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The Great Identity Heist

By Paradocis in MLP
Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 11:49:33 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

The New York Post has an interesting story today about how a busboy managed to steal the identities of more than 200 of the wealthiest Americans. Using a sophisticated network of couriers, virtual voicemail systems, public library computers, and a web enabled cell phone, Abraham Abdallah allegedly managed to steal millions from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Martha Stewart, George Lucas, Sumner Redstone, Oprah Winfrey, Ross Perot, George Soros, Warren Buffett, Ted Turner, Ronald Perelman, Carl Icahn, Larry Ellison, Michael Bloomberg, David Geffen, Barry Diller and Michael Eisner.

You can also find the story mirrored here on Foxnews.com.


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The Great Identity Heist | 26 comments (21 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Funny as heck. (3.00 / 1) (#1)
by tiamat on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 09:43:43 AM EST

This story reminds me of a book. A story of how amazing things can be done by relying on the idiocy of others. With a little skill and panache you can make anyone believe that you're who you say you are.

This is a good article, and that's an even better book. Give em both a read if you've got the time.


Abagnale (4.00 / 1) (#2)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 09:57:08 AM EST

Once did a search on Frank Abagnale. Turns up all sorts of interesting interviews. The first Google page is full of motivational-speaker fluff, but going deeper has better interviews.

Must be nice, to have a name so easily misspelled in that line of work.

[ Parent ]
really amazing (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by alprazolam on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 10:07:35 AM EST

Ok assuming he's as good at this as he seems to be (and as paranoid) what is really amazing is that he might get off. I don't know what their case is against him, but obviously it has to be more than the story reported. If got the box from the mechanic, he can just say he was coming by to get his car looked at or whatever. I don't know where he lived, and it doesn't say what they found in his possession, although he is charged with possesion of forged devices, or whatever that means. You can assume that they way the feds got to him is by catching the couriers, and forcing them to help get Abdullah in return for staying out of prison. So they miked these guys, and then followed them. If they never mentioned Abdullah by name, they might not have enough evidence. The FBI has been doing this for a while though, I figure they know what evidence they need to get him found guilty. I hope the outcome get reported, because I don't think its over yet...the court case could be really interesting.

did you read the same artical I did? (none / 0) (#23)
by delmoi on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 09:30:19 PM EST

They mentioned that the guy had a copy of forbes 'richest people' magazine with notes in the sides listing everyone's personal info.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Sounds damning, (none / 0) (#25)
by ZanThrax on Wed Mar 21, 2001 at 05:25:40 AM EST

but its still circumstantial. Having information doesn't prove that you obtained it illegally (or in any given manner)

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Every detective's dream (4.00 / 6) (#4)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 10:11:34 AM EST

From the Post article:
Abdallah showed up 30 minutes later in his Volvo. He realized something was wrong and hit the gas, but the cops swooped in - with Fabozzi leaping onto the car and climbing through the open sunroof.
He held Abdallah around the head until he stopped the car.
"I was handcuffing him while I was upside down with my feet coming up through the roof," Fabozzi recalled. "I was ecstatic."
That's a story waiting to be told after hours over a pint of bitter. I also expect Fabozzi will be quite a hit with grandchildren retelling his adventures of climbing through the sunroof of a speeding get-away-car.

I guess every now and then it's actually fun to be a cop.

All the action he's likely to see (none / 0) (#19)
by randomname on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 02:01:33 PM EST

The article referred to him as "the computer unit's crack Wall Street cybercop," so it's likely that this was the first time he saw some 'real action.' I can't imagine that there are a lot of car chases and gunfights involved in busting securities brokers and the occasional script kiddie; the perpetrators are more likely to break down and cry than they are to pull a Mac 10 out and start bustin' caps.

[ Parent ]
Ever worked for a securities analyst? (none / 0) (#20)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 02:04:15 PM EST

My first computer job was that of computer operator for a group of brokers. You ever see a broker when he or she is angry? I don't think a Mac-10 is about to come out, but a baseball bat wouldn't surprise me. . .

[ Parent ]
Yes, I have... (none / 0) (#21)
by randomname on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 02:08:20 PM EST

I did I.T. for a brokerage once, myself. I agree that the "goin' postal" rate is high, but not in regards to seeing the "cybercops" or whatever these guys call themselves. It's a stressful job, and brokers do lash out, but when the SEC shows up, they get carted off in tears like Charlie Sheen in Wall Street.

[ Parent ]
All I can say is. . . (none / 0) (#22)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 02:37:38 PM EST

. . . the brokers you worked for must of been a bunch of wimps.

OTOH, it could very well be my experience that is not illustrative of the population of security brokers at large.

[ Parent ]

At first (none / 0) (#26)
by ZanThrax on Wed Mar 21, 2001 at 05:28:31 AM EST

I was thinking 'sounds like a scene in a cop movie'
Guy driving down the street, cop upside down in the sunroof cuffing the guy and trying to get him in a headlock...

Then I started to think that the quote is from the guy who supposedly did it. I wonder how acurate it is...

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Invisible people (3.20 / 5) (#5)
by Armaphine on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 10:14:04 AM EST

I've noticed that as people move up higher on the social ladder, the more people become "invisible", if you will. And it happens to a lot of us. Do you remember the name of the clerk at Babbage's? Or the burger-flipper that served you lunch? Or of your garbageman, or mailman, or paperboy? Of course not... these people can, for the most part, exist invisibly in today's society, and we tend to treat them as part of the system. And such, they exist as part of the system, and can grab information that this person never thought of.

Question authority. Don't ask why, just do it.

We don't have to worry until. . . (4.00 / 1) (#8)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 10:29:11 AM EST

Those invisible people start to form a cabal.

Then we have a r3volution.

[ Parent ]

Mutual invisibility (none / 0) (#24)
by davidduncanscott on Wed Mar 21, 2001 at 01:05:32 AM EST

Maybe you've never worked retail, but I have, and if you think the clerk is invisible to you, that's nothing compared to the way he sees you (or doesn't).

After all, you were one of the 100 people who bought a burger today. Unless you robbed the place, the odds are you remember him far more than he remembers you.

[ Parent ]

Cyberize this. (3.25 / 4) (#12)
by Signal 11 on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 11:35:51 AM EST

I'm sick of the police reporting crimes like it's some kind of a public spectacle. "Yeah, we caught the GREATEST HACKER IN THE WORLD doing SOME OF THE WORST THINGS EVER.. and BOY DID WE CATCH HIM GOOD!" I mean, it gets old. Why is it that in high-profile cases, the "criminal" always gets the maximum sentence, regardless of the severity of the crime? Unless he's a celebrity, you can expect to see him in jail for the next two thousand years because the police made an example of him. Is this justice?

Fine, he ripped off a bunch of rich people. Does that mean he should get a harsher sentence than if he ripped off a ton more poor people? How about that credit card number heist that claimed several million card numbers out of some e-commerce site? He probably won't get the same sentence this guy would.. but what's worse - a dozen rich people getting ripped off (who's net loss is probably something like 0.2%) or a few thousand poor people getting ripped off (who probably lost a sizeable portion of their savings) ?

It's not right for the police to be engaging in this kind of conduct - it's an abuse of the justice system.

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

"Cybercrime" (none / 0) (#13)
by ucblockhead on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 11:46:56 AM EST

I recently read that the theft of creditcard data "online" or credit card fraud committed "online" accounts for rougly 2% of all credit card fraud.

The biggest problem the credit card companies have these days is the physical counterfeiting of data.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

i don't understand (none / 0) (#15)
by alprazolam on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 12:19:06 PM EST

i don't get the same feeling. i think the police are excited because of the complexity, and the 'high tech' aspect of the case, and of course because they won. i agree that he deserves justice, but i don't think its fair to condemn his captors or the system until we find out what happens to him. as i said earlier i think he might get off. is this fair either? probably not. either way its still interesting, it reminds me a lot of scott turow's book personal injuries, where the fbi tries to nab some corrupt judge who has layers of protection around him. i think this, when the story fully comes out, maybe be the same sort of thing. its not about social justice, and i don't understand what makes this an abuse. its simply an interesting story of police going after a really clever criminal.

[ Parent ]
Oooh, that evil Internet... (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by randomname on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 12:18:08 PM EST

...is suspected of stealing millions of dollars as he cunningly used the Web to invade the personal financial lives...

For nearly six months, the elusive Abdallah allegedly worked his scam, remaining nothing more than an electronic pulse on the Web.

Excuse me? The Web? I didn't see anything about 'net-based scamming here. He manufactured credit cards, set up phoney (pardon the pun) voicemail systems, forged papers, and sent hookers to pick up his mail. Where's the 'cyber' crime here? With all deference to the magnitude of this guy's scheme, it's still just wire fraud and theft-by-deceit. Let's hear it, once again, for the clueless media and their fearmongering of the Internet.

credit reports (none / 0) (#16)
by alprazolam on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 12:21:04 PM EST

i think maybe they think it is some magic that he obtained credit reports through the internet, which is how he sort of started infiltrating peoples finances. i agree its not high tech, but even so i think it makes an interesting story

[ Parent ]
Hmmm... (none / 0) (#18)
by randomname on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 12:31:27 PM EST

i think maybe they think it is some magic that he obtained credit reports through the internet

I guess you're right. At least they didn't imply that he can make computers obey him by whistling into a phone like a modem, a la Kevin Mitnick.
Still, you have to admire the guy's guts. If you're gonna steal, steal big...

[ Parent ]

Links (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by wiredog on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 12:25:28 PM EST

Now, if some editor would just fix that first link...

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.

The Great Identity Heist | 26 comments (21 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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