A Denver woman was sentenced to two years in prison after she was caught stealing nearly $600,000 worth of student loan payments.

A 28-year-old in Denver has been sentenced to two years in prison after it was revealed she was one of four people involved in a scam involving $582,000 in student loans. Mercedes Diaz, a resident of Denver, and her group utilized 181 different prisoner identifications from Colorado, Arizona, Ohio, Florida and Illinois to take out multiple student’s loans in their name.

The scam was started in August of 2010 and had requested over $1.3 million of student aid from various community colleges in Arizona and Colorado in the names of these federal inmates. The U.S. Education Department approved a whopping $582,000 of student loans, with the group pocketing $419,000 in the form of debit cards.

Their scam only came to light in 2012. A perpetrator’s car was stopped by police, who then noticed 50 student debit cards inside a bag. The scam worked through a bank employee in the area.

Although this is a unique case, the simple fact is that this could happen to anyone. One of the scammers was a bank employee who happened to have access to the inmates’ personal information, who were in a vulnerable situation from the start. However, for those looking at student loans, and most importantly their credit, this case serves as a wake-up call.

New Federal Data Released on Student Loan Borrowing

First, consumers need to be wary of sharing personal information with any institution or group. This would include banks you have never used or financial companies that are newer to the arena. However, sometimes it’s impossible to keep data safe. In that case, vigilance is the best defense.

Although this is only one case, this is an example of what is happening across the country daily. Be careful, and ensure that you know that your personal information is safe with the institutions you decide to share it with. Student loan borrowers are a large and attractive target group, given the student loan debt situation in America. Knowing this is the first step to combatting identity and financial fraud.

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