When consumers are the victim of car burglaries and vandalism, the increased risk of identity theft may not immediately come to mind. Most car thieves are generally looking for money, valuables and other small items consumers may keep in their vehicles. But new reports highlight that car burglaries resulting in identity theft are becoming a dangerous trend and law enforcement officers advise citizens to refrain from keeping sensitive information in their cars.
According to the Orlando Sentinel newspapers, more thieves are now breaking into vehicles to steal credit cards, Social Security numbers, driver's licenses, passports and even W-2 tax forms. To date, more than 142 local residents have been victimized, the newspaper said.
Police officers in the area say that thieves are taking advantage of targets who may leave their purse in their vehicle for a moment to run into the grocery store or drop their children off at school.
"They're looking for the fastest, easiest opportunity," Lieutenant Jeff Stonebreaker of the Orange County Sheriff's Department told the newspaper. "If you harden yourself as a victim, they're just going to search for someone who's easier to get."
The police told the newspaper that they are seeing more cases of criminals changing the picture on a victim's driver license to make it resemble the thief so that they can immediately withdraw funds from an ATM, bank or credit union. Many have been successful in racking up thousands in debt in a matter of hours after the theft.
Consumers who have been victimized by the theft of personal information should immediately contact law enforcement and their financial institutions. Lower their risk of identity theft by carrying as little identifying personal information on them as possible. For example, when going to the grocery store only carry a check, cash or debit card, rather than the entire wallet.
Credit monitoring services are a powerful tool, notifying consumers of alerts upon a change to their credit report, including new accounts opened under their name.