Jankely Hidalgo and Jonathan Sevilla pleaded guilty last week to identity theft in regard to a scheme in which they stole cars from a number of auto dealerships in the greater New York City area. Using forged driver’s licenses and stolen personal information including, most significantly, Social Security numbers, Hidalgo and Sevilla would purchase the vehicles using car loans processed by the auto dealerships. Hidalgo and Sevilla would then take possession of the cars and never make a payment on the loans which would appear as defaulted loans on the credit reports of their identity theft victims thereby dramatically lowering their victims’ credit scores. Hidalgo and Sevilla will be sentenced on November 21st and are facing prison terms of as much as six years. Meanwhile their identity theft victims are left to clean up the mess of their credit reports. Their identity theft victims could have avoided the problem by having credit freezes on their credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If the identity theft victims had placed credit freezes on their credit reports, the car loans would not have been able to be processed and the problem could have been avoided. In these days of seemingly perpetual data breaches, it is relatively simple for small scale criminals to purchase personal information including Social Security numbers on the Dark Web where the more sophisticated criminals behind major data breaches sell the personal information they steal through data breaches so it is more important than ever to freeze your credit.
For more information about credit freezes check out this article I wrote for the Saturday Evening Post which described credit freezes in detail.
Pursuant to a new federal law credit freezes can be done at no cost. To get the maximum protection from identity theft, it is important to freeze your credit at each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Here are links to each of them with instructions about how to get a credit freeze:
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