Four people arrested in Philly in complex ID theft fraud

I was intrigued to read in the Intelligencer newspaper today that four people in Philadelphia's Doylestown Township have been arrested in connection with the theft of the ID of an 89-year-old woman.

Police have arrested three girls and a guy, but say that they are still looking for a fourth woman in connection with the fraud.

What's interesting about the fraud - from a card security perspective - is that one of the defendants, David Merrill, is reported to have worked at the health centre where the 89-year-old lady lives, and is alleged to have stolen credit cards, drivers licences and a social security card.

The cards were used to pay off various mobile phone bills, which is a bit stupid, as police were able to trace the transaction back to the gang through the phone owner.

The gang showed some intelligence, however, as they ended up applying for a Discover credit card in the 89-year-old lady's name using her other card details, social security number and date of birth on the applications.

The resultant credit card was then used to buy various pre-paid gift cards, which were then used to buy around $900 worth of goods.

Pre-paid gift cards are unusual in the US in that most retailers don't ask for ID in connection with the cards, as there is usually no name on the pre-paid Visa or MasterCard cards.

Most retail outlets in the US now ask for photo ID when paying by a standard credit or debit card, which is a method by which they've countered a lot of fraud.

I wonder how long it will be before the practice spreads to the UK? -Ed.

Anyway, I digress. The case is unusual in that all of the information about the modus operandi of the alleged fraudsters is being published in the press. Usually Visa and MasterCard (allegedly -Ed) manage to keep this information out of the media...