Book Review: Identity Theft Inc. - The Big-Business of Crime
The book IDENTITY THEFT INC. tells the tale of the world's most-successful identity thief, who grossed close to $100 million dollars on the books' various scams.
IDENTITY THEFT INC. - THE BIG-BUSINESS OF CRIME
We were having too much fun …
It used to be when people thought of crime, images of pick-pockets and purse-snatchers raced through their minds. This, however, is no longer the case. Along the way, the criminal intelligensia incorporated businesses into their criminal networks, thus, legitimizing the illegitimate. In a new book entitled “Identity Theft, Inc.” authors Glenn Hastings and Richard Marcus tell the story of how they were able to steal thousands of people’s identities, grossing $100 million dollars for their troubles.
They were able to do all of the following:
- Rob a bank without ever stepping foot inside.
- Acquiring one million frequent-flyer miles, without taking a single flight.
- Acquiring someone else’s identity documents for as little as $4.25.
- Level the odds at any number of casinos, from which they stole millions of dollars.
Telling the tale in step-by-step detail, the authors trace their humble beginnings as low-level thieves, continuing onward to a career as a fence of stolen goods; such as designer clothing, authentic Navajo rugs, jewelry that would make any wealthy person proud, and electronic goods – such as cameras, VCR’s, and big-screen projection television sets.
Early on, Glenn hits the road, teaming up with a character known only as ‘Bones,’ where they ran various scams on overbooked airline flights. It was then where Glenn and Bones begin to compete with one another, to see who was the most proficient and best-organized thief. It was when they also began to turn false identities into big bucks, by stealing from credit-cards obtained in the names of these victims.
The most unique aspect of this book is in Glenn explaining how they got away with these crimes, thus making for some extremely compelling reading. For example, when Glenn and Bones went to the extreme of stealing from Federal Reserve member banks, they were then stealing from higher-level thieves, as what these banks do must be considered loan-sharking, charging unreasonable interest-rates on loans and home mortgages. For example, a 7% loan comes out to approximately 140%, once interest-compounding is added to the equation. As I read the book, I was captivated by the level of detail that was provided – the book being a veritable “how-to” blueprint for those who aspire to a life of crime. However, I must warn the reader of this review that security systems put in place after 9/11 would forever change the way that large corporations do business.
This book is for those whose identities had been stolen at some time in the past, for those who want to protect their identity from being stolen in the present, and for those who want to protect it from theft at some time in the future. In fact, the books’ last chapter presents thirteen pages of no-nonsense advice for the reader to protect their own identity from being stolen at any time at all. And, having stolen tens of millions of dollars, these men are truly experts in the field.
Today, those businesses that were once ripe for the picking, have changed and upgraded their own internal security. Phone a bank, and they will ask for much more than your mother’s maiden name. A recent phone call to the bank at which I do business had me being asked for my full name, current address, the last four digits of my social security number, AND my full bank account number. It would take something much more substantial than a Who’s Who book to locate all of that data.
As with all crime, the tales recounted in this book show a definite progression. Glenn and his various criminal partners start out small; in this case, it was free airline tickets. Before computers became a part of most of our daily lives, stealing free round-trip airline tickets was possible. Today? Forget it! Every ticket sold, every frequent-flyer mile flown, every single overbooked flight, and every passenger is logged into a computer. It would take an extremely knowledgeable computer hacker to penetrate and defeat these secure computer networks.
To be considered legitimate, a legitimate ‘front’ must be established. This provided a believable history for the person whose identity had been stolen, and it allowed and gave Glenn and his partners a chance to hide in plain sight. This was accomplished with what Glenn referred to as scam houses:
“We didn’t need an ostentatious address, just a respectable one. Many powerful businessmen lived in middle or upper middle class neighborhoods. The key factors regarding the address were its’ location, as far as accessibility was concerned, and the security of the operation it provided.”
These ‘scam houses’ provided the addresses necessary to provide complete anonymity to those carrying out the scam. Additionally, it provided an address at which the stolen credit cards would be sent. Such places had to give the appearance of someone living there. This was accomplished by furnishing the place with the bare minimum of furniture, and the telephone was dealt with through the use of a voice mail system and answering service, when it was required. Of course, the only calls were from banks, credit card companies, and others who became ensnared in Glenn and Bones’ various scams.
All criminals face the ever-present danger of being caught, and Glenn and his partners were no different in this respect. As the scams moved to Cleveland, Glenn tells the story of selling stolen television sets, for which a very surprising customer shows up! As the man’s wife asks all matter of questions, he goes out to his truck to get the money to complete the sale. As he did so, his wife said the following to Glenn:
“Oh, my husband will just love this TV. I’m so happy for him. He works so hard during the day. Coming home to watch his baseball games on that set will just light up his life.”
“What type of work does he do?” Glenn asked.
“Oh, you didn’t know? He’s the Chief of the Shaker Heights Police Department. Chief Barnes.” she said, matter of factly.
While it may at first seem that this book is about crime, ultimately, it is a story of redemption and salvation. It is the path of truth and honesty that is ultimately taken by both Glenn Hastings and Richard Marcus. Glenn emphatically states that “You will NEVER win anything online, unless you are playing poker.” I have gotten hundreds of those “You have just won the Uganda lottery!” e-mails, as you are likely to have as well. I have also gotten many of those “Help the exiled Prince of Namibia get his billions out of the country” e-mails, just as you have too. The “exiled Prince” e-mails promise a hefty pay-out for your efforts.
Such cyber-scams prey upon two things; greed, and the lure of easy money for little or no effort. First of all, there has never been a lottery or contest that pays-out without someone buying a ticket first. Every single one of these types of e-mails are scams, plain and simple. Secondly, the world’s wealthiest people have never once used a member of the so-called middle-class to move their money around on their behalf. Even if they did use a middle-class citizen to do this, they would never use someone they do not know!
Interview with Glenn Hastings and Richard Marcus
Are either of you worried that readers of this book might actually TRY some of what you describe in the books‚ pages?
Glenn – “When you write a book of this nature, it is always possible that some readers will try to do what they read. However, to counter that, I have also made readers aware how to prevent becoming a victim of ID theft. I hope that people take this book more as entertainment than anything else. Overall, in spite of those who look to try some tricks of the trade, I think the book will have done more good than harm.”
What has been the total take of income, of all your scams combined, and during what years did this take place?
Glenn – “That's a tough one, but the gross was close to a $100 million. It cost almost half that to set it up and run the business, so we actually cleared around $50 million. The entire scam ran from 1990 to 2004, during which there were always overlapping scams running simultaneously.”
What are some of the differences in the way that identity theft is carried out today, versus what it used to be, in the 1960’s to the 1980’s?
Glenn – “Today it's all Internet and "outsourced." There are numerous way to steal IDs. First, if you're industrious and know your way around the Internet, you can use various techniques to dupe people with e-mails into giving you their personal information. Methods called phishing and pharming will do the trick. There are so many millions of people out there in cyberspace, all potential victims. You only need to hit on a tiny percentage of them to build vast resources of stolen identities. The second way is just to go online, search out certain websites that actually deal in stolen identities, supplying everything you need to marry the stolen ID to credit cards. There's a whole ID theft market out there, much of it based in Russia and Eastern Europe. All the particulars about this are in the book.”
How old were you when you first became interested in a life of crime? How did the idea come into your head, and what were your some of your earliest crimes?
Glenn – “Probably not yet born! Well, I started ripping off airlines while in college, and when I saw how easy that was, I got interested in crime. What I did was take advantage of the airlines' practice of overbooking flights to get bumped off flights for which I had a reservation. Then I'd get a free round-trip ticket anywhere the airline flew for compensation. Back in the 70s, you could actually make reservations without paying for tickets or guaranteeing it with a credit card, so I'd spend Christmas and Easter breaks in Florida's airports filling my pockets with ‘bump’ vouchers, which I sold in the newspapers for cash.
That put the idea in my head for my next big scam while I worked as a motel desk clerk in New Mexico. Using credit card numbers belonging to guests at the motel, I purchased expensive Navajo rugs from museum gift shops over the telephone and then had a cohort pick them up when the cards were approved. I sold the rugs right back to different museums for cash. This scam actually let to my discovery of identity theft.”
What specifically changed on 9/11 that now prevents you from stealing people’s identities?
Glenn – “Nothing has really changed since 9/11 as far as stealing IDs goes. The changes are in using them. Someone traveling under stolen ID is much more likely to get caught at an airport or wiring money internationally using stolen ID. But, Internet scammers still ply their trade even easier than they did before 9/11, that because there are so many more users than there were back then. The websites that market stolen ID continue to thrive. The only way that ID theft can be curbed on the Internet is for the hundreds of millions of potential victims to heed the advice found not only in my book, but, from other sources distributing sound advice.”
Who actually wrote this book? Was it ghost-written?
Glenn – “Richard Marcus wrote the book totally from my recollections, and some of his. He was heavily involved in my ID theft scams against the world's casinos.”
On pg. 164, a reference is made to “this thing of ours,” which is a reference to La Cosa Nostra. Was this used to associate the two of you with the Mafia? Were the crimes in the book Mafia crimes?
Glenn – “No, ‘this thing of ours’ was just an expression Richard must have chosen for the writing. Although we dealt with organized crime gangs, especially Mexican drug cartels when we sold them exotic cards rented off credit cards in stolen names, we were not at all associated with any Mafia.”
Overall, how much business did you do with Alberto, your Ralph Lauren connection in Mexico?
Glenn – “Around $4 million.”
At any time during your crimes, did you ever feel remorse toward your victims? Not the banks, of course, but the people who you victimized?
Glenn – “Not until I met my wife Nicole and started living normally, and decided to get out of the business. Then I truly began to regret hurting people's financial lives. This was one of the reasons I wrote the book. In fact, a percentage of the money received from sales will go into a fund to help victims of identity theft.”
My own research shows that the Federal Reserve Banks is itself a true criminal enterprise. For example, with their home mortgages, they charge people for three houses, just for the privilege of living in one. What were your feelings about these banks? Did you feel bad about ripping-off THE BANKS?
Glenn – “I have NEVER felt bad about ripping off a bank, casino or airline. All they do, is rip off everyone who deals with them. Show me an honest bank, casino, and airline, and I'll show you an honest identity thief!”
In your book, you talk about these “scam houses” which were created to give your fictitious identities a background. Did anyone living near you; a neighbor, a mailman, a delivery person – ever come close to blowing your cover?
Glenn – “We took all precautions to keep neighbors in the dark, including keeping cars in closed garages when we there, which was often at night, constantly picking up mail and newspapers left at the house to avoid having neighbors know we were seldom there, and of course only waving upon seeing them. We never engaged in conversation because doing so always risked getting caught in a lie that might breed suspicion.
It was only the mailman who once almost caught on to us. I had made the stupid mistake of having too many phony IDs sent to the same scam house. Once, the mailman delivered driver's licenses belonging to three different people to the same scam house. Only problem was that all three had my photograph and he saw them when he came back with a piece of mail he'd forgotten to give me. I had opened the letters, removed the licenses and left them on a stool in the foyer. I wasn't positive he'd noticed the discrepancies, but you can bet we dumped that scam house!”
Some criminals, when they go ‘straight,’ begin a consulting business, where they are paid to teach corporations how to avoid people just like THEM, and things that they have themselves done. Have either of you done this, or thought about doing this?
Glenn – “Richard has done that in the casino business, but I am happily distanced from all this, my contribution to stopping ID theft being made through the book. I have no interest in protecting the corporations, only innocent people whose identities are stolen.”
As soon as any transaction of $10,000 occurs, the IRS is contacted immediately. How were you able to buy such expensive watches, cars, etc. and avoid drawing attention to yourselves?
Glenn – “Simple. Whenever the IRS received cash transaction reports, they were about people whose IDs were stolen and whose credit we'd already maxed out. By the time they investigated, we were long gone from that particular identity. We never had to worry about the paper trails we left behind because we just slipped into the new ID’s.”
Describe when and under which circumstances that you decided to go straight?
Glenn – “It was in early 2004, after a near disaster in a French airport smuggling $5 million cash into the country, and the growing relationship with my wife. The close shave alone might have done it even if I'd never met Nicole.”
What are the both of you doing today?
Glenn – “I live a normal life with my family. I have two children who know nothing of my past life. Richard Marcus writes books about crime and serves as a consultant to the casino industry.”
The following are questions to Richard Marcus, which are about the casino gambling aspect of the scams he worked with Glenn Hastings …
What is the level of money that a person gambles where that person receives RFB privileges, along with the VIP treatment (limo, etc.)?
Richard – “Usually an average bet of $100 per hand for four hours a day will get you RFB for that day.”
In your experience, what is the true level of winnings that a person could expect gambling at any casino? Is it ALWAYS a complete loss? They must allow some winnings, or else no one would come back, correct?
Richard – “No individual can expect to win on any given day, but a large percentage of them actually do. It is always a complete loss for the gambling public as a whole, however. Casinos operate on a statistical percentage of total bets made, usually around 2%. Therefore, if during one day the casino takes $1 million worth of bets, it wins $20,000, etc. A casino will never have a losing day except in extraordinary circumstances, like a scam!”
What GAME has the best odds in a casino? How about the worst?
Richard – “Best odds are the bank side in baccarat, worst are the bust-out games like the Big 6 wheel. Double-zero roulette is also bad.”
What was your favorite GAME in the casinos?
Richard – “Clearly baccarat, as you might imagine because I helped Glenn fleece casinos for millions with it!”
What was your biggest take in a single sitting? How about your biggest loss? You had to lose sometimes, as to not arouse suspicion, correct?
Richard – “There were no “sittings” in my business. It was all about “moves,” the biggest of which was successfully past-posting a $1,000 chip straight up on a number at roulette (late bet), for which I was paid $35,000. Some days we my cheating team made multiple moves, the most profitable of which was around $100,000. Read my books DIRTY POKER and AMERICAN ROULETTE! It's all there.”
Certainly, you must be banned from casinos, right? Or, were you able to prevent this?
Richard – “I am not barred anywhere because I've never been caught, something I have in common with you know who ... Glenn.”
Could you describe all of the surveillance equipment that is used in these casinos, and how was it used against you (If in fact, it was, that is)?
Richard – “It's all video cameras and tape. There cameras are high-tech and state of the art, can read a date off a dime and all that crap, but I developed certain moves that even beat their cameras, believe it or not. Again, go to my books.”
Over your entire casino ‘career,’ how much money did you end up making?
Richard – “$20 million give or take, but lived high and blew more than half of it.”
How did you meet Glenn Hastings?
Richard – “As the coincidences in life would have it, we both had the same girlfriend at Berkley back in the 70’s (he was the student) but neither of us knew it until she dumped both of us at the same time. It was a blessing in disguise as we became friends and forgot about her.”
Besides what is described in your ‘Poker’ and ‘Roulette’ books and the ‘ID Theft’ book, have you engaged in any other criminal activity that was related to both of these subject areas?
Richard – “Tax evasion ... obviously! Glad you liked the book.”
© 2006 Kentroversy Papers
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
The following sources were used in the creation of this Kentroversy Paper . . .
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