By simply reporting identity theft when it happens, local residents have an opportunity to help reveal a pattern that could help investigators solve identity theft crimes.
Several Bishop residents have apparently been struck by identity thieves in the last week who were able to use either their debit or credit card numbers on purchases made out of the area.
But because these thefts and fraud attempts have not been reported to the Bishop Police Department, authorities are unable to establish a link between the victims that could help in tracking down the perpetrators.
Despite the number of claims of alleged identity theft, Bishop Police Department Public Information Officer Katie Coffman said the department has not seen a noticeable increase in reports about identity or credit card theft. Because many people are able to prove to their banks that they did not spend the money and have it refunded, they often decline to report the thefts to law enforcement.
Even if a bank is willing to refund a residents money, Coffman said it is important to file a police report because it could help local law enforcement figure out who is stealing the information, how they’re doing it and where.
There are several techniques thieves use to steal credit and debit card information, from the long-feared “rub technique,” where a cashier simply copies the credit card number, expiration date and security code before returning it, to digital means that allow the thieves to snatch important information off the “There is nothing we can do unless you file a police report,” Coffman said. “I’ve heard the public talking about it, looking for a common area where it’s occurring, but until there’s a pattern established there’s nothing we can do.”
Coffman explained that when a resident files a report about credit card theft, and provides officers with bank statements and other account information, investigators are able to track where the card was used before the card number was stolen. If investigators find that all, or even most of the victims used their card at a certain store, officers can then begin looking into the method of the theft.
“Identity theft is really different” from other crimes, Coffman said. “It’s hard to tell where it’s coming from.”
To protect themselves from identity theft, Coffman said residents should consider changing their debit card PIN and passwords to bank accounts often and use longer passwords.
Coffman said the idea of using a debit card as credit to protect one’s bank account is a myth. She said cashiers who take a debit card as credit are supposed to check the customer’s ID, and take a signature for verification. She said ID’s are rarely checked, and signatures aren’t always verified. When a resident runs their card as a debit, they are required to enter their secret PIN. Coffman said neither use of a card is safer than the other.
Residents are also encouraged to monitor their bank and credit card accounts to ensure that there is no unwanted activity and get a credit report at least once a year.
For those shopping online, residents are encouraged to check the site look for the Trust-e symbol or a Better Business Bureau online seal, which indicate the seller has been independently audited and deemed trustworthy.
Residents should also make sure any online credit card charges are handled through a secure site or in an encrypted mode. Residents can tell if a website is secure if the address begins with https instead of the usual http.
If a resident does have their credit or debit card information stolen and used, it is important that they file a report with local law enforcement, “we just might be able to pin point where it may be happening in town,” Coffman said.