Identity theft: How dealerships can beat it

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Dealership identity theft can occur if management doesn't spot-check records often enough. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/PMC 1stPix/Flickr)

When Scottsdale, Ariz., police pulled over a vehicle on Sept. 10, 2008, they found sales contracts from a local automotive dealership. According to The Arizona Republic, the contracts were among many items in the car that documented a fraud ring involving Gilbert-based Henry Brown Buick-GMC-Pontiac finance manager Dominick Hurley.

Rampant dealership identity theft

“It was basically a forgery mill on wheels,” Police Detective Scott Much said of Hurley’s operation.

Credit card numbers, records of a prostitution ring and Henry Brown sales contracts littered Dominick Hurley’s car. Brown, who was shocked when Scottsdale Police brought the evidence to his attention, has cooperated fully in the investigation. Hurley was fired immediately following the police visit.

Obvious signs

Hurley, 49, had a long history of working for Scottsdale-area automotive dealerships – in between prison stints, according to Automotive News. Hurley’s 17 felony convictions for a laundry list of crimes including burglary, credit card theft and drug violations apparently did not give hiring managers pause, even when the jobs involved dealing with sensitive consumer data.

Hurley’s record of sales productivity on the car lot – he earned $200,000-plus annually – may have greased the wheels.

Signs of impropriety began to appear well before Hurley was pulled over by police in 2008. A General Motors audit of a dealership gift card incentive program detected discrepancies. After being taken into police custody, Hurley admitted to diverting $28,500 in Lowe’s and Best Buy gift cards to himself and another involved in the fraud ring.

In 2010, Hurley plea bargained down to a 10-year sentence for giving up the names of others involved in the identity theft ring.

Personal info of a dozen customers was stolen

Maryann McKessy, chief of the Fraud and Identity Theft Bureau of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, told local media that from late 2007 until he was fired in September 2008, Dominick Hurley stole personal information of a dozen Henry Brown Buick-GMC-Pontiac customers.

It is known that information gleaned from the dealership identity theft was used to apply for store credit cards, lease vehicles and rent hotel rooms. Henry Brown customers impacted by Hurley’s actions have messes they’re still cleaning up.

“It absolutely screwed with their credit,” McKessy said.

Ways dealership identity theft can be avoided

While laws like the Red Flag Law are in place to combat rampant identity theft, experts agree that automotive dealerships would do well to use the following checklist for preventing identity theft.

  • Require criminal background and credit checks for prospective employees
  • Contact applicant references
  • Provide thorough, continual compliance training
  • Go paperless for transactions whenever possible
  • Perform regular audits and deal spot-checks, examining documentation carefully
  • Block websites that can create fraudulent proof of income
  • Design computer records systems that only allow one record to be pulled at a time
  • Forbid employee removal of customer records from dealership premises
  • Ask customers credit related questions to ensure propriety with records

Identity theft prevention


Automotive News

The Arizona Republic

Henry Brown Auto Group

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