MIAMI (CBS4) – 18 minutes. Lauderhill Police detective Alex Iwaskewycz says that’s all the time identity thieves needed to open a new bank account and begin siphoning thousands of dollars from an elderly victim’s savings.
To prove it, Iwaskewycz played the recording for CBS4 News.
Throughout, the Wells Fargo Bank employee treats the call as routine business. Iwaskewycz says the employee has no reason not to.
WELLS FARGO: How may I assist you?
CALLER: Yes. I was calling back to open up that joint account with my grandson.
Lauderhill police say the caller posed as the husband of a woman whose purse had been stolen on January 4th in Pompano Beach. Iwaskewycz says there was tons of personal info in the purse — more than enough for thieves to begin ripping off the victims.
On the call, the Wells Fargo employee asks a series of questions designed to verify the identify of the account holder.
“Your full social (security number) please?”
“Your date of birth?”
“Your address please?”
The caller knew each of the answers. Iwaskewycz says the identity thief was good.
“When the questions are asked, there’s no hesitation,” he told CBS 4’s Carey Codd. “There’s no fumbling of paperwork. He knew exactly what would be asked and what he needed to say.”
Iwaskewycz says the caller even “spoofed” the victim’s phone number — making it appear that the call was coming from the victim’s phone number. To add to the ruse, police say the caller put his phony grandson on the line to open the new account.
WELLS FARGO EMPLOYEE: Now, sir, would you please state your first and last name for me?
DIAH: Raheem Diah.
Iwaskewycz says he has several surveillance photos of Diah at Wells Fargo banks all over Broward as Diah withdrew more than $11-thousand dollars before January 8. Iwaskewycz says Diah and the other man knew how much money the victims had.
CALLER: What’s the balance on my savings?
WELLS FARGO EMPLOYEE: Ok, let me check your savings. Your investment account currently has $163,425.21.
At the end of the call, the bank employee thanked the pair for their business and reminded them that the account was up and ready.
WELLS FARGO EMPLOYEE: Funds are available as soon as you need them. Even if you wanted to step into a branch today you could pull ’em out if you had to.
Iwaskewycz says Raheem Diah turned himself in and admitted that he’s in the pictures and on the audio recording. Diah was not home when we went to his home. His mother told CBS4 News that he was at work. We left a message and sent an email to his lawyer but did not receive a response.
Diah is charged with criminal use of personal identification information, grand theft over $10,000, theft from a person 65 years or older and obtain property by false pretenses.
Assisting the thieves, Iwaskewycz says, was the fact they could open the account without showing their faces.
“They’ll do it via telephone or via internet to make it a lot safer for them to get away with these crimes,” the detective said.
With identity theft rampant in Florida and particularly in South Florida, Iwaskewycz says people need to be careful what they carry around with them and check their bank statements often.
“The biggest thing that you can do to protect yourself is just remain vigilant,” he said. “Check your mail, check your statements, scrutinize them each month.”
Iwaskewycz recommends people:
* Leave Social Security cards and passwords at home.
* Don’t leave personal items unattended in your car or in stores.
* Ask banks for additional security — like a secondary pin, security questions or extra password on your account.
If your information is stolen, Iwaskewycz says, you need to contact your bank and credit card companies immediately. He also recommends filing a fraud alert with each of the three major credit bureaus.
“Once your information’s been compromised or you realize your information’s been stolen it’s a race — you versus them — to put stops as soon as you can,” he said.