|7/20/2007 – Adrienne Galena thought she could punch her personal identification number into the ATM, grab $40 and continue on her way.
But instead of cash, the 26-year-old Alameda resident received a shock: Her checking account was overdrawn because someone — somehow, somewhere — had stolen her personal information and racked up nearly $1,000 in credit card charges.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Galena said Monday after speaking on the phone with her bank. “I don’t think I even knew what identity theft was until now.”
Just about every single day a person contacts Alameda police, saying a thief has used his or her name and other information to order credit cards and steal cash and merchandise, including fraudulently purchasing stuff online.
The cases have prompted police to urge people to take steps to avoid becoming a victim.
According to investigators, some identity thieves simply fill out a credit application using another person’s information, then get a card directly from the credit agency.
Some thieves get a victim’s information by stealing mail or through Dumpster diving, sifting through old receipts and other paperwork for bank account and Social Security numbers.
Other thieves are more sophisticated, such as the ones who recently secured PINs from dozens of victims by tinkering with the keypads at checkout lines at local Albertsons supermarkets, including the store on Marina Village Parkway.
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Alameda police Lt. Art Fuentes recommends people take these
steps to protect their personal information:
Never give out your Social Security number unless you’re sure it’s for a legitimate purpose.
Shred old credit card receipts and unwanted credit card applications.
If making a purchase online, make sure the site has a firewall to protect your credit information.
Do not leave bills outside your residence for your mail carrier to pick up. Identity thieves have been known to chemically “wash” checks, removing the ink so that they can then make the checks payable to themselves.
Regularly review the charges on your bank statement.
Immediately contact your bank and credit card companies if someone has stolen your wallet or purse.
Along with reminding people to protect their personal information, Alameda police say they are continuing to investigate identity theft cases.
The recent victims include a 50-year-old Bay Farm Island resident.
The man told police Tuesday that a collection agency contacted him over an outstanding debt that he knew nothing about.
He also said he believes it may stem from when he lost his wallet 12 years ago and someone racked up $10,000 in charges. After it happened, the man said he signed an affidavit reporting the fraud.
He told police that he thought the case was over — until now.
Reach Peter Hegarty at firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-748-1654.
For more information
For more information on identity theft, contact the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center at http://www.idtheftcenter.org. Or call 858-693-7935.