Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Identity theft pamphlets and information materials are available at the Steamboat Springs Police Department. Online resources can be found on the Colorado Attorney General's Web site at www.ago.state.co...., and at the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection at www.ftc.gov/bcp.
Steamboat Springs Identity theft is on the rise in Steamboat Springs, with more residents than ever being victimized last year. Adding to the problem is that catching those responsible is becoming increasingly difficult, police officials said.
The Steamboat Springs Police Department handled 17 cases of identity theft in 2007, as well as 42 fraud cases, many of which involved credit cards, Det. Jerry Stabile said.
Police Det. Dave Kleiber said many of those cases will never be solved because the perpetrators use sophisticated methods. They're also often overseas, he said.
Cases the police department are unable to investigate are turned over to the Federal Trade Commission.
Stabile's three most recent identity theft victims have been elderly couples whose bank accounts have been breached using a free vacation scam, he said.
"It's just people being very trusting. We're living in an age now where you need to be on alert to people trying to make a fast buck," Kleiber said. "We want people to be very skeptical."
Several years ago, the police department handled many low-level cases of identity theft committed by individuals connected to the methamphetamine trade, who were applying for credit cards using information acquired by Dumpster diving or stealing mail, Stabile said.
The police department's recent cases all involve victims who have been targeted via phone or e-mail, Kleiber said.
Police also are receiving an increasing number of reports of suspected illegal immigrants using false identities to secure employment.
"Because of the increase of illegal immigrants, we're seeing a lot more use of other people's social security numbers and false identification information," Kleiber said.
The police department gets calls from people across the country who have discovered that someone has falsely given their identity to an employer in Steamboat Springs, Kleiber said.
"Whoever is actually assigned to that social security number gets their tax debt," he said.
Police urged residents to safeguard their personal information and be active in monitoring their credit report and bank statements for fraudulent activity, especially because small transactions often go unnoticed.
"If you're active with your credit cards, it's easy to sneak a few things by," Stabile said.