Street gangs all over the country have traditionally focused their efforts on drug trafficking and gun running. But now they are expanding into white collar crime.
According to a recently-released report by the FBI, street gangs including the Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords and Latin Kings are branching out into mortgage fraud, making counterfeit checks, bank fraud and identity theft.
Earlier this year, the L.A.-based Armenian Power gang was raided and 74 members were arrested and charged with kidnapping, extortion, illegal gambling and narcotics trafficking, in addition to a $2 million credit card scheme that targeted customers of 99 Cents Only stores in Southern California. The gang had stolen customer information, and then impersonated the victims to cash and deposit checks to deplete victims’ bank accounts.
The Long Beach chapter of the Crips, as well as members of the Mexican mafia, according to the report, have been involved with identity theft in the U.S. The report also stated that the Nine Trey Gangsters, a sub-group of the Bloods in New Jersey, were charged in a counterfeit check scam valued at $654,000.
The increase in street gang activity in identity theft has been aided by technology. In other words, the Internet makes it much easier for gangs to get involved in identity theft, and they even consider it to be a lot less riskier crime, since they don’t have to be out on the street to commit it.
Gang members also consider white collar crimes like identity theft much less risky in terms of punishment if caught. They know that at this point, they’ll get much less time for identity theft than they would if they committed a violent crime.
But experts say this may not be true if the theft involved violence.
Whether or not it’s true, there’s no doubt that gangs have figured out that it’s hard to trap a ghost – which is exactly what an online identity thief is.
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