Scam Alert: Can crooks use social media to steal your identity?

Posted at 7:30 PM, Feb 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-23 19:30:32-05

John Becker called his bank and found out someone had racked up more than $12,000 in charges on one credit card.

“I said, ‘Why would you give me $12,000 worth of credit?’ and they said things started getting charged. Things so fast that they ran up a $12 to13,000 limit before the credit card company even realized what was going on.

Dennis Sergeev, a Russian national, is the man responsible. He stole the identities of more than 50 people and accrued $40,000 in losses.

“He was active online - claims he received the stolen identities online. That is what he lived off of. That was his only income,” says Blance Alvarez, a U.S. Postal Inspector.

After finding hundreds of fraudulent credit cards in a P.O. Box owned by Segreev, postal inspectors arrested him.

“When we interviewed this defendant at his home, he confessed and compared himself to Leonardo Dicaprio in ‘Catch Me if you Can,' says Alvarez

In the movie Dicaprio is a conartist who`s always one step ahead of authorities.

“But instead of having flight attendants escorting him out, he had female postal inspectors escorting him to jail,” says Alvarez.

Inspectors searched Segreev`s home.

“We found a lot of credit cards in victims` names hidden all through that house,” says Alvarez.

They also found stereos, cameras, TV`s, phones and cash.

No matter how old you are, check your credit at least once a year to make sure your identity hasn`t been stolen.

“Teenagers will take a picture of their driver`s license and put it on their Facebook page because they are proud. They don`t realize they are giving up their DOB, their address, their name, which is very important. Identity thieves scour the Internet looking for this information,” says Alvarez.

“Luckily, not a lot of damage was done that would affect me, luckily at that time I wasn`t going for a house or I wasn`t going for a car loan or anything of importance,” says Becker.

Postal inspectors say if your identity has ever been stolen, you need to put a fraud alert on your credit right away. This will alert credit bureaus that you have had a problem in the past.

As for Sergeev, he was arrested on federal ID theft charges and sentenced to 3 years in prison and more than $40,000 in restitution. Deportation to Russia as ordered after the time was served.