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Grosse Pointe Shores

November 13, 2012

ID theft suspects rack up thousands using store cards

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

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ID theft suspects rack up thousands using store cards
The suspects are said to be using this vehicle — a burgundy Chevrolet or GMC Conversion van — to transport purchases made with fraudulently obtained credit cards.

A cash reward of up to $1,000 is being offered by Crime Stoppers for information leading to the arrest of a band of identity thieves police say are responsible for more than eight incidents in metro Detroit in recent months.

Shores Public Safety Detective Sgt. Scott Rohr said the suspects are being sought in connection with identity theft crimes in Novi, Northville, Green Oak Charter Township and Farmington. Since sending out a notice to local police departments Nov. 12, Rohr said he’s heard from several more that believe these suspects are responsible for crimes in their communities.

According to a press release issued Nov. 13 by Shores Public Safety, the suspects are believed to have stolen more than $60,000 in merchandise from various stores, including Best Buy, Art Van, Target, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Micro Center, Macy’s, Sears and Gardner White. Using fake Michigan driver’s licenses or similar ID cards, Rohr said they apply for a store credit card, then promptly max out the card and disappear. On at least three occasions, he said the suspects have done this at Best Buy stores, even pulling up their van to the door so that store employees could “help them load their loot” into the vehicle. The suspects are said to be using a burgundy Chevrolet or GMC Conversion van.

“They appear to be very, very active identity theft people,” Rohr said.

The suspects are thought to be part of an organized group of identity thieves, police said. A male victim in the Shores discovered his identity had been compromised late this spring. Rohr said victims often don’t realize their identity has been stolen until they start receiving collection notices or calls from bill collectors about accounts they never opened.

Rohr recommends that residents carefully examine their credit reports. The three reporting agencies provide one free report per year; there are also services that monitor credit reports for a fee.

“Calls from bill collectors or calls about applications for credit should be taken seriously,” Rohr said.

He also recommended that people pay close attention to their credit card statements, and shred credit card applications and other mail containing any personal information.

Unfortunately, the widespread and growing nature of this crime — and thieves’ use of online databases to obtain personal information — doesn’t provide any guarantees.

“Despite your best efforts, you may still be a victim,” Rohr said.

Anyone with more information about the suspects can call Crime Stoppers at (800) SPEAK-UP; tips can be left anonymously. Tips can also be called in to Shores Public Safety at (313) 881-5502.

For more information about obtaining free annual credit reports, visit the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation website at www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/ccc/reporting.html or call (877) 322-8228 toll-free.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.