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CFO Sink Announces Arrests in Identity Theft Scam

6/7/2007

CONTACT: 
Tara Klimek or Nina Banister 
(850) 413-2842
Sarah Williams (DEP)
(850) 245-2112   

WARNS EMPLOYERS TO BE CAUTIOUS REGARDING EMPLOYEE IDENTIFICATION
WEST PALM BEACH—Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced today the arrests of 26 individuals throughout Florida on charges of using fraudulent identification to gain employment.   The arrests, which began Monday and have continued through today, stem from a joint investigation by the Department of Financial Services (DFS) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that found 115 individuals using one 10-year-old’s Social Security number.
 
“Employers need to know that this issue goes beyond finding workers to fill jobs, this is about the safety of our citizens,” said CFO Sink.  “Identity theft is a huge and costly problem, and employers who turn a blind eye pose a very real and serious threat to the public.”
 
The investigation began with DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement looking into allegations that individuals were illegally harvesting and selling aquatic plants, which belong to the State of Florida.  During the course of the investigation, agents found that one of the suspects was using a fictitious Social Security number on his employment record. DEP law enforcement agents contacted the DFS, and began working jointly with DFS agents on the investigation.
 
“Enforcing Florida’s laws, particularly those that protect our environment, is an important part of DEP’s mission,” said DEP Division of Law Enforcement Director Henry Barnet. “By coordinating with the Department of Financial Services, law enforcement agents are investigating and solving several crimes simultaneously. This is an excellent example of state law enforcement officials working together to protect Floridians.”
 
As a result of the joint investigation, workers using fraudulent Social Security cards have been arrested this week on job sites in Seminole, St. Lucie, Broward County and West Palm Beach.
Detectives have learned that they bought the cards for $30 to $300 each.  
 
While the initial investigation found 115 individuals using the same Social Security number, that of a 10-year-old girl, as the investigation progressed detectives were able to track down several of the individuals using that Social Security number as well others using different Social Security numbers, all assigned to other people.  The investigation is continuing with assistance also from the U.S. Social Security Administration.

Florida Statute 440.105(4)(b)9, states that it “shall be unlawful to knowingly present or cause to be presented any false, fraudulent or misleading oral or written statement to any person as evidence of identity for the purpose of obtaining employment or filing or supporting a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.”  It is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
 
Some common ways that ID theft occurs include:

• Dumpster Diving. Rummaging through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
• Skimming. Stealing credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
• Phishing. Pretending to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
• Changing Your Address. Diverting billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
• Old-Fashioned Stealing. Stealing personnel records or bribing employees who have access; wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information.
• Pretexting. Using false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources. 
 
CFO Sink offered the following tips: 
 
• Promptly remove mail from mail box and take outgoing mail to a post office box or drop box
• Never leave receipts and empty your purse or wallet of extra items
• Memorize your social security number and passwords
• Do not give personal information over the phone, by Internet or for a sweepstakes contest
• Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails
• Use a separate credit card for Internet purchases
• If you apply for a credit card and do not receive it in a timely manner, notify the creditor
• Notify creditors and financial institutions in advance if you plan to move
• Shred pre-approved credit card offers, financial documents and paperwork with personal information
• Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately
• Regularly review credit reports
For more information on identity theft, log on to www.fldfs.com or the Florida Attorney General's web site at http://myfloridalegal.com/identitytheft.
Anyone who has information about this case or suspects such fraud should call the DFS’ Fraud Fighters hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink  oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. CFO Sink also serves as the State Fire Marshal.