Account takeover fraud is one of the most basic forms of identity theft. It happens when a fraudster steals personal information to take control of existing bank or credit card accounts and opens new accounts.

Investigators in New York found piles of credit cards and statements which helped them shut down an identity theft ring.

A search warrant of Seerdjinie Mohan’s home led investigators to discover a scheme that robbed hundreds of people.

“They were stealing personal identifiers, social security numbers of individuals,” U.S. Postal Inspector Glen McKechnie said. “Then they would change the address or they would open up credit card applications and or bank accounts they would open up or she would open up and have that mail diverted to a new location that she controlled.”

Investigators says the group obtained a lot of personal information by trolling the internet.

“We use our ID’s… when we think about it… on a daily basis for so many things in person, online, if someone who has ill intent wants to have access to them – it’s very easy,” Connie Gentile with the NY District Attorney’s Office said.

The group also filed false tax returns with the information. So many of the victims didn’t realize what had happened until they went to file their taxes. They were told they had already received their refund.

In this identity theft ring, there were 200 victims and more than $120,000 in losses.

“She was using it to basically her lavish lifestyle, she leased a newer BMW, she used her money to do gambling in Atlantic City.” McKechnie said.

The best way to protect yourself is to check your bank statements. Go over them with a fine-tooth comb. Get a free credit report from each of the 3 bureaus once a year.

Mohan pleaded guilty to fraud and grand larceny charges and is awaiting sentencing.