Tulsa detectives say they've dismantled a ring that specialized in making checks with stolen account numbers, then making fake IDs so they could cash those checks.
Many victims may not even know their bank account has been compromised.
This may not seem like a big time crime, but it can devastate people financially and can take victims weeks, months, or even years to straighten out their accounts and repair their credit score.
Detective Mathias Wicks, of Tulsa Police Department, is just beginning to go through all the items found after serving a search warrant on a Tulsa motel room.
"IDs they were starting to make, checks that appear to be actual victims we still need to contact, receipts," he said.
A tip led them to a storage unit containing stolen property, which led them to a man who was carrying a fake ID, which led them to Timothy Wood. Records show Wood admitted to police he's been making counterfeit checks and bogus IDs for himself and others.
"He's a go-to guy. They knew to go to him. If they know who to go to, I expect he's been doing it awhile," Wicks said.
Police also arrested Kristy Burke and Daniel Brimmer for outstanding warrants and arrested Andrea Ballard for identity theft. Reports say Ballard had checks in someone else's name and two driver's licenses with other people's names, but her picture. Police say Ballard told them Wood gave them to her so she could buy pizza and other things, since she was having money problems.
Of course, now the victims have money problems because someone has been stealing money from their accounts.
"We have good citizens here who work hard for that checking and savings account and have plans for that in the future, maybe for their children, maybe for themselves, maybe they're living on hard times themselves, then somebody compromises their account. It is a painful crime," Wicks said.
Detectives have a lot of evidence to go through because of this bust, then they'll start calling victims to give them the bad news that their accounts may have been compromised, all right in the beginning of the holiday season.
Police say thieves get our account information by stealing our mail, breaking into our cars, breaking into our homes, and going through our trash. So, to protect yourself, they advise you check your accounts frequently. Don't mail your bills from your mailbox; only mail them at the post office or blue post office boxes, and don't let your mail sit in your mailbox any longer than necessary. Don't leave anything with your information on it inside your car, like a purse or checkbook, and hide those papers inside your house. Finally, shred everything before you throw it away.