Consumer Alert: Cracking the code - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Consumer Alert: Cracking the code

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Darnell Lanier, the ring leader, was sentenced in the case. Darnell Lanier, the ring leader, was sentenced in the case.

Postal inspectors busted a multi-million dollar scheme involving identity theft and fraudulent checks once they cracked an intricate code thieves were using on social media. The con artists were pretending to order baked goods online and in reality they were ordering fake checks.

"We found blank checks, check printing programs, check stock, fraudulent identifiers, bank account numbers, different fraudulent ID's, as well as an assault rifle and another side arm," says Michael Van de Putte, a U.S. Postal Inspector.

All through a search warrant executed by postal inspectors in pursuit of a huge counterfeit check ring in the Midwest. The scam began with identity thieves gathering victims' personal information, usually online.

"They would send the information to Darnell Lanier to create the checks and he would send them back," says Van de Putte.

Inspectors discovered the fraudulent check ordering scam was well organized.

"They would order over Facebook and other social media all in code, send text messages ordering baked goods from each other," says Van de Putte.

Van de Putte explains how it worked.

"They would make the check in the name of one of the victims with that victim's proper address in whatever state the identifiers came from and then use a fraudulent bank account number with a proper routing number from different banks. They would then print up a fake and very high quality identification and go in and cash the checks that way," says Van de Putte.

There were more than 100 victims and $250,000 in losses. Officials say if you think you are the victim of identity theft, call the credit monitoring groups: Experian, Equifax and Transunion.

"They are required to give one free credit report to anyone every year," says Van de Putte.

Darnell Lanier, the ring leader, gave inspectors a full confession and assisted prosecutors in the case. He was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution.

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