WXXI AM News

Identity theft ring targets kids

Mar 29, 2019

Authorities say an identity theft ring based in the Buffalo area targeted children's Social Security numbers throughout the country. 

After a 16-month investigation by the New York State Police and Social Security Administration, eight people from Buffalo and Amherst have been charged with identity theft. Authorities say the suspects were using Social Security numbers stolen from children as young as 11. 

An investigation found that Darrius R. Outling, 49, of Buffalo, had illegally obtained Social Security numbers belonging to juveniles living throughout the United States. He then allegedly sold the numbers to seven others who used the numbers to obtain credit for over $400,000 in fraudulent purchases.

Outling is charged with four counts of first-degree identity theft, two counts of first-degree scheme to defraud and one count of second-degree identity theft.

The people who allegedly bought the fraudulent Social Security numbers and the charges they face, are:

Robert A. Johnson Jr., 33, of Buffalo, who is charged with one count each of first-degree identity theft, first-degree scheme to defraud, third-degree grand larceny and second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Michael Ramsey, 55, of Buffalo, who is charged with one count each of first-degree identity theft and first-degree scheme to defraud.

Evelyn T. Pratcher, 47, of Amherst, who is charged with one count each of first-degree identity theft and first-degree scheme to defraud.

Cynthia L. Lockwood, 53, of Buffalo, who is charged with one count each of first-degree identity theft and first-degree scheme to defraud.

Robert A. Johnson Sr., 54, of Buffalo, who is charged with one count each of first-degree identity theft and first-degree scheme to defraud.

Audrey R. Garnett, 58, of Buffalo, who is charged with one count each of first-degree identity theft and first-degree scheme to defraud.

Andrew K. Bostic, 56, of Buffalo, who is charged with one count of second-degree identity theft.

Investigators say a 2017 suspicious activity report from the State Intelligence Center about Social Security numbers being used by different assigned names launched the initial investigation. 

The Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration is working with the major credit bureaus to repair the credit of the children who had their Social Security numbers stolen.

Parents can protect their children’s Social Security number by locking or freezing their credit with the three major credit bureaus:

Equifax
Equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services
800-685-1111

Experian
Experian.com/help
888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

Transunion
TransUnion.com/credit-help
888-909-8872