Every single day, someone in Colorado becomes the victim of identity theft. You hear about it all the time. But why are the crooks so successful?
We conducted an experiment to see just what kind of information we could find on two complete strangers. More in this Call For Action special report, “Gone In 48 Hours.”
It used to be, if you wanted information about someone, you headed to the library or to the courthouse to check public records. These days, all you need is a computer to surf the Internet.
So we set out to learn what we could about two strangers by turning to the worldwide web. What we learned shocked and surprised us.
First, we went to downtown Colorado Springs to find two subjects. Two people readily gave us their names and dates of birth, as well as permission to do some digging. "I have a feeling you'll learn more than I even think you will," said “Donna,” our first subject. We asked her if she had any fear and trepidation about allowing us to delve into her personal information. "No, no, nothing to worry about. But you know, it's just one of those things where you have to be careful of your information."
We're not revealing the identity of the man who agreed to take part in our experiment because what we learned about him amazed us. In just about 15 minutes of searching, we discovered he had a criminal record. In fact, he had pleaded guilty to a felony charge in another state. He's now working and living in Colorado and is on probation, and trying to start over. He later said he wasn't surprised by what we learned.
"Now we're getting into financial information, that's when it gets uncomfortable." As for Donna, A simple Google search turned up a lot of personal information. We discovered her husband's name and found they had adopted four girls. We also learned that Donna is an adoption consultant.
Other sites we visited turned up her Colorado driver's license number as well as her old driver's license number from North Carolina. Plus, we found a listing of her former addresses.
We learned who holds the mortgage on her current home and the amount, as well as the kind of cars she and her husband own. We also found the first five digits of her Social Security Number and know that it was issued in New Jersey between 1966 and 1967."
This was Donna’s reaction to that: "But that's personal, and that's what makes me nervous."
In some cases, your whole life history seems to be on the Internet. Detective John Amundson is with the Colorado Springs Police Department. He heads up the Forgery and Check Fraud unit. He also spends a lot of time on the web. Only he's tracking identity thieves.
Amundson says, ironically, police and other government agencies are forbidden to look for certain information without a search warrant. But for enterprising crooks, the sky's the limit. "There are programs out there where I can find out who your neighbors are, where you've lived for the last 10 or 15 years, Social Security Numbers, who you're employed by, how much money do you make."
Amundson says there are even sites that list the Social Security Numbers of people who have died. He says it's up to families to notify the credit bureaus when their loved ones pass away so their identities are protected.
Amundson suggests you never leave outgoing mail in mailboxes. In Colorado Springs, it's the #1 way identity thieves do their dirty work.
Since you can't do much about the amount of personal information on the web, credit bureaus suggest checking your credit once a year.
Free Identity Theft Brochure
Call For Action has a free identity theft brochure that is loaded with tips. If you'd like one, simply send us a self addressed, stamped envelope to:
KKTV Identity Theft Brochure
3100 N. Nevada
Colorado Springs, CO 80907