by: Tony Thomas Updated:
HAMPTON, Ga. - Police believe they are close to cracking a major identity theft ring based in metro Atlanta.
Detectives said time after time, the ring is using the checks
-- which they create themselves -- only at Walmarts.
Three metro Atlanta victims have been identified so far, but detectives believe there are dozens more who have yet to be identified or connected to the suspects.
One Henry County couple went away on vacation for two weeks only to return to find out someone had used their IDs to create checks, then buy laptops and surveillance equipment at 11 different Walmarts across the Southeast, including as far north as Virginia.
"We had been wiped out, several thousand dollars," said the victim, who did not want to be identified. "That's still a big mystery. We don't know how that happened."
Hampton police aren't sure how the ring is getting all the info on the victims, either.
Detective Art Sparks believes this one case is just the start of a tidal wave of victims.
"They are very adept at creating checks," Sparks said.
Sparks believes the ring is based in the Ellenwood area of Clayton County.
Walmart surveillance cameras have connected four people to the ring; two of the women and a man remain unidentified.
"He tends to be the one that does all the buying," Sparks said.
Investigators believe the ring targets the elderly, somehow getting their info and creating the checks. At Walmart, they first buy electronics, always writing checks under $500, and then go to another Walmart and return the goods for cash.
"They tend to use the identities they steal as far away from the home location of the victim as they can," Sparks said.
Police fear the ring is stealing the IDs of victims in other states, too, then hitting Walmarts around Atlanta for the cash.
"We don't know how many more victims are out there," Sparks said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Hampton Police Department at 770-946-4513.