Shoppers Urged To Be Cautious Against Holiday Identity
November 22, 2005 -- Many people
are planning their Thanksgiving guest and Christmas list. So are
the crooks. How do we keep ourselves from being victims of identity
theft and who are their targets? This is a crime that affects
everyone especially if or when it happened to you. You'd be surprised
at how easy it is for someone to steal your identity and turn
your life upside down.
The Houston Police Department is warning shoppers
and stores to keep their guard up as this holiday season rolls
around. HPD Financial Crimes Unit Sergeant Ricky Campbell says
would-be identity thieves are not who you think they are and your
vital information can never be fully safe. "These predators
are always looking for ways to steal your identity and in same
cases will convince your co-workers to obtain your information
for a price," said Sergeant Campbell. Identity theft is much
bigger than most realize, leading to other crimes such as forgery,
counterfeiting, check and credit card fraud, computer fraud, impersonations
and even terrorism.
A recent article printed in Money Magazine called
identity theft, America's No. 1 consumer complaint. HPD Financial
Crimes Unit supervisor, Lieutenant Craig Williams commented that
anyone is a potential victim of Identity Theft. "It's not
a matter of if you become a victim, it's a matter of when, and
it's extremely easy." Thieves routinely use stolen credit
cards repeatedly, taking over accounts, using personal information
to open new ones. The Houston Police Department Financial Crimes
Unit averages approximately twenty thousand cases yearly and that
number is growing.
Identity theft components take on many forms.
-Computer Crimes result in theft of personal
information by use of Spyware, e-mail hackers and in many cases
through online transactions.
-Personal Betrayal is when friends, co-workers
and even relatives manage to gain access to your personal data
and sells it to someone else.
-Document Loss is the most common. Information
is gathered from stolen wallets, checkbooks, credit cards and
stolen mail, mainly bills or invoices.
-Business Leaks are associated with consumer
files lost or material breached over a period of time.
Other modes of operation for identity thieves
are stealing purses from shoppers who leave them in shopping carts,
cars or pick-pocketing wallets in crowds such as sporting events.
Rummaging through residential trashcans or business
dumpsters called "Dumpster Diving" is very popular.
Obtaining credit reports by posing as someone like landlords and
employers is not uncommon. Some thieves break into homes searching
for personal information on paper or computers.
For more information about how to reduce your
chances of becoming a victim contact the Houston Police Department
Financial Crimes Unit at 713-308-2500.
For additional information, please
contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200.