Archive for Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Identity theft cases rise across state, nation

April 10, 2002

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, according to statistics. It effects just about everyone through rate increases, credit hikes or insurance fees.

Identity theft is when someone takes an individual's personal information as their own and uses it for their gain, damaging the victim's credit rating.

Kansans aren't immune from identity theft, with state law enforcement agencies reporting an increase in cases this year.

Within a recent two-week period, the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Department has started investigations into two cases of identity theft.

Sheriff's Det. Ron Ewart said in one case, the personal information of a Leavenworth County resident was obtained on the Internet and was used for the purchase of an expensive vehicle.

The suspect also used the information for several purchases worth approximately $1,600, he said.

Ewart said the case is an ongoing investigation, but there are jurisdictional questions because the individual who stole the information was not from Leavenworth County.

In addition to creating jurisdictional troubles for authorities, identity theft creates even more problems for the victims of the crimes.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, identity theft victims spend an average of 175 hours and $808 out-of-pocket expenses to clear their names.

The Federal Trade Commission declared identity theft as the fastest growing crime in the country today, increasing 30 to 40 percent each year for the past several years.

Most recently, a 16-year-old Milwaukee boy was charged in connection with stealing credit card information from 200 people over the Internet and using the information to purchase $1,600 worth of items.

Identity theft crimes can occur in a variety of ways, including someone going through a person's mail or trash for pre-approved credit card offers, credit card receipts or other personal information, stealing a purse or wallet, or posing as a solicitor to gain information like a Social Security number.

Police officials said identity thefts could happen in numerous other ways as well.

In mid-March, 12 car burglaries were reported to the Basehor Police Department from various residences in the city.

The vehicles were all unlocked, police said.

"Basically, what floored me was that there wasn't a single break-in," Basehor Officer Dick Boultinghouse said. "There wasn't a single car locked."

Although police believe the thieves were after compact disc players, items such as credit cards, checks and a Social Security card were taken as well.

"They can go to town," Boultinghouse said. "That stuff can get sold to someone and they can work up a person who is a carbon copy of you."

"I think the main moral is credit cards and Social Security numbers are a bad thing for someone else to get a hold of," Ewart said.

Kyle Smith, a spokesman for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, said identity theft crimes are on the rise in Kansas as well.

"There is definitely an increase from what I have been hearing from law enforcement across the state," Smith said.

Although the crimes are on the rise, Smith said a lack of funding keeps the KBI from policing the crimes as thoroughly as they should be.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.