"Ray" has been variously described as a sociopath, a menace to society, and possibly the most dangerous identity thief in America. He's had plenty of time to hone his craft and earn his reputation. He began his life of fraud and identity theft nearly 30 years ago and law enforcement estimates that during that time he has stolen millions of dollars.
Ray has agreed to be part of a unique documentary in the hope that his inside story will be a wake up call for all those consumers who still don't think identity theft is a serious matter.
Ray describes his background and family as honest and hard working. Born and raised in south Philadelphia in a Catholic Irish family with nine brothers and sisters, no-one in his family had any trouble with the law. In fact, Ray's older brother was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty.
But as Ray admits, he can't blame his family or upbringing, just "his wiring". Ray is considered the most dangerous identity thief for many reasons, some of which we can't discuss here:
• He has extensive experience, going back nearly 30 years, and there is no type of identity theft crime he has not committed.
• He is very bright, possibly brilliant, and easily able to defeat most security countermeasures.
• He has a strong technical background, having previously worked with AT&T and Cisco, and is a very accomplished hacker.
• He is personable, likeable, charming, an expert in social engineering, and easily able to manipulate, deceive, and enlist others.
• He is thoughtful, careful, does endless planning, and is very meticulous. He will take months or even years developing an important theft target.
• He understands how financial systems work, what red flags they look for, how to bypass security mechanisms and evade red flags.
• He is a master forger and can personally create all the documents he needs, including drivers licenses, Social Security cards, checks, and credit cards.
• He is fearless and enjoys the risk.
• He is passionate about what he does. To Ray it's never been about victimizing consumers, it's about the challenge of defeating or bypassing financial security measures and procedures, and outsmarting people.
• He doesn't think he will ever stop, in part because he's addicted to the challenge. He only gets caught when he gets careless, and that's rare.
Like many of the world's best thieves, Ray is an expert in social engineering and able to use his charm and charisma to spot and exploit vulnerable people, as well as find insiders willing to help him in his crimes. And because he makes sure that all his accomplices are always well rewarded for their role, he's never been turned in to law enforcement.
What makes Ray even more dangerous is that he's also an expert hacker and forger, working for years with high tech giants like AT&T and Cisco while at the same time living his double life as a thief. At one time he even worked for the National Reconnaissance Office, or NRO, one of the most important national intelligence agencies that most consumers have never heard of.
As a master forger, Ray has spent years studying everything from the technologies to verify the authenticity of checks, to the magnetic ink used to print checks, to how to print holograms on driver's licenses.
He was so meticulous in his planning, Ray would often set up a company and pose as a customer so he could engage the technical and sales staff of banking security firms in in-depth conversations about how their technologies did and didn't work.
Using a network of expensive hotels and stolen rental cars, Ray is able to keep on the move and operate sophisticated identity theft factories from the back seat of his car. At some times he had as many as half a dozen stolen rental cars at his disposal, and often traded them for insider secrets or information.
He also spent years studying the U.S. financial system, including how the banks and credit card companies verify identities, spot fraud, and grant new credit. He learned how the Social Security Administration works, how Social Security Numbers are created, and how to create new identities from invented Social Security numbers.
And prison didn't stop Ray. While serving time on fraud charges in the notorious San Quentin prison in California, Ray used the Social Security numbers of other inmates to file fraudulent tax returns with the IRS, earning tens of thousands of dollars while still behind bars.
Unlike most identity thieves, Ray is patient and meticulous. He keeps a revolving collection of victim files, all under various stages of development. He's constantly improving and adding to each file, filling in critical and sometimes even trivial pieces of information. Whenever he feels a file is complete and ready, he sets to work on that identity.
And once he has even the most basic of success, like getting a new credit card using a stolen identity, Ray fully assumes that identity. He's so careful and patient, he will often pay off dozens of fraudulent credit cards each month so that his new identity builds up a growing credit limit with each card. As soon as he feels he has reached the highest credit limit on a credit card - usually in the tens of thousands of dollars, he maxes out the card, closes it down, and moves on.
To Ray, identity theft is not just a job and profession, it's a passion. He thrives on the risk and danger, but more than that, he loves learning about the latest security system or technology so that he can find weaknesses that he can exploit.
Ray's in jail now, serving a nearly five year term for identity theft. But he doesn't intend to stop, even when he gets out. He's assembled a collection of what he calls Rainy Day files – detailed dossiers on future victims that he has hidden away and can turn into instant wealth whenever he needs the money.