Digging Up the Dirt: Identity Theft

Reported by Mike Conneen
2/19/2007 – Reported by Mike Conneen

mconneen@fox21news.com

(Aired 02-19-07)

In the last ten years, the number of identity theft cases has grown exponentially. Financial crimes detectives have said part of the problem is people do not think twice when they are tossing out their trash.

Bruce Keeler has been working for U.S. Waste for a year and a half. He said you would not believe what some people throw away.

“I find all kinds of stuff especially like voided checks… you know you wonder why people do that with all their personal information on it,” he said.

Detective Chris Ward works in the financial crimes unit at the El Paso County Sheriff’s office. He said, “We’ve found in our cases, a person doesn’t know they’re a victim of crime until they receive a notice, saying Mister So-and-so, you owe us $50 for a check that you wrote.”

He said all it takes is a name and a birth date or social security number. He said, “Information is out there and it’s easier to steal.”

With help from U.S. Waste, and permission from homeowners, FOX21 collected three samples of garbage.

In the first sample, prescription paperwork was found. It held the patient’s name, the doctor’s name and phone number.

Detective Ward said a crook could simply call that patient, impersonating his pharmacy or doctor, and get even more information. He said, “Once they’ve gained the victim’s confidence, the victim gives them everything they need to commit their crime.”

In the second sample, a payment stub was torn into five pieces. Pieced back together, it revealed the employee’s name, salary information, and his social security number. “It’s going to be very easy to assume this man’s identity,” said Det. Ward.

The third sample contained bank receipts, carbon copies of checks and multiple credit card offers.

Just because it is junk mail, does not mean it is junk to a crook. “All they have to do is fill out their information, cross out the address and then mail that off,” said Det. Ward.

Detective Ward recommended investing in a shredder. If you do not and someone steals your identity, it could cost you.

In many cases, he said banks or credit card companies will reimburse victims of identity theft. However, it could take a lawyer and dozens of phone calls to the credit bureaus to clean your record.

Paper shredders run about $25 and up. They could save you thousands of dollars and several years of stress.

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