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The Cybercrime Files- Case #103: An Offer too Good to Refuse!

*This is a true account of a local cybercrime. However, the names of the victims and businesses have been changed to protect their identities. To learn more about Cyber Security Services in Akron, OH click here.


INVESTIGATIVE REPORT

OFFENSE: Identity Theft & Home Invasion

VICTIM:  Mary & Joe Thomas (real names not used)

LOCATION: Akron, OH

DATE: 1-26-19

LEAD INVESTIGATOR: Patrick Carroll

NOTES: *This investigation is still in progress. Check back for updates on this case.

Mary and Joe Thomas love their West Akron home. Their kids grew up climbing the tall oaks in the backyard and there’s plenty of room for all six of their grandchildren to come stay in the summer. Many memories bless their house, and the Thomas’ cherish all the years they’ve lived here.

“It’s our home,” Mary says. “We’ve been here for over thirty years.”

Despite the memories and all of the personal touches the Thomas’ have added over the years, Mary and Joe came very close to selling their home– or at least that’s what they thought.

“The price was just too good to pass up,” Mary says. “We’re retired now and we couldn’t resist thinking about all of the things we could do with the money. Plus, we loved the idea of being able to invest that additional cash for our grandchildren’s future.”

How much money did it take for the Thomas’ to decide to sell their dream home? Exactly $1 million, offered through a local realtor by an undisclosed buyer.

FINDINGS: Mary and Joe Thomas were contacted by a realtor on behalf of an area man who saw and fell in love with their home.

“He said he just had to have it,” Joe remembers.

After much back and forth about if they should sell, the Thomas’ decided the offer was just too good to pass up. Agreements were made and paperwork was prepared. Before closing however, the buyer mentioned he wanted to do some construction on the home and his contractors needed access to the house so they could provide estimates. The buyer had a realtor, and as closing was only a few days away, the couple obliged.

Closing day arrived and the papers were signed, however no funds were transferred. Soon, the deal fell through.

A few days later, to their horror, the couple realized their identities had been stolen. The “contractors” who entered their home were actually scam artists who hacked into their computers and dug through personal files and documents in order to steal the Thomas’ personal information. There had been no interested buyer all along, only an identity thieves looking to prey on unsuspecting victims.

At time of reporting this case has still not been resolved. Let’s hope Joe and Mary get this figured out very soon.

CONCLUSIONS: Nearly every person I meet believes that identity theft won’t happen to them. The words “stolen identity” are so common in our daily conversations that we rarely bat an eye when we hear them.

But just because we’ve gotten so used to hearing the phrase, it doesn’t mean we should take the threat any less seriously. In fact, according to a study by WalletHub, Ohio ranks third in the nation in identity theft, and FIRST in the country for the amount of money stolen.

Let that sit for a moment.

Ohio leads every state in the amount of money lost through fraud related identity theft. That’s ahead of California, New York, Florida, and everyone else!

Why are Ohioans so vulnerable to identity theft? One theory is that maybe we’re too trusting and more willing than most people to give out our personal information online.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: You can start by being very careful with who you give you personal information to. If you’re using a credit card to make an online purchase, be certain that the website is credible and has the proper security measures in place.

Also, never give out your personal information on an unsecured WiFi network. If you must use public internet at a coffee shop, library, airport, etc., make sure you use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your laptop or mobile device. This is especially important if you plan to share personal information or credit card numbers while online.

Here is some good information on setting up a VPN.

Please check back soon for updates on this case.