Inspectors say Melissa Hodge, a Notary Public, betrayed her customers.
"They would give $20 for individuals that had a credit score between 500 - 600. Then it would go up from there. If they had a better credit score, she would require additional money for that," said US Postal Inspector Kenneth Miller.
Hodge worked with consumers on refinancing transactions. Inspectors say instead of helping people financially, she was selling their Social Security Numbers and personal information to identity thieves.
One fraud victim said, "I apologize, I am very, very distraught at this point. I have been notified from our bank somebody, this person has been in our bank account, they have almost drained our checking. They have almost drained everything."
"They would use the information they got from the notary to identify what they would consider attractive accounts," said Miller.
Those con-men would then use the information to open credit card accounts.
"They used the credit cards to purchase cell phones, laptops, iPads, televisions, and stay at lavish hotels," said Miller.
Inspectors say Hodge, who became a notary public in 2010, originally lied to investors.
"She denied having any involvement and she suggested that this information was stolen from her office," said Miller.
Authorities say eventually, she admitted to passing off information from 16 victims who lost more than $160,000. Hodge could face more than 20 years in prison for her role in this case.
Meantime, inspectors say you should always check your credit at least once a year. Everyone is entitled to one free check every year with each of the three credit reporting agencies. The Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida recommends the website AnnualCreditReport.com. It has step-by-step instructions and links to all three credit bureaus.
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