Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Criminals Reveal Their Secrets About Identity Theft

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Revealing Criminal Secrets - Identity Theft

Your home, your mailbox, your wallet. All targets for identity thieves going after your hard earned cash. The Target-12 Investigators go behind bars, revealing criminal secrets so you can protect yourself.

It's the fastest growing crime in the nation - identity theft. Tonight, we go inside the criminal mind, discovering how these thieves commit their crimes and target their victims.

Last year alone, a quarter million people were victims of identity theft - And that number continues to rise. The convicted criminals we interviewed for this report say that's because it's just "too easy” to get your personal information and do some serious damage.

Someone like Kama Myers is serving jail time for cashing in on innocent people by taking what she calls, "the easy road."

Kama Myers: "If you can get $500 stealing a credit card or $500 robbing a bank, you're gonna take somebody's credit card".

It's the name of the "I-D theft" game, and it's a game Myers almost always won by circling quiet streets, in almost any neighborhood - looking for plastic "gold". And when she got one?

Kama Myers:
"Ha ha . . . It's like payday; it's like I scored."

According to our exclusive Target-12 Poll surveying more than 400 Rhode islanders, of "all" the crimes you can possibly fear, only 2-percent of you are afraid of identity theft. But on the "inside," Target-12 uncovers "why" you should be more concerned.

Kama Myers: "'Cause it's so easy. 'Cause it's just very easy." Myers made her money by confiscating credit cards from mailboxes and she took her work seriously.

Kama Myers: "If I set aside six hours to go through mailboxes than I did it for six hours. If I came across two in the first two hours, then I still did the other four hours."

House after house - Myers would collect the cards by rifling through mailboxes. Sometimes, even being "eyed" by curious neighbors who rarely questioned what she was up to.

Kama Myers: "If I’m getting in my car next door and I see you at a mailbox, and you say something to me, I’ll just leave".

Kama is just one of the inmates revealing her criminal secrets to the Target-12 Investigators. We sent out hundreds of surveys to convicted criminals, asking them about their crimes.

Questions like: "What is your secret for stealing someone's identity?"

With blunt answers like: "There is no secret. It's pretty easy."

That answer came from convicted criminal Richard Sypek, who's doing almost two-years for cashing checks - payroll checks mistakenly delivered to his home that, for awhile, just sat there.
Richard Sypek: "One day, I just, bing, a little light bulb came up and I knew how I could use them."

Sypek says it was so easy, because no one checked any identification. And while "he" spent thousands, Kama Myers was doing the same, and she wasn't just stealing from mailboxes, but right out of customer’s wallets in places like the supermarket.

Kama Myers: "People keep it in the same place. You keep your credit cards in your wallet. Everybody does it and especially when you're shopping you keep your wallet on top of your purse."

And according to the pros, what you can do to protect yourself is just as easy.

Kama Myers: "People think it'll never happen to me so they don't protect themselves. They don't shred their mail, they don't put locks on their mailboxes, they think: 'it's not gonna happen in my neighborhood.'"

The Target-12 Investigators discover a number of ways you can protect yourself:
  • Write the words "See ID." on the back of all your credit cards.

  • You should also place protective passwords on all credit and bank accounts - and even phone accounts.

  • Finally, keep your Social Security number private.
Criminals will tell you it's the key to almost anything personal that can leave you out of luck and out of cash.

Richard Sypek: "I had a really nice Christmas, but I’m sure the family I took from didn't".

Remorse from the pros who mastered a criminal craft that claims five more victims every fifteen seconds.

Richard Sypek: "I regret everything I did, believe that".

Kama Myers: "I feel really bad, which is why I chose to do this. Because if I can help somebody protect themselves then I feel like this wasn't wasted time".

Kama Myers says she also stole from family members, which is why you need to be aware of everyone near your personal information.

A few additional tips:

  • Lock mailbox

  • Separate credit cards

  • Never carry Social Security Card

Lock your mailbox because the mailman only needs to slip mail inside. Also, avoid keeping "all" your credit cards together in your wallet . . . and never carry your Social Security Card.

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Behavior Management Expert and Maximizing Your Potential Mentor™ Etienne A. Gibbs is a life-observing author, engaging talk show host, humorous speaker, and successful trainer who teaches small business owners, managers, and employees how to speak, think, and perform in ways that will help them shine. In the end, they maximize their critical thinking, speaking, and management skills.

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