If you think you're doing everything you can to protect your identity from being stolen, you could still be an easy target for thieves looking for easy money.
"Everybody's a target. Once you charge something, you're up for grabs," said Detective Sgt. Gene Buonanno, of the Tarrytown Police Department. Identity thieves use increasingly sophisticated technologies and schemes, making the issue in Tarrytown alone a "full-time problem."
"There's not a week that goes by that we don't get some type of identity theft," Buonanno said.
Instances of identity theft for Tarrytown residents vary from 20 to 40 cases monthly and have increased since the onset of the recession. According to Buonanno, most cases go unsolved, but those who are caught face "high category" felony charges for forgery as well as "extremely high" bails.
Here are some types of identity theft that Tarrytown resident have experienced which may surprise you, along with some tips from Buonanno on how to safeguard your identity:
Thieves Could Steal Your Maiden Name
A Tarrytown woman who has been married for two years recently found out that there were nine bank accounts opened in California under her maiden name for a total of about $8,000.
Buonanno said that with long-distance cases like this, the police usually notify the FBI as well as California authorities.
Mortgage, Loan and Test-Drive Applications Can End Up in the Wrong Hands
Bank tellers and mortgage brokers are often solicited for help by identity thieves. By offering $100 to bank insiders, Buonanno explained, identity thieves can access mortgage and loan applications that are complete with social security numbers, birthdays, maiden names and job histories, everything needed to steal someone's identity.
"These are reputable banks. There are people on the inside," Buonanno said. He also noted that bank employees can easily access and withdraw money from dormant accounts, particularly from those of the deceased.
Buonanno also cited a case of a Tarrytown police officer whose identity was stolen after test-driving a car. The dealership had put a copy of the officer's license on file.
"They take it and put it in a folder. Anyone has accessibility to that," Buonanno explained. Shortly after the test-drive, a duplicate identity had been opened in the officer's name.
New Computers Can Pick Up Information on Your Passport and License
Advanced technologies, like computers that can pick up personal information stored in RFID chips in passports and drivers licenses, are making easy targets out of travelers.
Buonanno warns not to carry your passport with you regularly and to keep such documents in an inexpensive carrying pouch that blocks reception of your information. The pouches are much like those that come with your EZ-Pass.
How You Can Protect Yourself
Buonanno offered the following tips for protecting your identity:
- Don't carry too many forms of identification with you. It's not necessary to have multiple credit cards, your passport, and Social Security card in your wallet at all times.
- Don't write your pin number on the back of your debit card.
- Don't let people stand close to you when entering your pin number at the checkout.
- When traveling, carry your passport, license, and credit cards in a pouch that inhibits data interception.
- Use discretion when applying for loans and mortgages.
- Pay in cash whenever possible.