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Feds break massive identity fraud

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US investigators have charged three people for involvement in an ID theft scam believed to have hit upwards of 30,000 victims and cost millions through fraudulent transactions. Prosecutors say it the largest identity fraud case in US history.

According to newswire reports, the chief suspect in the case is Philip Cummings, 33, of Cartersville, Georgia, who turned himself in yesterday. Cummings worked for Teledata Communications, which supplies software to link the systems of banks and credit reference agencies.

Cummings allegedly obtained confidential passwords and codes to download potential victims' credit reports before selling them on to crooks at $30 each. This information enabled criminals to impersonate victims and obtain fraudulent loans, access bank accounts and run up unauthorised credit card bills in their name. More than 15,000 credit reports were stolen from credit reference bureau Experian, using passwords belonging to Ford Motor Credit Corporation, investigators told AP.

At an appearance a Manhattan Federal Court yesterday, Cummings was charged with wire fraud and conspiracy offences which carry a combined sentences of up to 30 years in prison should he be convicted.

The FBI has also charged Linus Baptiste, who investigators believe acted as an intermediary between Cummings and crooks, and Hakeem Mohammad, who has pleaded guilty to mail fraud.

"We believe this is the largest case of identity fraud in US history with the losses running into the many, many millions," US Attorney James Comey told reporters, describing the crime as "every American's worst financial nightmare multiplied tens of thousands of times.''

"With a few keystrokes, these men essentially picked the pockets of tens of thousands of Americans and, in the process, took their identities, stole their money and swiped their security," he added.

Confirmed losses so far stand at $2.7 million, with the figure expected to grow as investigators unravel the scope of the fraud. ®

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