Unity One Inc. Investigations
Criminal Intelligence Report
September 12, 2014
ATTENTION: Nevada Citizens/Business Owners
Local Forgery Ring at Work in Clark County
By John P. Kelleher
Forgery is alive and well in Clark County. A group of scammers has recently been defrauding local title loan companies in Las Vegas and Henderson out of thousands of dollars, by utilizing sophisticated computer software to create phony identification, financial records and vehicle registration, which they use to fraudulently obtain title loans on vehicles. In order to obtain the loans, the scammers first go to DMV and put the victim title loan company on the title as a lienholder before actually applying for the loan. With the lien and their phony paperwork in hand, the fraudsters then go to the unsuspecting title loan company, present their valid looking paperwork and walk out with cash in hand, after which, they then go back to DMV and have the title loan company removed from the title. Then, they repeat the scam all over again at another title loan company and receive a new loan on the same vehicle. In some instances, the scammers have victimized several title loan companies in a row using the same vehicle and the same forged paper work.
While the crime of forgery has been around since the invention of written language, with the dawn of the computer age, social media and computer software tools like Photo Shop scammers now have a wide array of sophisticated, easy to use, high tech tools at their disposal, which can be used to create phony documents that are virtually undetectable by anyone who isn't an expert. During the recent mortgage fraud and foreclosure crisis, scammers used these new forgery tools to create an ocean of bogus documents that were used to obtain fraudulent loans, fraudulently foreclose on homeowners and send the local and national economy into a tail spin.
Forgery scammers are often also identity thieves and it is vitally important that people guard their personal information to avoid becoming a victim. Common methods for stealing personal identifying information include on line "Phishing" or "Pretexting" by phone, which entails stealing personal information from the victim's email or phone by fraudulently posing as legitimate businesses, and then claiming that there is a problem with your account. They then ask you to provide personal information to verify your account. Another commonly used method is known as "skimming," whereby the fraudster steals your debit or credit card information by capturing information that is stored in a data storage device. This can be done whenever you swipe or use your card for an actual purchase, or the scammer may attach the device to an ATM machine. When you enter or swipe your card, your data is collected and stolen.
Less sophisticated methods for obtaining personal information include stealing your mail, bank and credit card statements, and "check washing," whereby the scammer steals checks you have placed in your mailbox to pay bills and then chemically washes the payee's name off the check and substitutes pay to the order of "cash." Lastly, there is the old fashioned, yet still reliable method of dumpster diving, whereby the scammers rummage through your trash, the trash of local businesses and public trash dumps and steal your personal information.
The following is a list of tips to help you combat these types of fraud and protect your personal information:
- Never provide personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the internet unless you initiated the contact or have verified who you are dealing with.
- Change your account passwords regularly and avoid using easy to obtain information like your birth date, phone number, mother's maiden name or the last four digits of your social security number as passwords.
- With outgoing mail, it is safer to use the post office mail box than an unsecured mailbox. With incoming mail, make sure you empty your mailbox regularly.
- At home, make sure your personal information is secured in a safe place and shred documents that you are not storing which may contain private personal information.
- Shred or tear up expired charge cards, charge receipts, bank statements, credit applications, and medical bills that you do not intend to store.
- Remove sensitive information from old computers or cell phones before getting rid of them.
If you suspect you have been the victim of forgery, fraud or identity theft, file a report with local law enforcement as soon as possible. Remember, forewarned is forearmed and by taking these simple precautions, you can help rob the thieves of their ability to commit fraud and save yourself from the misery of becoming a victim.