A Canadian couple allegedly went on a home-renovation spending spree like you wouldn’t believe. Since 2011, the two are accused of spending more than $3 million on fraudulent Home Depot credit cards, according to a news release from the Toronto Police Service. You read that correctly: 3 years, $3 million, all at Home Depot.
The idea that someone can spend $3 million on fake credit cards at one retailer is mind-boggling, yet that is what authorities are alleging. Toronto police arrested Malika Irrighen, 56, and Md Sumin Reaz, 38, on Oct. 21, charging them with uttering a forged document, obtaining credit by false pretense over $5,000, fraud over $5,000 and possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000.
The police searched their home and seized two cars, among other things not described in the release, but it better have been a really nice house — what the heck else would they have done with $3 million of Home Depot products?
The scheme seems to have gone down like this: Between May 2011 and August 2014, Irrighen and Reaz allegedly applied online for more than 100 Home Depot credit cards, which are backed by Citi Cards Canada. The couple then allegedly used the cards to buy “gift cards, appliances, home renovation products and other items,” the news release said. They applied for the cards using other people’s names and increased the limits to their maximum (that mathematically works out to about $30,000 per card), and they made payments using bad checks.
For those who may be wondering, the police say this is unrelated to the cyberattack on Home Depot’s payments system, which the company confirmed in September.
This sounds like a nightmare for Home Depot Canada and Citi Cards Canada, not to mention the people whose identities were used to apply for these cards. Not only was credit taken out in their name, but these cards were presumably maxed out, which is a credit killer. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada recommends keeping credit utilization lower than 35% (credit scores are a little different for our northern neighbors, but their system is pretty similar to the one in the U.S.).
Regularly checking your credit is one of the best ways to spot identity theft like this, because you will notice a sudden drop in your credit scores, and your investigation may reveal fraud. You can get two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com, and checking your annual credit reports will also help you spot any accounts opened in your name (Canadians can request them for free, as can Americans). Reporting fraud not only protects your financial health, it also helps authorities find fraud patterns and stop crazy schemes like this one, ideally before they’ve cost someone $3 million.
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