Storm chasers capitalize on oil spill - CBS46 News

Storm chasers capitalize on oil spill

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The BP oil spill was the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history and a big opportunity for con artists.

Laine Silverfeld learned the hard way.

"Leslie called one day saying someone had taken her identity," Silverfeld said.

Her only sister, Leslie, was disabled and Laine took care of her.

"It turned out someone had used her identification in a fraudulent activity saying she was a tattoo artist and she was no longer able to be in business," Silverfeld said.

Neither was true. A husband-wife team of con artists had stolen Leslie's identity and filed a false claim that her business had been closed by the BP oil spill.

"As a caregiver, let me tell you, it is a stressful for the people for whom you are taking care of. Their lives are very difficult lives and they are fragile people," Silverfeld said.

According to postal inspectors, the couple were serial "storm chasers."

"Anytime there was a storm and some type of federally funded program established they would basically attack that program," said US Postal Inspector Claudia Angel.

Following the oil spill, the two scammers stole the identities of 115 people and filed false claims worth $700,000. Inspectors think they got the names from area hospitals.

"The two supported a lavish lifestyle; they drove Bentleys, they drove Mercedes Benz, they had yachts, a 47-foot cruiser, they had another smaller one, they had mansions and rental mansions," Angel said.

"Growing up, we learned the only thing you really have is your good name and now a criminal has taken it," Silverfeld said.

The take-away from this case is do everything you can to protect your personal information.

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