Back in July, FOX 4’s Steve Noviello did what many people never have the chance to do -- he confronted the person who allegedly stole his identity.
She never talked, but a self-confessed identity thief spoke exclusively to FOX 4 recently. He says he took North Texans for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The former fraudster said that knowing how he got away with it can keep you from becoming the next target.
He’s one of six self-confessed criminals who saw FOX 4’s story and contacted us to tell their own.
“She didn't answer your questions about how it happened, so I felt like it was my responsibility to let you know everything I know,” said the former thief. “This is my way of making amends for some of the wrongs I've done.”
Ironically, despite the statute of limitations on his crimes having expired, he wanted his identity protected.
In exchange, he told us what he's never told anyone else -- exactly how, for two years, he targeted North Texans.
“How much money do you think you got away with?” said Noviello.
“Hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said the former criminal. “It really got to the point where it only took about five minutes.”
The former criminal confesses that card numbers can be collected almost anywhere: they're for sale online, secured through skimmers at ATMs and gas stations or even at restaurants, where he says all it takes is a willing waiter to get all the numbers you need
“There are little devices you can wear around your neck and it will store credit card information that you can pull from the device later,” said the former criminal.
New chip technology in credit cards generates a unique transaction number with each use, which makes that harder. But far more lucrative than stealing the credit you have is creating new credit in your name, and that starts at your mailbox, especially the kind with easy access.
Mailboxes line the streets in most North Texas neighborhoods and are simple to spot with Google Earth Street View. Inside, right around the first of the year, are tax documents with enough personal information needed to assume your identity.
The information is easy to collect, but even easier for you to stop.
“I think the most secure thing you can do is to have a mail slot in your door that goes directly into your house,” said the former criminal. “There's no way I'm going to try and get into someone's house to get their mail. That's too much.”
He says it's exactly why neighborhoods like Oaks North were a frequent favorite.
“I feel so bad for those people,” he said. “I went through that neighborhood multiple times. Everyone I knew hit it two or three times.”
He says he would find enough facts to begin to unlock access to your credit report.
“When you pull your own credit report, they ask you questions,” he said.
He'd look for answers by setting up an account in your name on ancestory.com to generate details like your mother's maiden name.
“Generally, if they already have an account you're not able to get into it,” he said.
So he'd pick someone else.
If successful, he'd gather more details and head to annualcreditreport.com to pull a free copy of your credit report available to him, unless you had already pulled it first.
However, that was rarely the case.
“Most people don't check these reports once a year,” he said.
“Would that be enough to stop you?” said Noviello.
“Generally, yeah,” said the former criminal. “I could just move on to the next.”
“Because it's that easy to just pick someone else?” said Noviello.
“Right,” he said.
Ready with your report, he would look for holes in your credit portfolio.
“I would look at your credit report and see if you have an Amex, a Chase, a Capitol One,” said the former criminal.
Selecting where to strike was simple. Wherever you did not have credit is where he would apply because chances are, that bank would know nothing about you
“That way I can put in a different phone number or slightly change the information so it would be less likely to get back to you,” said the former criminal.
Lots of already established credit makes you a bad target -- too much information already on record.
He would apply for the most premium-level cards. Not only do they come with high limits, but, “In some cases, big banks like Citi, Amex will send a high level card through UPS instead of through the mail.”
Which, he says could've been another easy chance for you to stop him.
“It's an account called My UPS and you register for it and it alerts you any time you have a package or mail to your house and you have the option to stop it at the UPS store,” he said.
By creating an account in your name, he would get the alert instead of you. He would stop the package at a UPS store and pick it up with a fake ID.
You’d never know it was coming, unless…
“If you go there and that person already has a UPS account, is that a roadblock for you?” said Noviello.
“Yes,” said the former criminal.
The same goes for the U.S. Post Office. When he knew a credit card was coming, instead of risking a visit to your mailbox, he'd head to USPS.com and stop your mail and then wait for it to collect and head to the post office to pick it up.
“Using a fake ID with their name?” said Noviello.
“Yes,” said the former criminal.
“And your picture?” said Noviello.
“Yes,” said the former criminal. “Things that would stop me in my tracks is...already having accounts with all the banks, already having checked your credit report, having a mail slot and a UPS account, credit protection and an ancestory.com account.”
We acknowledge that there may be a bit of an outrage factor here -- some of you may be asking why we didn't turn this guy in.
We can't -- the time on his crimes has expired.
Instead, what we can do is take what he knows and use it to help you from being next.
He said his targets were always determined by easy access.
The identity he'd assume was just a means to accessing credit.
He said it got to the point where if a credit card he opened in someone's name ever got denied, he would call the fraud department and know enough about you to be able to answer the verification questions and get the card turned back on.