Today’s advancements in technology make stealing someone’s personal information such as their address or credit card information as simple as a walk in the park. No one is safe when it comes to the web and recent scandals such as the Facebook data scandal have proved it.
But unlike the ease of the internet, the man in the following story was able to steal someone’s identity in a pretty unconventional way. In fact, how he did it is rather chilling…
Forty-five years ago, Nathan Laskoski passed away and was buried in a Texas cemetery. This happened before he even reached the age of 3 months old. It was safe to say, the entire Laskoski family was devastated.
But two years ago, Nathan’s aunt went on Ancestry.com to gather information for the family tree she was creating and discovered something startling. She stumbled on a link with her nephew’s name saying that he was alive…
Another Nathan Laskoski?
Ancestry.com clearly stated that Nathan Laskoski wasn’t dead at all. The description said that he had been married twice before and lived in multiple states. Thinking that this must be a mistake, or there had to be another Nathan Laskoski, she dug deeper.
After doing more research, she discovered that Nathan was issued a Social Security number in Texas in 1996, long after he’d been dead. She asked Nathan’s mother, who said she never applied for a Social Security Card for her son since he was so young when he died…
Social Security Administration
The concerned and confused mother immediately reported the suspicious activity to the Social Security Administration. After conducting a lengthy investigation, authorities were able to determine that a fugitive named Jon Vincent had allegedly stolen the baby’s identity decades ago.
Authorities then found Vincent, 44, in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, and charged him with one count of Social Security fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. If convicted, “Vincent” would face more jail time, a 3-year period of supervised release and a fine of up to half a million dollars…
“He Was Young”
Vincent’s public defender, Felicia Sarner, issued a statement that raised many eyebrows. “Mr. Vincent was a young man when this matter first arose, and he deeply regrets the poor judgment he exercised back then and the distress this must have caused the deceased’s family.”
A New Man?
She continued, “His conduct has not resulted in any financial loss, and throughout all the intervening years, he has not been in any trouble with the law and has lived a quiet, hardworking life.” That life, as Nathan Laskoski began in 1996…
Visited The Cemetery
According to court documents, in 1996, Vincent fled the halfway house where he had been sent after a conviction for indecency with a child. While searching for a new name, Vincent visited a Texas cemetery and read the headstones there, looking for a name with a birth date near his own.
He Was The Perfect Target
Vincent was born in August 1972 and Nathan was born in October 1972, so it was a believable enough match. After learning this, Nathan’s mother told investigators she remembered receiving a “strange” phone call to her home that same year…
Where It All Began
The caller asked questions about her son and also asked his Social Security number. She wound up answering some of the questions, but once she started to ask her own, the man (Vincent) hung up. She called policed and told investigators, who said it was likely a scam and that no further action needed to be taken.
But between then and now, authorities allege that Vincent used Nathan’s identity to live in numerous states, including Mississippi, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Additionally, he married and divorced two women under the name, opened bank accounts, obtained driver’s licenses, secured car loans and even applied for many jobs…
He did all of this under false pretenses. Social security records also show that he earned income across multiple states under Nathan’s name, dating as far back as 1996 when this all began. Investigators also learned that Vincent obtained a nurse’s aide license in Pennsylvania that expires this year, in 2018.
What Is Ghosting?
This type of identity theft, unknown to many, is called “ghosting.” Ghosting is when obituaries, rather than tombstones, are the source of information for thieves. In fact, IRS reports that some 2.5 million deceased individuals have their identities stolen each year. Their information is then used for financial fraud, to get credit cards, open cell phone accounts or to sell to others. But a “ghoster” is a lot different from a typical identity thief…
Ghoster Versus Typical Identity Thief
Usually, a Ghoster is unwilling to sustain their existing identity and take on a new identity to get a fresh start instead. Unlike a typical identity thief, who makes quick profits from one stolen identity and moves on to the next victim, a Ghoster may seek to acquire and maintain a respectable credit rating in their new identity.
Ghosting Is Long-Term
The goal of ghosting is more long-term. Typical identity thieves will steal the credit rating of just about anyone, regardless of age, race, or sex, but not a ghoster. Being that they intend to live with the stolen identity, they usually seek to acquire the identity of a dead person whose physical description strongly resembles their own appearance…
“Buy A Dead Person’s Identity”
In 2012, CNN wrote an article with the headline, “Buy a Dead Person’s Identity from Social Security for $10,” eye-catching to say the least. It explained how for $10, identity thieves can access the deceased person’s full name, Social Security number and other personal information through a list of millions of deceased Americans, known as the Death Master File.
Facilitating Tax Fraud
The Social Security Administration created the file to help financial institutions and businesses prevent identity theft, by using the file to cross-reference applicants or customers. But, the agency is basically “inadvertently facilitating tax fraud.”
Allowing anyone in the general public to look up personal details about someone who has passed away and potentially steal their identity is very concerning. Identity theft directly hits home for families and robs taxpayers of their hard earned money.
Will We Ever Be Rid Of Identity Theft?
Over the years, the IRS has been adding protections, like special coding that allows the agency to identify deceased taxpayers whose Social Security numbers were previously stolen. This will hopefully make it harder for identity thieves to slip through the cracks.