November 28, 2008

Home equity threatened by identity theft

U.S. authorities have arrested four men they say used a variety of scams to trick banks into releasing home equity funds.

The four, who allegedly convinced U.S. banks to wire more than $2.5 million to banks in Canada, China, Japan and other countries, were connected to three others who pleaded guilty in federal court in eastern Virginia to charges in a $10 million bank fraud, The Washington Post reported Friday.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie in New Jersey said identity scams related to home equity theft are rising. Homeowners should carefully review their statements to make sure their hard-earned equity is not disappearing from under their noses, he said.

Authorities charged Derrick Polk, of Los Angeles; Oludola Akinmola and Oladeji Craig of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Oluwajide Ogunbiy of Springfield, Ill., with wire fraud.

Authorities say the gang used online searches to find information on victims with good credit. Armed with information that included answers to personal questions victims use for safeguarding accounts, they would phone banks to ask them to transfer funds.

The gang allegedly interrupted phone calls when banks called verify the transfers, the Post reported.

Charges were filed in New Jersey's U.S. District Court.