The head of a Seattle-area identity theft ring was sentenced to six years in prison and five years of supervised release on Friday, after being convicted of aggravated identity theft, Social Security number misuse, and bank fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney for the western district of Washington.
Jeania Andrea Dyson, the U.S. Attorney's office says, was the operational head of what it described as an "extensive" group of criminals that used the personal information she provided to open numerous lines of credit with large retailers. "If the account was successfully opened, the conspirators would quickly go to other outlets of the retailer and purchase thousands of dollars of goods from a shopping list provided by Dyson," said the U.S. Attorney's office.
All of Dyson's accomplices, which included a mother-and-daughter pair, have already been sentenced. Stephanie Locke received 18 months in prison for her part in the scam, while another of Dyson's accomplices, Valorie Dade, was sentenced to more than four years.
While the U.S. Attorney did not provide details of precisely how Dyson gained access to sufficient amounts of personal data to open so many accounts under false identities, the case provides still another reminder of the dangers posed to U.S. consumers by the rising tide of identity theft. In the Dyson case, the government says that the criminals victimized 42 people, racking up $130,000 in fraudulent charges. "Most victims did not know they had been victimized until the instant credit charges started rolling in weeks later," the office said.
The victims could have caught on to the fact that their identities were being misused much earlier if they had been paying close and regular attention to their credit scores. The type of reckless spending and default that identity thieves typically inflict on their accounts can cause even the strongest credit score to spiral rapidly downward.
Personal finance experts recommend that consumers look for free credit score options, particularly if they are concerned that their personal information may have been compromised. If anything looks out of place, consumers are encouraged to contact the major credit bureaus and report that their identity may have been jeopardized.