Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna visited the Eastside recently to promote GUARD IT! Washington campaign to prevent identity theft.
McKenna, a Bellevue resident, told the story of a young woman who worked in his office and attended a community college. She was shocked to get a phone call saying she was behind on her payments — on a car she hadn’t purchased. She learned someone also had opened more than 30 credit card accounts in her name.
That’s how identity theft very often occurs, McKenna warned.
1. “It was an inside job, information taken out of her community college file.”
2. “The thief was a drug addict.”
3. “The thief shared her information with an identity theft ring to open new accounts because it takes longer for the victim to find out.”
He continued, “Identity theft starts, two-thirds of the time, when one of us loses control of our personal information. In one-third of cases, a trusted person or organization loses control of your information.”
Lost or stolen wallets are a major factor. Others are fraudulent e-mails from someone who is “phishing” for your information, mail theft and “dumpster diving” (someone looking through your trash for sensitive documents).
Laptop computers, taken out of cars, are another rich source of information, McKenna said. And identity theft can occur when security at an office, in a school or hospital — “any enterprise that maintains lots of your personal and sensitive data” — is breached.
The GUARD IT! Washington effort is “greatly about education, but also increasing law enforcement task forces” to crack down on identity thieves, McKenna said.
Explaining how he has also created a high-tech computer lab to see how spyware is being used to obtain information, he added, “The Internet is the Wild West, but there’s a new sheriff in town.”
And almost all investigations of such crimes begin with consumer tips, McKenna stated.