Linh (not real name) was at her computer logging into her bank account. Something was wrong, $19,000 was gone.
Upon closer inspection, she discovered that two separate large transactions were labelled as “miscellaneous withdrawals”. She immediately called the bank and insisted that she did not make any such big purchases only to receive an answer that the actual reason would come in a few days.
A few days later, she called her bank again. “I’m sorry mam, is this really you?” the bank manager asked. “But your personal information doesn’t match the information we have in our system.”
Linh drove to the bank, showed them her documents, and attempted to put a freeze on her account. But the criminals were able to simply visit another branch and unlock them. The identity thief changed the verification information for the account including the signature, address, and linked phone number.
They possessed Linh’s driver's license with her details but without the photo, which made it possible for the criminals to walk straight into the bank, make the withdrawals and change the details to fit them.
However, the bank’s problems and the missing funds escalated. One morning the police showed up at her door. “Mam, please come with us to the police station.”
At the station, Linh faced interrogation from the police and debt collectors over stolen cars and unpaid toll fees she had no idea about. They placed in front of her a long list of cars that were registered in her name. “Did you buy all these?” asked the police. Someone had stolen her identity to go on a shopping spree and buy cars using bank checks.
Fortunately, the criminals were eventually caught and sentenced to life in prison. But for Linh, the one year of identity crisis was an emotional turmoil that will have life-long impacts.
Anyone can be a victim! However, by practising and spotting red flags you can help prevent online scam attacks.