A recent spike in claims of identity theft in the suburbs of Chicago has prompted local police to warn residents about the dangers they face from these fraudsters.
According to a report in the St. Charles newspaper the Courier-News, the latest wave of identity thefts to hit the towns surrounding Chicago is taking place because consumers are being careless when they put out the trash. A spokesman from the St. Charles Police Department said there have been several cases of identity theft reported in the last two weeks alone as identity thieves root through garbage cans looking for personal information. This is because residents who put out the trash may not realize that documents like bank statements and credit card applications contain sensitive details related to their identity.
Police are advising residents of the area that anything from old receipts and billing statements to credit card applications, as well as medical and financial information that was sent through the mail should be shredded to prevent identity thieves from being able to steal their information.
Often, the report said, the stolen information can end up online and be sold to criminals looking to falsify their resident or work status, or, more frequently, open fraudulent credit card accounts.
"There is just so much information that you can get on someone without leaving your house," Kane County Sheriff's Office Lt. Pat Gengler told the paper. "You can sit on a computer and there is just all kinds of stuff out there where you might get somebody's Social Security number or an address."
Police also advised residents to report even lost or stolen wallets to both authorities and credit card companies, banks and their local Social Security office, the report said. Doing so will significantly lessen the risk that their identity is used for fraudulent means.
The report said that 24 incidents of identity theft have been reported in St. Charles so far this year, while police in the nearby town of Elgin has received 81 reports of the crime.
Consumers looking to further protect themselves from identity theft and the financial headaches that come with it may consider working with a credit monitoring service, which will alert them to any attempts to open a new account with their information, and possibly prevent such fraud.