Identity Theft Ring in Tennessee has ties to Mississippi, Texas, Florida and Russia

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I recently received several emails from people in the TN area relaying they believed themselves to be victims of identity theft. It prompted me to check on various stories from the State as a follow up on previous blog that warned of over 337,000 TN voter's may have had their information compromised due to reported laptop thefts.

Here are a couple of stories that pertain to that area of the country -but it's important to note these cases involve other states -and even countries. Ultimately these stories point out that data breaches and theft can happen anywhere and identity theft rings are active in every state and operating world wide.

Identity Theft Ring in DeSoto County

(TN) DeSoto County authorities say at least 180 people have been ripped off by thieves stealing their credit and debit card information.

Eyewitness News Everywhere first reported on dozens of ID theft victims back in December; now investigators say this case is bigger and more complicated than anyone thought.

Investigators say the stolen numbers are mostly being used in Texas and the Miami, Florida area. They believe the ID theft ring may also be part of an organized crime operation in St. Petersburg, Russia. More

Credit theft ring gets larger...

(Hernando, MS 1/22/08) This case keeps getting bigger by the day. It now involves crooks overseas and many more victims here at home.

Like most of us, Cory and Valerie Donnelly used their credit and debit cards like cash... now, like a growing number of DeSoto Countians, they've mysteriously become victims of ID theft. "We were talking about what happened to us and some people overheard us and like that happened to us too. Did you report it? Well, we didn't think anything of it, and that's a big deal." explained Cory Donnelly.

It is, because so far we've learned there's a connection between these card thefts and crooks in St. Petersburg, Russia. They've bought jewelry, jet skis, and hundreds of gallons of fuel they turn around and sell on the streets of Florida and Texas.

At the same time, detectives in DeSoto keep searching for that local connection. "Obviously we have the federal government involve in this but what we're looking at from this standpoint is where are they getting the numbers from locally." said Commander Mark Blackson of the DeSoto Sheriff's Department.

Many victims believe the problems came from one particular store, one which serves all types of customers, customers who don't even know they're potential victims.

It can happen to anybody at any time. In fact, just this past weekend I got a call from my credit card company about some questionable charges. One of them was from a store in Hernando.

And although many victims we've talked with point to purchases at this same store with suspicion, police say there's no evidence the stolen card numbers came from here. "For me to sit here and say that is a single common denominator amongst all the complaints we got, it's not." Blackson emphasized.

Blackson says he still expects arrests in Florida any day now. He hopes those arrests will somehow lead back to DeSoto where he can connect the dots on this end. MORE

Identity theft scam at Paulette's

MEMPHIS - You may be a victim of a huge identity theft scam involving a popular restaurant in Midtown. A cook at Paulette's is accused of stealing credit card numbers from hundreds of customers and selling them for just 50 cents a piece.

The Shelby County Sheriff's Department believes this scam started in January. Newschannel3's Richard Ransom was among the victims. He had dinner there with his wife and another couple back in May. It was only recently that he noticed something very strange on his online bank account.

"I noticed a charge to our account online for more than $600 to Slendertone. I asked my wife 'What did you buy at slendertone?' She said, 'I didn't buy anything at Slendertone.'"

$600 bucks worth of fat burning belts was purchased with Ransom's credit card on the Slendertone website. Sheriff's deputies say it was all part of a scheme started by 32-year-old Brad Taylor.

They say the 10-year cook at Paulette's got a hold of the key where all credit card log sheets were locked up, copied down all the numbers and sold them to 29-year-old Roderick Webb. He worked with a third man, 34-year-old Marlon Cox, on buying all kinds of products over the internet. More

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