Action 16 Investigation: Business Identity Theft

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DICKSON CITY -- We protect ourselves from identity thieves: People trying to steal our social security or credit card numbers and get expensive items and money.

Now police said these crooks are even stealing the identities of small companies!

A thief committed one of these crimes in Dickson City, but the victim is an auto repair shop in Gelatt, Susquehanna County.

"I`m 30 miles away from this location," said the repair shop's owner Ivan Burman, who adds his business always pays its bills on time.

So imagine Ivan's surprise when AT&T Wireless told him he was a month late paying an $852 tab for phones bought in August.

"Someone had violated me," said Burman, who knew his company was the victim of business identity theft.

He found out the thief opened an account using the name of "Burman Collision and Automotive Service Center" at the AT&T outlet store in Dickson City.

He wanted to know, how it could be so easy to walk into the AT&T store, and walk out with eight active cell phones, and stick somebody else with the bill.

According to police, the man used a fake Pennsylvania drivers license, a fake federal tax identification number. and directed to the AT&T clerk the repair shop's web page.

The web page is authentic, but no one from AT&T called Ivan Burman to verify that his company wanted the phones.

"Any kind of ID theft is a growing trend that we`re seeing more and more every day," said Dickson City Police Chief William Bilinski who is investigating the case.  "We usually see it with personal information and now we`re starting to see it with local businesses."

Chief Bilinski believes the identity thief targeting Burman`s business is a professional.

"I`m sure if we do and when we do track this person down, he may have had a record, or some type of offense like this before," said Bilinski.

Ivan Burman also tried to track down the crook.

When AT&T tried to bill him it gave him the eight phone numbers assigned to the thief's phones, and Burman dialed him up.

"Guy answers the phone and I said, 'Who`s this?' and he says, 'Who`s this?' and I said, 'It`s the guy you stole a cellular phone from.' Click."

A day later. AT&T disabled the numbers.

Burman believes the company made it too easy for the thief. The wireless company responded, "To help safeguard our security measures, we do not detail them publicly. All charges have been waived for the customer and we are cooperating with law enforcement."

"I want it pursued," said Burman, who wants the crook caught, tried, and convicted.

"I don`t want this to happen to me again," said the repair shop owner.  "And I don`t want this to happen to any other hard-working, legitimate small business owner."

Dickson City Police said the identity thief who went to AT&T had a Pennsylvania driver`s license with the name "Antony Gilmore."

There are no Antony Gilmores with driver`s licenses in Pennsylvania.

No Antony Gilmore`s have ever worked for Ivan Burman.

Police hope to get a surveillance tape so we can put it on the air, to show other small businesses what the man, who stole the identity of at least one company, looks like.

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