BROWARD (CBSMiami) – Bound for Baltimore, two men sparked the attention of Transportation Security Agents and were caught with the personal information of hundreds of people in their luggage, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
Broward Sheriff Office detective Mitchell Gordon gave us a look at evidence — a book, computers and loose, sloppy papers filled with the personal info of hundreds of people — that he says proves Godfrey Teekah and Phillip Collins committed identity theft.
Gordon says TSA agents discovered several debit cards in Teekah’s wallet that were in other people’s names.
The veteran detective credited TSA agents with playing a vital role in stopping the men.
“If they didn’t see something suspicious in their behavior we wouldn’t have never apprehended these people and they would have been up in Baltimore compromising hundreds of people’s information,” Gordon told CBS 4′s Carey Codd.
Gordon says the men told investigators they had all the info because they were doing people’s taxes.
“I don’t think this is how you do somebody’s taxes — carry their personal information around,” Gordon said.
Both men are out of jail on bond on a charge of fraudulent use of personal identification information. CBS 4 News tried to reach them at their homes but had no luck.
Gordon, who has spent 15 years in BSO’s Economic Crimes Unit, says cases like this one show how profitable our personal information is.
“It’s worth a lot of money,” he said.
Gordon says the men also had thousands in cash on them and the arrest report shows the men admitted using people’s personal info to commit tax return fraud.
“Two lap top computers were found in Teekah’s backpack, in which he advised he used to verify the fraudulent tax returns,” the arrest report states.
Gordon admits it’s challenging for people to protect themselves one hundred percent from identity theft.
“Your information is everywhere,” Gordon said. “The problem is, to pinpoint where your information was compromised is very difficult.”
Gordon says your information can be stolen from just about anywhere — doctor’s offices, hospitals even government agencies.
He says the best defense is to be careful with whom you share the information and make sure you don’t carry your certain items – like social security card or checkbook around with you.