Mt. Vernon Register-News


February 9, 2006

Detective: Identity theft costs time as well as money


MT. VERNON — There’s a new breed of thieves these days, and they’re not interested in your worldly possessions. They’re interested in your personal information.

Ray Gilbert, a Mt. Vernon Police Department detective who heads the new MVPD Fraud Alert Web site, says people need to be vigilantly aware of potential identity theft; even small bits of information which thieves glean can mean money out of your pocket.

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.

According to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, 11,000 Illinoisans were victimized by identity theft in 2005. And while no cost estimates are available on how much money identity theft has cost the state’s residents, it certainly costs people time.

“Identity-theft victims are faced with an overwhelming recovery process that can consume 60 or more hours of their time,” Madigan said.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, credit-card fraud and phone or utilities fraud accounted for almost 50 percent of the complaints; identity theft in general accounted for 43 percent of all Illinois consumer complaints received by the FTC in 2005.

Investigating fraud and identity theft is also costing time at the local police department, Gilbert said.

“These days, a tremendous amount of work is going into investigating crimes that deal with fraud,” Gilbert said. “It takes a lot of time.”

How do thieves

get the information?

There are numerous ways personal information can be stolen, according to the FTC:

n They get information from businesses or other institutions by stealing records while on the job, bribing an employee who has access to records, hacking into computers or conning employees for information.

n They may steal your mail, including bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, new checks and tax information.

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