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Debra Beilman, President of MGI, a prominent North Miami makeup company known for its innovative eye shadow palettes, shares her passion for creating the latest shades that adorn the faces of makeup enthusiasts.
MGI, recognized for developing and marketing makeup products for renowned brand names, is currently experiencing a thriving business environment. However, in March, Beilman encountered a troubling situation when she discovered that over a dozen of her vendors and suppliers had not received their payments. Determined to find the cause, she quickly realized the unexpected source of the problem.
Surprisingly, someone had unlawfully gained access to the outgoing mailbox located at MGI’s industrial park. The breach was evident when Beilman found the mailbox open and tampered with. Disturbed by this revelation, she contacted her bank and discovered that 15 checks, amounting to nearly $40,000, had been fraudulently altered. The payee’s name had been modified, and the checks were cashed by unauthorized individuals. In multiple instances, the payee was changed to a person named “Darion” with an address in Benton, Arkansas, which turned out to be a vacant lot upon investigation.
Ellie Bates, a close friend of Debra Beilman and the owner of You Wear It Well hair salon in North Miami Beach, soon realized that she had fallen victim to the same scheme. Despite mailing a check for the salon’s cable bill, she received a notification stating that the payment had not been made. Opening her checkbook, Ellie was shocked to find that the check she had written for $94.72 to Comcast had been altered to $1,440.72, payable to an individual named Michael.
Stolen Checks Expose Identity Theft Risk for South Florida Businesses
Regrettably, Debra and Ellie are not the only ones affected by this wave of theft. David Maimon, a researcher from Georgia State University who actively investigates illicit activities on the Dark Web, has uncovered numerous stolen checks from South Florida available for sale on encrypted messaging apps. Initially, it was thought that these checks were being purchased solely for cashing purposes. However, it became apparent that the checks were also being exploited to steal the owners’ identities, further exacerbating the situation.
David shared a stack of checks discovered on the Dark Web, including those stolen from a Fort Lauderdale condo building, a plant nursery in Homestead, and a concierge service in Miami. The victims who were able to be contacted were not only aware of the theft but also shocked to learn that their stolen checks were being traded.