out with two fake IDs
in 10 minutes. The cards showed one reporter's face and the other's
name, Social Security number, address and age.
Tricks of the trade from prolific prowler
By Tom Mashberg
Sunday, April 10, 2005 - Updated: 11:31 AM EST
Shawn Pelley didn't like who he was, so he became almost anyone else.
Starting in 2001, the crafty Cape Cod native used ID theft to
take individuals, banks and retailers for $550,000. Loot and phony
identities in hand, he led a flamboyant lifestyle and rubbed elbows
with hotshots from L.A. to South Beach.
Pelley, 29, finally was run to ground by U.S. marshals and is serving
a 60-month sentence at a federal prison in Pennsylvania. But the
skinny, 6-foot high school dropout ran up immense debts in the names
of dozens of victims, many of them Massachusetts lawyers.
US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan called Pelley "the most
active identity theft perpetrator the major crimes unit has
Scams turn victims' lives upside down
By Tom Mashberg
Monday, April 11, 2005 - Updated: 09:27 AM EST
State Rep. Paul C. Casey is a man of the people -- the people
victimized by identity theft.
In 2003, he was one of a half-dozen Paul Caseys across New England
defrauded by con artists who used his common name to pilfer gift cards
and heaps of merchandise from area retailers.
"You don't understand what it's like"
By Thomas Caywood
Monday, April 11, 2005 - Updated: 03:49 AM EST
Paul K. Casey of Foxboro is the kind of guy who keeps only one or two
credit cards and faithfully pays them off each month.
So he knew something was fishy when he got a letter from Sears about
the credit application he supposedly filled out at the chain's outlet
Victim: Unsnarling fraud 'a second full-time job'
By Tom Mashberg
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Karen Leonard was an Army sergeant in two war zones, then braved the
bar exam, but none of it matches having an identity thief run up huge
bills in her name.
Good Samaritan father, teen daughter targeted
By Tom Mashberg
Sunday, April 10, 2005 - Updated: 11:26 AM EST
Not only did crooks steal Bill Loesch's identity, they did the same
to his 12-year-old daughter.
Five years ago, Loesch, a protestant minister and Codman Square
health activist, rented apartments on the first and third floors of
his Dorchester three-decker to tenants he thought he could trust.
Instead, he said, one of them "would get home before me, steal
my mail, get credit cards in my name by using my Social Security
number and then go on big buying sprees. And this was a woman!"
When the bills came in, the thief would intercept them and rip
them up. Years went by before Loesch, 63, realized he'd been ripped
Tough to recover once you're hacked
By Tom Mashberg
Sunday, April 10, 2005 - Updated: 11:25 AM EST
The pet sitter did it.
It took a while, but Sandra Pochapin of Southboro figured out
how she became an ID fraud victim: The pet sitter went through her
mail, pocketed a credit card and hit Lord & Taylor's for $1,200.
"I didn't even know the card was going to arrive," Pochapin, a
48-year-old marketing director, said. "They sent me a card I didn't
want for an account that I never used."
Since 2002, Pochapin has been trying to undo the damage caused by one
person with just one of her credit cards. The thief, who fled the
state and was never arrested, opened false accounts from Boston to
Brooklyn -- at Macy's, J.C. Penney and Cingular Wireless, and places
Pochapin can only imagine.
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: In the early to middle 1960's, as VISA
franchises were first getting started in Chicago, they were known as
'Bank Americard'; named after Bank of America which was then a one or
two branch bank in San Francisco. First National Bank of Chicago were
the idiots responsible for VISA (Bank Americard) taking such a
dreadful hit from fraud in the first few years. How much is dreadful?
Oh, about five or six million dollars in fraud the first year of the
program. First National Bank of Chicago -- never known for having very
smart employees (see my essay elsewhere on how I had to successfully
sue them in Small Claims Court to get back refunds of checks they had
no business cashing in the first place) -- was issuing credit cards
willy-nilly to every name on their list of accounts; just sending out
the plastics without regard to the context of the 'account holder'
shown on their books. They sent out credit cards (in envelopes marked
'here is your new credit card enclosed', mind you) to such account
depositors as tiny babies, estates of deceased persons, escrow
accounts of the courts, etc. If there was a deposit account on the
books of First National Bank of Chicago, the computer printed up and
mailed out a BankAmericard credit card to it. You talk about dumb! And
announcing your dumbness and stupidity right on the envelope yet!
And recall please, those were the days when they used to print a
weekly bulletin 'hot sheet' which they distributed to all the stores,
and merchants were expected to check the 'hot sheet' before accepting
the card. And there were 'floor limits' which the sales authorizers
used to use in those times before sophisticated computers where sales
'under the floor limit' were automatically approved. How long do you
think it took the general public -- at least the larcenous members of
it -- to figure out the system, and how grocery stores and gasoline
stations had one floor limit (almost infinite) while electronics
stores, jewelers and liquor stores had another limit (almost none at
all). Everyone, but everyone, it seems, tried to rip off First National
Bank's BankAmericard program. It took several years of that kind of
fraud before FNB-Chicago woke up and decided to (a) try and do at
least a modicum of investigation before issuing cards to 'customers'
and (b) to at least be a bit discreet in mailing out the damn things.
Even the dishonest employees at the Post Office got in on the act. By
simply holding an envelope in their fingers and running their thumb
back and forth once or twice (and noting the return address being a
suspicious PO Box the bank finally started using to disguise the
contents of the mailing) postal workers made off with so many credit
cards it would have shocked any hardened con-man. Millions and
millions of dollars in fraud in the first few years of widespread
VISA/MC use by the public. Maybe its worse now-days, with a more
sophisticated public and a somewhat more sophisticated banking
system. Is it? Anyone know? PAT]