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Identity Theft

Identity theft has become one of the fastest growing white collar crimes in our community.  It is also one of the most difficult crimes to detect, often spanning many jurisdictions.  Fortunately, there are steps citizens can take to prevent such activity.

Identity theft is defined as a person fraudulently using another’s identity for some type of gain, such as credit, loan, lease or other financial resource.  So how is the crime committed? It all starts with a criminal acquiring your personal information we all use everyday, such as your name, date of birth, social security number, phone number, address, driver’s license number, bank account number, credit card number, etc.

The key for stopping identity theft has become prevention.  Here are tips you can use

  • Shred or destroy all mailings you receive with your personal information on it.  It is not uncommon for thieves to look through trash in search of information to use.
  • Do not give out personal information over to the phone unless you know who you are dealing with.  Most reputable companies will not contact you by phone or internet asking for credit card numbers, social security numbers and other personal information.
  • Do give out or write your social security number on any document unless absolutely necessary.  When asked, do not be afraid to find why a vendor needs it or if can be omitted on documents.
  • Instead of using the unsecured mailbox in front of your residence to send mail, take it to the post office or a designated drop box.  Outgoing mail is a popular and easily accessible resource for identity thieves.  
  • Before dealing with an unknown company, check with the Better Business Bureau.  For reputable companies, seek referrals from friends or family.
  • Immediately review credit card and bank statements as soon as you receive them.  Look for unusual or suspicious activity.
  • When ordering new checks, have them sent to your local financial institution rather than having them delivered to your home mailbox where they may sit unsecured for hours.
  • Keep all credit card and ATM receipts secured on your person rather than leaving them behind at the business, throwing them away in a public trash can or inside the merchandise bag.
  • Keep a limited number of credit cards and personal information in your wallet or purse in case it is stolen.  Also, make a photocopy of these items and keep it in secured location at home.  This will make it easier to report those items accurately if they are stolen.  
  • Request a copy of your credit report annually from the three credit bureaus listed on the links at the bottom of this page.
  • If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, report the activity immediately to your local law enforcement agency, credit bureaus, financial institutions and credit card companies.

Utilize these important links to assist you in preventing and reporting identity theft

Nebraska Attorney General’s Office  1-800-727-6432
U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Trade Commission
Better Business Bureau
Equifax Credit Bureau 1-800-625-6285
Experian Credit Bureau  1-888-397-3742
TransUnion Credit Bureau 1-800-680-7289



Crime Prevention Tactics

Limit Your Online Profile Information.

No matter the website, social networking, dating, or a personal homepage, do not share too much personal information. Stranger’s can use information such as your full name, where you work, the name of your school, or even your school mascot to identify you. Parents, monitor your teens’ online profiles and educate them on the dangers of sharing too much online.

Call-in Suspicious Activity.

Your instincts are usually correct. If something doesn’t seem right in your neighborhood or your school, it probably isn’t. Reporting suspicious activities might help the Sheriff’s Office identify a suspect or a crime trend. For activities in progress, call 911. 

Reconsider Placing Outgoing Mail in Your Home Mailbox.

Take it to a drop box or the post office. Identity thieves often cruise neighborhoods looking for incoming and outgoing mail in mailboxes. Checks can be “washed” and used to steal your identity or money. Also, when ordering new checks, have them delivered to your financial institution. 

Your Stuff May Not Always Be Safe in Your Driveway or Garage.

All too often, deputies respond to homes in nice, quiet residential areas where items have been stolen from an unlocked car or an open garage. It only takes seconds to access these areas and steal valuables: bikes, golf clubs, laptops and iPods. Most of these opportunity crimes can be prevented by keeping garages closed and cars locked. And if you leave your keys in your car — even in your own driveway or garage — you could easily lose your car too. 

Refrain From Storing Any Valuables Under Your Vehicle’s Seat.

It’s always a good idea to conceal valuables you may have in your car. But there are criminals who target areas like fitness centers and shopping centers, watching from the parking lot as people take pains to hide their belongings in the car before going inside. If you can, keep valuables in the trunk or take them with you when you leave your vehicle. 

Lock the Doors and Windows, Even When You’re Home.

Burglars don’t often think strategically about how to access your home; they often take the path of least resistance. If your doors or windows are unlocked and they can easily get inside, they will. If they can’t, they’ll move on to another house. Burglars don’t like well lit areas and motion detector lights. And remember, if a locked car in your driveway has your home’s garage door opener in it, burglars are just one step away from entering. 

Limit Divulging Your Account Information.

Do not give your credit card or bank information to anyone contacting you via e-mail or phone. Your own bank or card company will never contact you and ask you to provide account information. Once a year, run a credit check to be sure you haven’t become the victim of an identity thief.



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