This report, the second of two parts, airs on Dateline NBC Sunday, July 22, 8 p.m. The first part aired at 7 p.m.
We’re on the hunt for a new kind of predator: Wendy, the apparent mastermind of an international identity theft ring. So far, the search had taking us taken us clear across the country and it’s about to take us around the world as we track down the crooks who steal your credit card and banking information to go on shopping sprees with your money.
I started the search for Wendy after I saw something most Americans have never seen. Internet security expert Dan Clements took us on a tour inside illegal underground Internet chatrooms, where we watched in amazement as computer hackers and identity thieves actually bought and sold your most personal information.
Dan Clements, Card Cops, Internet security expert: They’re selling log-ins to bank accounts. Barclays, Wells Fargo, HSBC all the large banks…
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent: So, somebody could get this information, log on to somebody’s account, and take their money.
Clements: Drain their account.
And Clements says the thieves don’t need to steal your actual credit card anymore, they just need the information. So, if a hacker can crack a computer at a bank or store, he can download all the data he needs to steal countless identities.
But Clements says anyone with access to your personal information can cash in using the Internet underground.
Clements: It could be the hotel clerk, the waiter in your restaurant, the clerk at the car rental. They have access to this information.
Thousands of times a day, millions of times a year, credit cards are maxed out, and bank accounts are drained with stolen identities. So Dateline set out to track down some of the thieves.
We began our investigation a year ago.
First step: Dangle some bait. We got a major credit card issuer to help us. We made up same names and they gave us real cards under those fake names.
Next step: Have Dan Clements pretend to be a crook who stole our credit cards. We watched as he offered up those cards in that high-tech den of thieves.
Halfway across the country, a fraud investigator from the credit card company let us know as soon as the crooks took the bait—and started using our cards.
The results were astonishing cards were maxed out in minutes. One of our bait credit cards carried the fake name Oscar Ernesto. The fraudulent charges were coming from almost everywhere.
Hansen: So we had purchases in 16 different countries?
Investigator: Every continent except for Antarctica basically.
Clements: Identity theft, hitting Americans from foreign soil, is big business.
It’s big business that costs consumers billions and businesses tens of billions worldwide.
Just ask Rodrigo Bustos in Chile: His store was hit by crooks using one of our bait cards. We covered that charge, but he says his bank has made him absorb thousands in losses to identity thieves.
Rodrigo Bustos: They said “It’s your fault. Because you didn’t confirm it was the real owner of the credit card.”
Authorities say in most cases, it’s virtually impossible to identify the thieves, but Dateline decided to try.
To lure the crooks in, we set up our own online store, HansenDiscountElectronics.com , and let the thieves know that it was a good place to use stolen credit cards.
Clements: The message says, “cardable site.”
Hansen: So if you’ve got a hot credit card number, you can use it here.
The fraudulent orders poured in. Real thieves were using accounts stolen from real people like Leigh Morton.
Leigh Morton, victim: I was checking to see if I could afford to go out to dinner and I had no money.
Hansen: No money?
Morton: No money.
Leigh Morton’s account was drained overnight by a series of online purchases.
Dateline’s store didn’t actually charge Leigh or anyone else— but we did send out the merchandise in order to track down the thieves.
I even set up my own shipping company, C.H. Delivery, and began fanning out across the country to deliver the loot.
I hoped the deliveries would lead us right to the thieves’ doorsteps, but instead I met people like Vickie Beebout and Angela Cater. Both said they thought were doing a favor for a man they met on the Internet.
Angela Cater (on the emails she received): “Let’s get married. You know, I really love you. I miss you.” And it’s mushy, mushy all the time.
But it turns out, Angela and Vickie were talking to the same man—an international Internet thief. Using someone else’s picture and calling himself “Paul Desmond,” he had tricked them into accepting all this stuff and had asked them to forward it to a store overseas.
And the more deliveries I made, the more I heard about those mysterious stores.
In upstate New York, Jeff Ball told us he’s been getting lots of packages for his international business partner, “Wendy Kenson.” He told us “Wendy” is a model who wants to marry him.
Over the Internet, she told him she ran an international business and he could make money if he’d help her send packages to locations all over the world, including a shipment to Africa. It was a home theater system so big the shipping bill was more than $2,000 dollars. He agreed to pay that— and thousands more.
But as we talk, Jeff Ball doesn’t seem to be aware that the packages being shipped to his house in Wendy Kenson’s name have been ordered with stolen credit cards. So it’s a bitter dose of reality when we tell him the truth.
Hansen: And it appears, based upon our investigation, that Jeff that you’ve gotten caught up in an international conspiracy.
Ball: I got caught up into a scam.
Now we’re hoping that Jeff Ball will be willing to turn on “Wendy” and the thieves who scammed him.
Hansen: Will you help me?
Ball: Yeah, I will help you.
But our search to track down Wendy and her gang of thieves won’t stop in the U.S. We’ll have to follow the trail of the packages overseas.
Jeff Ball is pouring through his records trying to help Dateline crack an international identity theft ring.
We’re on the hunt for “Wendy,” the woman in seductive photos who conned Jeff into shipping what turned out to be merchandise purchased with stolen credit cards.
Like an expensive home theater system it was so big it cost more than $2,000 to ship.
We’re on the trail of that home theater system because we think it might lead us to “Wendy,” down this dusty road, in the tiny African nation of Benin.
Benin, a former French colony, was a hub back during the time of the slave trade and today, is increasingly a hub for identity thieves. Busy African markets are where some of the merchandise ordered from stolen American credit cards can show up. The identity thieves didn’t pay a dime for the things they got, so even if they sell them cheap, they still make a huge profit.
It’s not an easy or a safe place for American journalists to operate. We’re not sure who we can trust and don’t know if the criminals have corrupted any local officials. So we proceed with caution.
Down the road, we find the address where “Wendy” told Jeff Ball to ship the home theatre system.
It’s to the home of a man named Mr. Tchao.
Chris Hansen (on hidden camera): Ali Angelo Tchao...
Neighbor: Ah oui...
Chris Hansen: Yeah, Tchao lives there?
Neighbor: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Hansen: Do you know him?
A neighbor tells us Mr. Tchao is at work.
Neighbor: He’s working at port.
Hansen: Where? At the port.
Hansen: And what does he do at the port?
Neighbor: Well, some people come from Nigerias, come meet here to buy cars.
Hansen: So, he buys the cars here and sells them in Nigeria...
Neighbor: Yes, yes.
Hansen: Do you think it’s okay if go back and ask?
Apparently, Mr. Tchao is involved in the import-export business.
It certainly doesn’t look like he’s got a theater system at his home down an alley.
Hansen: We’re asking about a delivery. A big delivery from DHL.
Hansen: The shipping company. It was, it was a big home theatre, television set?
Neighbor: Television filosau [sp. translates local language]
Girl: [local language]
Neighbor: She said that, she said that, she said that she didn’t know. If you people can come back in the evening.
Hansen: Yeah, and talk to him.
Neighbor: and see him himself,
Neighbor: And talk to him.
Hansen: Bon soir.
So later that evening, we do come back. But Mr. Tchao hasn’t come home.
Hansen: Oh, Pascal, that’s right we talked earlier.
Neighbor: Yes, this morning.
Hansen: Yeah, is Mr. Tchao around?
Neighbor: No he’s not here. I don’t know when he’ll be back.
I get Mr. Tchao’s cell phone number.
Chris phone call: Monsieur Tchao? Oui. My name is Chris and I wanted to ask you about a package that DHL says was delivered to you in October. It’s a home theatre system. Did you receive that package?
Mr. Tchao admits he did get it.
Hansen: So, you did actually receive the home theatre system? …in um October?
But he doesn’t want to say where it went.
Hansen: From when you received it, where did the home theatre system go after it came to your house? I’m sorry, you did receive it? Alright. Thank you very much. Bye now.
By now, it’s clear we’re going to have a tough time finding “Wendy” and the thieves by tracking down a package after it’s been delivered.
But we want to get as close to the thieves as we can, so we decide follow a package from the very start.
Vickie Beebout: I already boxed up the shoes and stuff.
Back in California, Vickie Beebout has been collecting packages for her online boyfriend “Paul.”
But, now, she realizes she’s been scammed, too. And like Jeff Ball, Vickie has agreed to work with us to track a shipment.
Paul still thinks he has her on the hook, so he’s asking her to send another shipment. He’s ordered an Xbox from our online store, again with a stolen credit card.
And in an instant message he tells Vickie he wants it sent to that same small country in Africa, Benin. To help follow the package, we install sophisticated tracking devices—and hide them inside.
A transmitter will send out a signal, and we’ll hear a beeping noise on this receiver whenever the package is nearby.
On the outside, we mark the box with distinctive yellow stickers.
Next, we take it to a DHL office near Vicki’s home in California. Three days later, the DHL Website shows the package is in Africa.
And, remember, so are we.
Our tracker locates the signal of our X-box in the customs building at the airport. But a few hours later, the signal disappears. And the DHL Website says our package has been picked up.
So we set off in search of our Xbox.
First stop: the address where it was supposed to be delivered. Turns out it’s a lawyer’s office.
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent (on hidden camera): I’m looking for a Monsieur Houssou Immocent.
The receptionist says he doesn’t have a clue what we’re talking about. Knows nothing about the package—doesn’t even recognize the name.
Hansen: So you don’t know the name?
Producer: Il ne travaille pas ici?
Hansen: And what about this address?
What’s more, he says the shipping address seems to be phony, intentionally jumbled.
Although the street name and number match this office, the zip code and town are all wrong.
And when we double-check at the local post office, they confirm the address isn’t real.
Next stop: DHL.
Maybe they know where our X-box went.
Hansen: Bonjour. G’morning, i’m trying to track a package that I had shipped.
The customer rep checks the computer and calls out to the airport, where they confirm that package was picked up by the man it was addressed to.
Hansen: Okay, so, he’s the one that picked it up at the airport?
DHL Rep: Yes.
Hansen: Okay, alright.
DHL Rep: What they put in the system. But I see that you are English people so I tell maybe you want to, you want to know more.
Hansen: No, no, no. I’m very appreciative, and I thank you very much.
Now we’re more baffled than ever. So we ask the local police if they can help us find our package.
They send an investigator to the airport, but he’s told to come back later.
At Benin’s National Police Headquarters, the director admits these Internet frauds are among his country’s biggest problems.
Antoine Azonhoume, Benin National Police Headquarters:This is a form of organized crime.
And he says his country has fallen victim to criminals coming from the country next door Nigeria, a well-known haven for identity thieves.
Why would Nigerian criminals use another country as a drop point for stolen goods?
There’s been so much publicity about rip-off schemes from Nigeria that many of the Internet thieves have discovered it can be hard sometimes to get people from the United States to ship there. So, some of the thieves have come here to Benin, a tiny West African country most people don’t know anything about.
Antoine Azonhoume: They use Benin because our country is a little weak. It’s a small country, and we don’t have great resources to investigate.
Authorities say most of the fraud originates in Internet cafes like one we were able to get a rare look inside with Dateline’s hidden cameras. In an e-mail or instant message, a thief can hide behind a computer screen and pretend to be anyone, anywhere. In Africa could even steal a picture off the Internet and become “Paul” or even “Wendy”.
And while some of the people we see in this Internet cafe may be perfectly honest—some even tourists— police say criminal rings conduct their business there, stealing from Americans from half a world away.
And that brings us back to our C-box package with the tracker inside. There’s still no sign of it.
The police go back to the airport and, believe it or not, they’re told our package has mysteriously been found, still inside customs, as if it had never left the building.
That’s odd. Remember, just the day before, DHL told us it had been picked up.
So, which story is true?
To double-check, we go to the airport and arrange to see the package ourselves. It looks like it’s had a rough trip, but the tracker inside is still putting out a strong signal.
Police sources tell us they think the thieves heard we were asking questions and decided the package must be “hot.”
To avoid being caught, they apparently smuggled it back inside customs and left it.
The criminals are trying to duck us. But we have another option to catch up with them, and it involves Jeff Ball, the man in New York... and “Wendy”, the thief who stole his money, and his heart.
We’ve been all the way to Africa searching for Wendy and her international identity theft ring. We’ve traced packages with loot ordered by thieves. Merchandise that seemed to disappear…
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent (on hidden camera): It was a big home theater. And so he picked it up?
DHL Representative: Yes.
Chris Hansen: On the 5th?
DHL Representative: Yes.
…then mysteriously boomerangs back. Maybe because the thieves knew we were on to them.
But maybe there’s another way to find Wendy and her gang of thieves.
And it involves Jeff Ball, the New York man apparently tricked into becoming a middleman by the identity theft ring.
We come up with the plan after we see the e-mail history between Wendy and Jeff. It’s clear whoever is sending the e-mails is a master scammer.
Wendy’s emails: My heart told me that my Prince Charming was there when you first said hello to me.
Along with the love letters, and those provocative pictures, Wendy cleverly mixes in please for help in somewhat broken English.
Wendy’s emails: Let me come back home this week, because that my prayer always...
In one e-mail, Wendy says she’s in Australia, but wants to come “home to be with Jeff."
Wendy’s e-mail: i most get home this weekend okay??..i realy miss u
But believe it or not, on her way to the airport, the unthinkable happens. Wendy says she’s in an auto accident.
Wendy’s email: Wendy sick hospital! Please pray for me.
Through her pain, Wendy pleads with Jeff to send money – to pay for the surgery to save her life.
Wendy’s e-mail: BECOUSE I DON’T WANT TO LOSE MY HAND AND I DON’T WANT TO LOSE MY LIFE AND UUUUU PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!:):):):)
In the end, Jeff Ball actually wired thousands of dollars to Australia supposedly for Wendy’s surgeon, Dr. J. Jack.
Dateline checked in Australia, and we couldn’t find any licensed doctor by that name — another sign that Wendy is part of an even larger con.
All you have to do is check the e-mails. In the special coding most of us never read, IP addressses, there’s usually an identification number that tells you where the computer that sent the e-mail is located. It’s a little like the caller ID on your phone.
Remember, Wendy’s been claiming she’s in Australia. But when Dateline checks the coding on her e-mails, they really trace back to Africa.
Wendy’s e-mail: Babe please pack everything togetter i mean all the packages....
We’re beginning to wonder, could “Wendy” be a mask for a man?
Wendy’s e-mail: …and wait for dhl to come okay... send me all the packages list to me okay...to my email and tracking number okay?
Now we see how Jeff was tricked into sending packages all over the world, but we’re about to turn the tables on the thieves behind Wendy. Remember, they think we’re for real. They’ve been ordering from our online store. They’ve even used our delivery company to send some of their loot all the way to Switzerland.
And now, we’ve convinced Jeff Ball to let us take over his e-mail.
Wendy’s e-mail: I love you with my whole heart.
From now on, when Wendy talks to Jeff, she’s really talking to Dateline.
Our first step: Borrow one of Wendy’s tricks and say Jeff is in the hospital.
Jeff: Had a hunting accident and in hospital … Pray for me.
Wendy is expecting more packages from Jeff. And she thinks our company will be handling the delivery. She’s so desperate to find out about her packages, she sends an e-mail directly to Chris at CH Delivery.
Wendy’s e-mail: Hello Chris, Because am in Australia, am serioully worried, .. and we have alot of shipment to ship to Swizterland, Please kindly help me to check on him.
It’s the opening we’ve been waiting for.
Between updates about Jeff’s health, we’ve come up with a plan to get us closer to “Wendy” and her gang. To whet their appetite, I’ll say I’ve just inherited a lot of money and I’m interested in investing some of it in Wendy’s company.
Our e-mail: Wendy, I would like to invest in your business. But I don’t think it is wise to invest in any business until I can meet the owner in person … Please let me know when and where you can meet …
It isn’t long before Wendy responds, and she seems to be going for the bait.
Wendy’s e-mail: I will be glad to assist you to invest your funds...
We’ve decided to give the identity thieves a dose of their own medicine. Our mark? Wendy Kenson, the supposed boss of an identity theft ring who conned Jeff Ball into shipping thousands of dollars of merchandise ordered with stolen credit cards.
Wendy’s e-mail: Hello Mr Chris, Thanks for your mail, am happy you want to invest the with me ...
Finally, Wendy agrees to a meeting in Zurich, Switzerland.
Wendy’s e-mail: I will be glad to assist you invest your funds in valuable and profiable business.
But mysteriously, Wendy suddenly says she won’t be able to make it there herself. Instead she’s sending her trusted Swiss lawyer, Barrister Micheal.
Wendy’s e-mail: My attorney is ready to meet you at the hotel on Friday afternoon ... I have already explain everything to him.
I happen to be in London when I call Barrister Micheal to confirm.
That’s when we notice something about his phone number. Remember the package we delivered for Wendy in Switzerland? Wendy gave a contact number for the person receiving the stolen merchandise, and it’s exactly the same phone number she gave us for her lawyer — another sign Barrister Micheal is directly involved in Wendy’s identity theft ring.
Switzerland is the legendary land of secret bank accounts. It’s here in Zurich that we’ll try to track down the man who could be one of the masterminds behind the international theft ring: the man Wendy calls her trusted attorney.
Hansen (on hidden camera): Hello, Barrister Micheal?
With our hidden cameras, we meet Barrister Micheal in a hotel lobby, and he’s brought along a friend, a woman who seems confused about her own name.
Woman: I’m Edith. Doris. Doris.
Edith, Doris, whatever – but not Wendy.
We take them upstairs to a hotel suite equipped with more hidden cameras.
Hansen: Hey! How are you? Hey, Barrister Micheal. Nice to see you. Chris Hansen. It’s a pleasure. Please come in. Hey Doris, nice to see you.
I try to get right down to business and ask Wendy’s lawyer what he can tell me about her.
Barrister Micheal: Wendy Kenson?
Hansen: Yes, exactly.
Barrister Micheal: Yeah, she was, she was also in Switzerland.
Hansen: Oh really? Now how did you meet Wendy originally?
Barrister Micheal: I met her last year. She came…
Hansen: Oh, here in Switzerland?
Barrister Micheal: …to Switzerland.
But the barrister seems more interested in talking about the woman he’s brought along – Doris. She may not be a swimsuit model, but like Wendy, she says she’s lived in Australia. And like Wendy, she has a business proposition for me.
Hansen: Your business is what now?
Doris: My business is in solar energy trade.
Hansen: Solar energy?
Doris tells me she wants to market a solar-powered battery charger. Not exactly what we came here to talk about, but who knows where this will lead.
Hansen: So, this is the product right here?
Doris: This is the product.
Hansen: Oh really!
Doris: It just arrived.
She tells me it works with all kinds of devices.
Doris: So you can recharge mobile phones, I-Pods – CD – DV—CD players. Cameras.
Hansen: May I see?
Doris: I’ll tell you something else. It’s has a normal light. And it has a UV light.
What’s more, she claims it can even detect counterfeit money.
Hansen: That’s quite a gadget.
Doris says she wants to market it in the Middle East and Africa, but doesn’t seem to have much of a plan.
Hansen: And do you have a business plan - that you’ve written out?
Doris: Well the business plan is quite simple. That we need to make a business…
Doris: …plan together.
What she really seems to want is $200,000 from me.
Hansen: And when would I start seeing a return? On my $200,000 investment?
Doris: Six months to 12.
Hansen: Six to 12 months.
I tell Doris I’ll think about it, but I’d rather find out more about Wendy and her lawyer. He says she’s from South Africa.
Hansen: Which law school did you go to?
Barrister Micheal: That was Johannesburg Law School.
Hansen: Johannesburg Law School?
Barrister Micheal: Yeah.
Hansen: Right. What year did you graduate?
Barrister Micheal: It’s quite a long time.
Barrister Micheal: It’s quite a long time.
Hansen: How old, how old are you now?
Barrister Micheal: I’m 36 years.
Hansen: 36. Okay. So probably…
Barrister Micheal: It was about 20 years ago.
Hold on. This doesn’t add up. He’s 36 and got his law degree 20 years ago when he was 16?
He catches himself.
Barrister Micheal: I mis-
Hansen: So they must have...
Barrister Micheal: I meant 20 years ago—about 16 years ago, I mean.
Hansen: Sixteen years ago? Yeah.
Barrister Micheal: 'Cause I started my education really young.
Hansen: I was just saying, 20 years ago, you’d have been a 16 year old lawyer!
What’s going on? Who is this man? “Wendy” calls him her trusted lawyer. But is he really a lawyer at all?
Hansen: And what kind of cases do you usually handle?
Barrister Micheal: Criminal cases.
Criminal cases. Sounds fitting. But remember, we’re really here to smoke out Wendy Kenson, the face of the international identity theft ring, so I push this supposed barrister.
Hansen: Where is Wendy now? Is she still in Australia? I think that the last time...
Barrister Micheal: Last time she called me she told me she was in Europe. That she wanted to come to Switzerland. That she was in Paris herself.
Barrister Micheal: …that she wanted to come to Switzerland. But then I was in Switzerland...
Not exactly a straight answer. So I press Barrister Micheal for details of the proposed investment I’m supposed to make with Wendy.
Barrister Micheal: It’s very confidential.
But he doesn’t seem comfortable talking about Wendy when Doris is in the room.
Barrister Micheal: I would like to see you in private pertaining to Wendy.
So, Barrister Micheal asks doris to leave so he can talk about Wendy’s secrets with no one else around.
Hansen: We’ll be in touch. Okay?
Doris: Yes, and—we’ll see if...
Doris: …we can do some business together.
Hansen: OK. Thanks so much. I appreciate it. You have a fine day.
Barrister Micheal: OK. Join you shortly, yeah?
Doris: Yeah. See you out there.
Now that Doris is gone, we’re hoping to get the low-down on Wendy, and we’re about to lower the boom on this identity theft gang.
Hansen: I think you came here to scam me out of $200,000.
Barrister Micheal: No, no, no, no.
Our investigation has brought us to Zurich, Switzerland, where finally, after months of investigating, we’re in a private meeting with a man who may be a key player in an international identity theft ring run by someone called Wendy.
Barrister Micheal: Stuff like this. Shipping down to Switzerland, to Holland, to England. And believe me, she’s really doing quite good in this thing.
I’m expecting to hear more about the shipping business, but instead he brings up another scheme entirely—and it involves a friend of Wendy’s friend, a friend in need.
Barrister Micheal: She’s Portuguese, Italian.
Barrister Micheal: She came into Switzerland, but she had some problems, you know?
Problems, he says, like illegally laundering drug money. And a whole load of that dirty money, he says, is now sitting in a safe.
Hansen: How much money are we talking about?
Barrister Micheal (whispering): It’s quite much!
Barrister Micheal: Yeah. We’re talking about six—about six—she told me six point five million, U.S. dollars.
Hansen: $6.5 million.
Barrister Micheal: Yeah, I was....
A big part of that $6.5 million could be mine, he says. All I have to do is cough up $45,000 dollars to pay bank fees.
Hansen: I would pay Wendy? Or I would pay you? Or this other woman?
Barrister Micheal: This other woman.
Barrister Micheal: But of course you have to pay my own charges as a-at least a consultant fee.
Hansen: Right. Well, I’m listening, I’m listening.
And that’s not why we came to Zurich. Remember, I’m here to talk about Wendy’s shipping business, and I want to let Barrister Micheal know I’m not about to be swindled.
Maybe it’s time to make him sweat a little..
Hansen: I wanted to ask you some other questions about Wendy’s business. Now I presume you know a little bit about it, what she does. Electronics—
Barrister Micheal: Not really too much.
Wendy’s lawyer now claims he doesn’t know much about her shipping business. But I ask anyway.
Hansen: But as a barrister, can I just ask your advice on something?
I show him some of the orders to “Wendy” that were placed with stolen credit cards.
Hansen: Now here again, let me, let me show you this one here. Okay. This woman said she didn’t know anything about Wendy Kenson, never met her, didn’t know anything about her. But her card was used illegally to purchase this. What about that?
Barrister Micheal: It’s funny.
Hansen: It’s funny, huh?
Barrister Micheal: No, no.
I explain that time after time, we’ve found people who told us they never approved electronics orders for “Wendy.”
Remember Leigh Morton?
Hansen: Do you know anybody named Wendy Kenson?
Leigh Morton: No.
Hansen: So as a barrister, what does that say to you? How would you advise me on this?
Barrister Micheal: Yeah. I wouldn’t know. I don’t know much.
Barrister Micheal: But this looks... well, you called these people?
Hansen: Right. And they said we didn’t charge it. Our card was used illegally. Somebody got a hold of our card number and used it.
Barrister Micheal: There might be something funny about it.
Now, even her lawyer admits—there might be “something funny” about Wendy’s business.
And, suddenly, Barrister Micheal acts as if he barely knows Wendy at all.
Hansen: But what does that say about Wendy?
Barrister Micheal: Well as I said earlier, I knew her when she came to Switzerland. She has to introduce this lady to me.
Hansen: Right. How many times do you figure you talked—on the phone or Internet?
Barrister Micheal: She called me some few months ago. And she was telling me she’s somewhere in Europe.
And what about those eye-catching photos Wendy sends, supposedly of herself?
Barrister Micheal acts as if he’s never seen them.
Hansen: Now, I want you to take a look at this. Do you recognize her?
Barrister Micheal: She has black hair.
Hansen: But do you recognize the woman in that photo?
Barrister Micheal: No.
Hansen: That is Wendy.
Barrister Micheal: But she has—black hair.
Hansen: But that’s not the Wendy you know?
Barrister Micheal: No.
Barrister Micheal: No.
This is getting stranger by the minute. Not only does Wendy’s so-called lawyer claim not to know about her identity theft operation, now, he doesn’t even recognize “Wendy.”
It’s time to put and end to this charade.
I’m finally face-to-face with her supposed lawyer Barrister Micheal, and I’m not going to let this opportunity go.
So, I tell Michael I think he’s told me nothing but lies.
Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent: I’m investigating an extensive international credit card fraud and identity theft ring. You have now surfaced. In this operation. I think it would be a good time for you to tell me the truth about what you came here today.
Barrister Micheal: I told you why I came. Okay?
Hansen: I know. But I want the truth this time.
Barrister Micheal: No. That’s the truth. You can call her.
Hansen: This whole thing is falling apart here.
Barrister Micheal: No. Because I don’t understand who this—I told you if I would know her, I would tell you this is the woman. I already told you what she told me.
Hansen: Let me tell you a few things.
Barrister Micheal: Huh?
Hansen: Number one, I don’t think there’s really a Wendy. Number two, I don’t think you’re really a barrister. And number three, I think you came here to scam me out of $200,000.
Barrister Micheal: No, no, no, no, no.
But I tell him I’m not buying into his get rich quick scheme he claimed would make me millions of dollars
Hansen: I don’t think there’s $6.5 million sitting a security company in London.
Barrister Micheal: See, the fact is, I have to be open to you. That was what she wrote me on the mail.
Hansen: So you didn’t check it out yourself?
Barrister Micheal:No, to be serious.
Hansen: Are you actually a barrister?
Barrister Micheal: To be serious, I have to tell you the truth.
Hansen: Are you actually a barrister?
Barrister Micheal: I’m not a barrister.
Hansen: Then you lied to me.
Barrister Micheal: Yeah. Of course I lied. ‘Cause that’s what she told me, she wrote me, I have to-
Hansen: Oh. So now it’s Wendy’s fault. So you lied about being a barrister because a woman who doesn’t exist told you to lie? Micheal. Is that your real-- I don’t even know if that’s your real name.
Hansen: Is your real name Micheal?
Barrister Micheal: Huh?
Hansen: Is your real name Micheal?
Barrister Micheal: No, people call me Micheal, but it’s not my real name.
Hansen: What is your real name?
Barrister Micheal: My real name is Lukman.
So Wendy’s lawyer, Micheal, is not a lawyer after all. And his name’s not Micheal.
And guess what—he isn’t from South Africa, either.
Hansen: And where are you from originally?
Barrister Micheal: Hmm? I’m from Nigeria.
Hansen: From Nigeria.
Nigeria is a county famous for scams. Remember, computer records back at our online store show that most of the orders, made in the name of Wendy Kenson, were actually placed from computers in Nigeria — and West Africa— probably from Internet cafes we recorded with hidden cameras after authorities told us it was a hotbed of crime.
So, it’s clear, we really are onto an international gang of con artists and identity thieves who’ve been hiding behind this photo of the supposed “Wendy.”
Hansen: And what about all this stuff about law school and—
Barrister Micheal: That’s what she told me to say, you know? I mean-
Hansen: She told you to say all that.
Barrister Micheal: Yeah.
Hansen: Everybody lies, so it’s okay.
Barrister Micheal: Everybody lies.
Hansen: So it’s okay.
Hansen: Listen, listen, listen. Wendy does not exist. Okay? At least I don’t think she exists. This person posing as Wendy has been ripping people off for a long time.
Barrister Micheal: Probably.
Finally, there’s an admission that “Wendy,” the face of the international crime ring, is a fiction, a ruse, just a pretty picture to con people.
Hansen: All right. So you never really met Wendy?
Barrister Micheal: Yeah. I just—
Hansen: So you don’t even know if Wendy really exists? Did you or did you not lie to me?
Barrister Micheal: I lied to you.
Barrister Micheal: I know that. I know that I lied to you. I’m sorry about that.
Remember, he still doesn’t know that all this time we’ve been recording on hidden cameras.
Now, it’s time to let Barrister Micheal, whoever he is, know... he’s been exposed.
Hansen: I’m Chris Hansen and I work for a show called “Dateline NBC.”
Barrister Micheal: Dateline, Dateline?
Hansen: And those are my cameras. And if there’s anything else you’d like to say, we’d like to hear it. If not, you’re free to go.
Barrister Micheal: Well, what do you, what do you want me to say?
Hansen: Whatever you want to say.
In the end, the barrister who isn’t wants you believe he’s not a bad guy after all. And in spite of his repeated lies, he has in interesting message about telling the truth.
Barrister Micheal: Well, I just believe—all lying and stuff like this to people is not the right thing.
Hansen: And so you’re here doing something that wasn’t the right thing today?
Barrister Micheal: Right. I believe I lied to you.
Hansen: Right. So you’ve never lied to anybody else. I was the first guy you lied to?
Barrister Micheal: Of course I lie. Everybody lies. Of course. Of course.
He says he’s sorry, though we think he’s just looking for an easy exit. He’s one soldier in an army of identity thieves scattered across the globe. We don’t have the power to arrest him, so he walks free.
Internet security expert Dan Clements says that’s pretty much how it goes in the world of identity thieves.
Dan Clements, Card Cops: These are very intelligent people, these identity thieves. But they know that the prosecutions for identity theft are left then one percent.
Hansen: Less then one percent?
Clements: Less then one percent.
But U.S. officials say they’re trying to change that. Craig Magaw of the U.S. Secret service says federal agents have infiltrated criminal chat rooms to break up identity theft rings.
Craig Magaw: Anybody and everybody that’s on those Websites are involved in criminal activity. There is no legitimate business being conducted on those Websites.
Right now, he says the secret service is running 15 undercover operations. The FBI and other agencies are also investigating these crimes.
But with identity thieves spanning the globe and stealing at internet speed, it’s harder than ever for authorities to keep up.
Just look at an e-mail Dan Clements showed us: Announcing that one of the biggest chat rooms in the thieves’ underground is moving its computers to Iran.
Clements: And that e-mail that we just received was basically saying, “Hey, guys. We’re hosted in Iran. We’re untouchable to the US government. Come over here.” Iranian servers, which are clearly outside a subpoena from the U.S..
Hansen: They’ll never get anyone there.
Wherever the Wendy gang is these days, clearly we hit a nerve with them. Soon after Barrister Micheal admitted it was all a big lie, I got an e-mail, from none other than “Wendy.”
“F**k up Chris , so you ....have to set me up. You will riot in Hell fire. Deadman, I direct you to unknown people.”
As for Wendy herself, looks like she really is just a pretty picture the thieves used as part of their con. A tip from a viewer led us to a European Web site, where we saw the same photos of Wendy, only here she’s known as “Angel”.
Our investigation may have forced the thieves to shut down the Wendy operation, but there’s no way they’re out of business.
In the Internet underworld, it’s easy to set up shop under a brand new name with a brand new face.
In fact, they’re probably prowling those thieves’ chat rooms, right now.