Let us begin with a definition of identity theft, as defined by the Arizona Revised Statutes, "A person commits the taking identity of another person if the person knowingly takes the identity of another and their intent is to cause monetary loss to the person or entity, whether or not the person actually suffers an economic loss as a result of the offense."
This crime has been identified as a growing problem in our community. We are seeing a considerable increase in the opportunist who obtains identifying personal information by unlawful means and begins the process of criminal activity. The majority of the cases the Payson Police Department has seen recently in our community are credit card fraud cases. These cases often occur when the opportunity criminal observes wallets or purses unsecured in vehicles or otherwise uncontrolled. The criminal then commits the theft and obtains the credit cards issued in another person's name to begin their crime spree. They often use these credit cards in our community businesses creating additional victims.
Some opportunistic criminals conduct their crime by diverting mail or "Dumpster diving." We have identified cases in our community where the commission of a burglary occurred and the intent of the theft was to gain personalized information, which the criminal later uses to assume an individual's identity. National statistics indicate that one out of five people will be a victim of identity theft, and therefore it is important to minimize our risk. It is important that we place our personal identifying information in a safe place in our homes. If possible, use safes or something that makes it more difficult for a potential burglar to access that information.
We must also take a "need to know" approach about giving out personal information to others. We must pay attention to billing cycles and open bills or banking information immediately and review these items to ensure that there are not suspicious charges or transfers of money. Another recommendation is to watch your credit card during transactions. Often at establishments when persons are paying by credit card, the clerk will take the credit card and go to another location to conduct the transaction. This is a perfect opportunity for the credit card information to be retained by a potential criminal.
If you do become an unfortunate victim of identity theft, the most important thing for you to begin the process is to notify the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction in which it occurred, and then start notifying credit card companies. If the individuals have obtained banking information, it is important that the accounts be closed immediately and your bank be notified to cancel any PINs or passwords.
For further information or to report identity theft, contact the Payson Police Department at (928) 474-5177.