Did you ever wonder what criminals do with a stolen identity once they get a hold of it? According to the New York district attorney, they do what the rest of us do: buy iPhones.
A group of five 20- and 30-somethings have been arrested for allegedly operating a crime ring where they'd use stolen identities to buy upwards of $700,000 worth of Apple products, which they'd resell. The DA said this serves as an example of one of the most common uses of identity theft.
"Using stolen information to purchase Apple products is one of the most common schemes employed by cybercrime and identity theft rings today," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. in a press release. "We see in case after case how all it takes is a single insider at a company—in this instance, allegedly, a receptionist in a dentists' office—to set an identity theft ring in motion, which then tries to monetize the stolen information by purchasing Apple goods for resale or personal use."
The whole operation was a rather elaborate process. According to the DA, between May and November of 2012, one of the accused worked as a receptionist in a dentist's office and would allegedly steal personal information from patients (like names, birth dates, and social security numbers) which she and her friend would use to apply for Apple instant credit (basically like a credit card that can be used only at Apple stores). They'd then use that instant credit to buy gift cards.
The pair allegedly recruited employees at Apple stores to facilitate the process and would use the gift cards to purchase laptops and phones.
All in, the group is accused of using 250 stolen identities to purchase more than $700,000 in Apple gift cards, which they then used to buy Apple gear for resale. They're charged with a combined 394 counts that include grand larceny, identity theft and scheme to defraud. Four of the five pleaded not guilty and will be heading back to court in April (the fifth has yet to be arraigned), where they will each face five to 15 years or more in prison if convicted (it depends how many, if any, counts they're convicted on and whether the judge decides to make sentencing concurrent or not).
And while it's disconcerting to learn that your personal information can be lifted just by going to the dentist (or shopping at Target or working at Sony), at least when they get caught the hammer really comes down.