Experts describe ID theft ins, outs

February 25, 2010 at 6:37 pm Leave a comment

Law enforcement seminar speakers from Fla., Texas

Texas law enforcement officials described one-stop shops for fake IDs, and Florida investigators displayed palm-size scanners that can be used to steal credit card information.

Nearly 100 police officers from across south Louisiana on Wednesday heard about these and other concerns at a seminar on identity theft at the Lake Charles Civic Center.

John Brewer with the Harris County (Texas) District Attorney’s Office talked about issues just across the Sabine River that affect Southwest Louisiana. One of the Houston-area’s biggest issues is ID shops.

“These are mostly at flea markets, and you can get a fake license and Social Security card,” Brewer said.

A bigger issue is that most license and Social Security numbers are real, and people are finding random credit card accounts and leases showing up on their credit reports, Brewer said.

“We have college students from Louisiana and Texas, as well as illegal immigrants, coming to these ID shops,” Brewer said.

Another emerging trend in Houston is the use of dead people’s identities. Brewer said Texas amended its identity theft statutes to include the dead.

“It’s become more prevalent because the family members usually don’t notice the theft until six months or later after they have buried their loved one,” Brewer.

Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon said Louisiana’s identity theft law doesn’t include “deceased” in the language, and that he had mentioned the topic to local legislators.

Mike Prusinski with LifeLock said discussions across state lines are the most important aspect of the seminars, which are sponsored by LifeLock and the FBI’s Law Enforcement Executive Development Board.

“Depending on where you go in the country, not only do the terms for the crimes change, but the laws change,” Prusinski said.

Brewer said the Texas Legislature had to amend its identity theft laws to include parents who used their children’s identities to get credit cards and for household bills.

Wayne Ivey with the Florida Department of Investigation said consumers also need to be aware of who has their personal information.

“The most likely form of ID theft is ‘skimming,’ ” Ivey said. It refers to when someone steals credit card numbers with a portable scanner. He showed scanners that completely fit in the palm of a hand.

“Many restaurants now have wireless credit card machines that servers can bring to your table,” Ivey said. “But if they don’t, I encourage people to accompany the server to the computer.”

LifeLock and the FBI plan to hold 12 more seminars throughout the country this year.



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