News & Resources

Identity theft scheme costs global banks more than $10M

Feb 18, 2012 Karen Umpierre

In our globalized world, electronic payments, mobile wallets and online stores have created an extremely efficient distribution process for retailers. In years past, if a consumer wanted to buy a product, they would have to go in-store, view it and purchase it. While the online community has definitely increased the pace of sales exponentially, it has also given way to an alarming amount of fraud and identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission, between 2001 and 2010, complaints of fraud increased approximately 430 percent, and identity theft rose by nearly 200 percent. During this time, many hospitals and financial institutions were adopting massive amounts of client information from legacy systems to updated clouds and databases. With a simple hack of a computer, a criminal can have access to scores of personal information of a company, clinic, financial institution or government agency. That's why billions are spent on anti-virus and hacking software every year. Unfortunately, many of the cases remain incognito until millions of dollars have already been lost. According to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, four alleged identity thieves are facing trial in a federal court in Minneapolis. The massive ring reportedly cost banks across the world more than $10 million. The lockers of one of the defendants in the case was found to have personal  information of 8,700 people, checks with a total value of $18 million, approximately 500 credit cards, 90 driver's licenses and nearly 150 passport pictures, the news source said. The four remaining on trial bring the total indictments of the scheme to 13. Six have already pleaded guilty and three are on the loose. Jean Brandl, attorney for one of the alleged identity thieves, stated that the ringmaster in the massive identity theft scheme fled to Nigeria, and that her client should not receive the same punishment as them. Glenn Bruder, attorney for one of the alleged thieves, suggested his client was unknowingly operating for the scheme when he opened a bank account for two of the criminals. While this identity theft scheme is substantially larger than average, it's something that any financial institution or business must be aware of. When client records are saved digitally, a hacker can gain access to them if the database is poorly protected.