Safe from Scams: Apartment hunting

FRESNO, Calif.

The victims in this case were all renting. Each of them had filled out a rental application with personal information.

U.S. Postal Inspector Blanca Alvarez said, "Somebody who worked for the apartment management complex was able to obtain copies of their drivers licenses and their applications and they were given to the defendant."

The identity thief then went online, and with those dates of birth and social security numbers, applied for student loans.

Alvarez said, "They ranged from $25,000 and up."

Postal inspectors got involved because the checks were being sent to vacant addresses.

Alvarez said, "The checks would be picked up the defendant who was stealing the mail."

Next step in this fraud, hiring people, who with fake ID's, would go into banks and cash the student loan checks.

"The total potential loss in this case was over a half million dollars," said Alvarez. "The victims in this case had a difficult time fixing their credit. It's a lengthy process."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Anton added, "If their identities are stolen, most parents wouldn't catch that crime for 10 perhaps 15 years down the road. So an ID thief really gets a good head start year after year after year."

Some advice. Check your credit report at least once a year to make sure no one has stolen your identity and taken out loans or credit cards in your name, and shred any documents with personal information.

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