Definitions and factsIdentity theft is the unauthorized possession or use of personal or financial identifiers (credit cards, checks, etc.) to unlawfully gain something of value or to facilitate other criminal activity.
In the United States, there are more than 15 million victims of identity theft each year. Losses amount to $50 billion in the United States and $150 million in Colorado alone. Colorado ranks sixth in the United States for identity theft complaints.
The trend of identity theft is a growing concern for residents of Castle Rock and the law enforcement community.
Methods thieves useThieves get information from businesses or other institutions by:
- Bribing an employee who has access to these records
- Completing a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location
- Conning information out of employees
- Hacking these records
- Obtaining your credit reports by abusing their employer’s authorized access to them or by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legal right to access your report
- Rummaging through your trash, the trash of a business or public trash dumps in a practice known as “dumpster diving”
- Stealing personal information from you through email or phone by posing as legitimate companies and claiming you have a problem with your account. (This practice is known as "phishing" online, or “pretexting” by phone.)
- Stealing personal information they find in your home
- Stealing records or information while they’re on the job
- Stealing your credit or debit card numbers by capturing the information in a data storage device in a practice known as "skimming. (They may swipe your card for an actual purchase or attach the device to an ATM machine where you may enter or swipe your card.)
- Stealing your mail including bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, new checks and tax information
- Stealing your wallet or purse
How thieves use your informationThieves use your personal information in many ways. They may use your information to:
- Buy a car through an auto loan in your name
- Change the billing address on your credit card account so that you are unaware of charges to the account
- Counterfeit checks, credit cards or debit cards or authorize electronic transfers in your name
- Establish phone or wireless service in your name
- File for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they’ve incurred under your name or to avoid eviction
- Get a driver’s license issued with their picture in your name
- Get a job or file fraudulent tax returns in your name
- Give your name to the police during an arrest; if they don’t show up for court, a warrant for arrest is issued in your name
- Open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on the account
- Open new credit cards in your name; delinquent accounts are then reported on your credit report
- Shred all documents that contain personal information.
- Deposit and receive mail in secure containers.
- Verify emails, telephone calls, faxes, etc., before giving out personal information.
- Limit the number of cards/documents you carry that display personal information.
- Use effective passwords that include uncommon word and number combinations, symbols, or punctuation.
- Routinely check bills, account statements and credit reports for fraudulent activity.