Many consumers across the country are rightly concerned about identity theft, and take a number of precautions to shield themselves from the crime in their everyday lives.
But a recent case in Virginia shows that no matter how much protection a consumer thinks they have, they may not have enough. According to a report in the Suffolk News-Herald, the owner of a farm equipment business in Smithfield, Virginia, used the names and personal financial information of several of her business's customers to take out loans. She now faces up to 20 years in federal prison after her arrest.
Linda Rowland, who along with her husband operated Rowland Equipment Co., a well-known local dealer of tractors and other farm equipment, for more than 30 years, pled guilty to three criminal counts, one of which was identity theft. The paper said that Rowland will have to serve at least two years on the identity theft counts, but her sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 1.
The paper said that Rowland falsified a number of loan agreements over a nine-year period, from August 2000 to the same month in 2009. As part of those agreements, she received money from several financial services companies. To get them, she used the names and personal information of Rowland Equipment's customers, as well as other members of the community, under the auspices that they were being used to purchase equipment from her business.
The paper's report said that, in all, she used the names and financial data of more than 30 people to obtain over 80 different loans. Over the course of her nine-year crime spree, she defrauded financial institutions out of $1.7 million. Eventually the case grew so big that Rowland was being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Virginia State Police and the Smithfield Police Department.
This case just goes to show that even trusted local businesses may be a haven for identity theft, and that consumers should take every precaution to shield themselves from the insidious threat the crime poses. Among the viable options some people may consider to protect their financial identity is credit monitoring, which will alert them whenever someone attempts to open an account using their personal information.