Local News

Scam Artist Targets Area Stores

Posted August 30, 2006

— A scam artist is using other people's Social Security numbers to open credit accounts, then charging thousands of dollars by using false identification. Investigators said the suspect racked up charges in eight local counties.

In the single case where an alleged victim has come forward, the scammer bought $32,000 in that person's name. Investigators say the suspect, who was captured in the act by surveillance video at a Smithfield store, was racking up thousands of dollars with stolen ID's while Ronald Bankston in Walker, La., got the bills.

"He's got their Social Security number," said Smithfield Police Det. Matt Behe. "He's also made a fake license with his picture in it and their information."

Behe got involved when Bankston called to report fraudulent charges in his name at Lowe's and Wal-Mart in Smithfield. Behe learned someone using the same identification also charged accounts at 18 different stores throughout the area, including sites in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville and Wilson, buying mostly big-ticket items.

"And that's just with one ID," said Behe. "We've learned he's using two other fake ID's also, so the amounts are probably phenomenal."

Investigators said the suspect first visited the Smithfield Lowe's in July. When he returned last week using a different name, employees became suspicious and made sure the security cameras were rolling.

Detectives said the suspect has used other fake identifications from New Hampshire, Texas and Indiana.

WRAL spoke with Bankston's wife, Tammy, who is trying to sort out their new credit problems. She said they have no idea how someone got her husband's name and Social Security number.

"It's been crazy," said Tammy Bankston. "I've been a nervous wreck. This is something you don't want to happen to you."

Detectives said they believe the man is still in the area and hope someone will recognize him.

"He's still out there, still hitting," said Behe. "No telling how many ID's he's got."

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