Do Identity Thieves Belong in a Stop Theft Class?

by Mike Miller August 15, 2014

As the educational director for online anti-theft class, I am often asked if our course pertains to identity thieves. My answer is – of course it does.

But the study did not define "identity theft", so there is no way of knowing if respondents meant their personal information was just lost or stolen, if they experienced credit card fraud as a result, or if new accounts were opened in their name. Becky Frost, senior education manager for Experian's ProtectMyID, said they might add language that addresses that issue in next year's survey. As reported in www.consumerreports.org.

The results did show that many travelers failed to take some simple precautions to protect themselves before and during their trips. For example, less than half alerted their debit or credit card providers or bank before departing. Just one in three used smart phone password protection or hotel safes to protect their valuables. And more than a quarter (27 percent) brought their Social Security cards on their trip.

The study also found that consumers feel most vulnerable to identity fraud in Internet cafes and restaurants rather than hotels, where 24 percent of victims reported having their "identity stolen."

We’ve never been a fan of identity protection services such as Lifelock, Credit Sesame, or Experian's ProtectMyId, because you can more effectively protect yourself for little or no cost. Taking these steps can help reduce your risk of identity theft.

• Sign up for free online banking and mobile apps to monitor your checking and credit accounts daily.

• Password-protect smart phones and other electronic devices. Skip the easy 4-digit PIN and instead create a strong password that contains a string of at least 8 characters that include some combination of letters, numbers, and special characters that don't form recognizable words or phrases. Even with the iPhone 5 S's Touch ID fingerprint reader enabled, you should still use a strong passcode. If your phone provides an option that will erase your personal data after several unsuccessful tries to enter a passcode, activate it.

• Alert your bank and credit card issuer of your travel plans.

• Avoid using public Wi-Fi when possible.

• Choose to pay with a credit card versus debit card; credit cards often offer better fraud protection. Federal regulations limit your liability, usually to $50 per account, and even that is often waived by card issuers. Debit cards are more complicated. If you don’t report unauthorized charges within 60 days of a statement, you could potentially lose everything in your account.

• Bank at a branch. ATMs in high-traffic tourist areas may put you at risk for skimming. When entering a PIN, cover the keypad with your hand.

• Avoid traveling with unnecessary documents, such as Social Security cards, or extra credit cards.

• Delay social media posts that indicate you’re out of town; wait until you’re back from your trip to share your travel adventures.

• Check your statements frequently when you return from your trip and report any suspicious charges quickly.

• Get free annual credit reports from each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—by going to annualcreditreport.com. Stagger your requests every four months from one bureau to the next so you can monitor your accounts all year long.

• You’re also entitled to a free credit report from each bureau after you place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit file—which you should do every 90 days if you’ve been notified of a security breach, your wallet has been stolen, or you detect other red flags of ID theft. The alerts prompt lenders to more carefully verify applicants using your ID.

Protect Your Identity- Mandate Thieves to Anti-theft Education

by Mike Miller August 10, 2014

There is no doubt that identity theft is a very real problem across the globe. Identity theft can not only cause tremendous stress, but also serious financial heartache.

Has this ever happened to you? The last thing you want to deal with while you're on vacation is a lost or stolen credit card, driver’s license, or smart phone. Luckily there are precautions you can take to minimize your risk of theft, or, if it does happen, that it will lead to identity theft. As reported in www.consumerreports.org.

Here is an interesting statistic – 85% of cases termed "identity theft" involve the fraudulent use of an existing account, such as a credit card or bank account, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. But consumer-protection laws and zero-liability policies limit the actual cost of that crime for most consumers to zero. The threat that is much more serious involves a thief assuming your identity and opening new accounts in your name.

Here is another interesting statistic. According to a recent survey, an identity protection service, found that 18 percent of the survey's 1,000 respondents said they had "sensitive information" lost or stolen while traveling (credit or debit cards, smart phones, drivers licenses, or passports), and 9% said they were the victims of identity theft.

Stolen Cars Used to Run Across the Border

by Mike Miller August 5, 2014

California may be the car theft capital of the country, but there is no city or state immune from the danger to your vehicle. There is no doubt that border cities, by that I mean cities along the border with Mexico are more vulnerable to car theft as thieves steal the vehicles and get them across the border.

Did you know that back in June 22 people were in the Albuquerque area and throughout New Mexico during the takedown of a major international auto theft and drug trafficking ring with ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel? The ring is believed to have stolen hundreds of luxury cars – including Hummers – from car lots in Arizona, Utah, Oklahoma and New Mexico. As reported in www.arizonadailyindependent.com.

Drugs and Car Theft – A Symbiotic Relationship

The investigation began when officials learned about an organized scheme to steal luxury vehicles off car lots in Albuquerque. The vehicles were allegedly illegally shipped to Mexico in exchange for drugs that were then trafficked throughout New Mexico.

Those arrested face charges for their roles in a large scale car theft scheme that shipped stolen luxury vehicles from New Mexico to Mexico in exchange for methamphetamine and heroin.

During the takedown, agents and officers seized seven firearms, including a sawed-off shotgun and a stolen weapon, as well as various amounts of methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.

During the course of the investigation, authorities have recovered about 34 luxury vehicles with an estimated value of $2 million.

I am not 100% certain that an online anti-theft class will keep these hoodlums from stealing again, but I do believe that mandatory classes at stoptheftclass.com would keep some thieves from ever pilfering in the first place.

Would Theft Prevention Class Have Saved Bras Stolen from Victoria's Secret?

by Mike Miller July 31, 2014

I would like to think that I am one of those “glass is half-full” kind of people. I say that perhaps in defense of myself, who has led not such an angelic life. I do believe that some people deserve a second chance – perhaps even a third opportunity to right themselves.

Then, every once in a while, you learn about someone who appears to be rotten to the core. Following is a story of just such a person – a real career criminal. Her name is Eva Salazar, and in her 49 years on the planet has been in trouble more often than not. As reported in www.mysanantonio.com.

Salazar was one of five women arrested last summer on charges they operated an international theft ring based in San Antonio, Texas. Guilty as sin, of course she tried to get off. When that didn’t work, she agreed to a plea and was sentenced to 10 years in prison — the maximum allowed under a plea agreement. At least the country is safe for the next decade.

Salazar was also ordered to pay $111,222 in restitution to Victoria's Secret for merchandise that was recovered from a storage unit but couldn't be resold by the retailer because of the presence of rat droppings.

Salazar was arrested alongside Emily Garcia, Cassandra Arenas, Piedad Perz and Christian Salazar after San Antonio police conducted a month-long investigation of the group involving high-end retailers such as Williams-Sonoma, Coach, Dooney & Bourke, Vera Bradley and Abercrombie & Fitch. They would enter the stores with large bags, which they'd fill with merchandise before fleeing. We all pay the price for this type of theft.

Salazar, whose arrest record dating to 1985 includes 13 misdemeanor convictions and eight felony convictions, pleaded guilty to the third-degree felony charge.

Ever the despicable person, despite pleading guilty, she told authorities that she deserved probation “because I didn't have nothing to do with this.”

Seriously, do you think a stop theft class would help her? I think she belongs out of society for the remainder of her days.

Car Thieves Need Online Theft Courses

by Mike Miller July 26, 2014

It is not every day you catch someone stealing your car. What would you do if you saw someone driving away in your prized vehicle? Here is a great story about this very scenario.

Police are looking for a suspect in a car theft who took off in a hail of gunfire from the victim, who hit the front and rear driver's side tires on his own car. As reported in www.whio.com.

The victim came out of his residence to see his dark green 1997 Buick LeSabre being stolen. In his defense, first he pleaded with the driver, the suspect, to stop. The windows were up. He was yelling at him and the thief continued pulling out of the parking lot. That's when the victim fired five to 10 times at his own car, hitting two of the tires.

The car thief, shirtless fled on the freeway where he was pursued and later lost by a witness.

How do you feel about a victim firing shots at his own car? Keep in mind that the victim was lawfully carrying his weapon and fortunately, no one was hit by the gunfire.

Do you think mandatory stop theft classes for all public school children would have prevented this situation? I would like to think that theft education, combined with strong parenting and good morals would keep our world a better place to live in.

Stop Theft Course May Protect Your Vehicle this Summer

by Mike Miller July 21, 2014

I am not sure if you are aware of it, but July is the month where the most cars are stolen in the United States. When I was younger we used a Club or Gorilla Grip to deter thieves. Nowadays there are more sophisticated anti-theft devices. So what can you do not to lose thousands of dollars?

Did you know that your auto insurance doesn't cover theft unless you have purchased comprehensive coverage? If you have comprehensive and your car is stolen, you'll still have to pay your deductible. Insurance should pay to replace your vehicle at fair market value, or for repairs and towing if the vehicle is recovered. As reported in www.foxbusiness.com.

Maybe the following will not only keep your car safe but your bank account fuller.

Four Steps to Keeping Your Car

  1. This is simple and total common-sense: remove your keys, roll up the windows, lock the doors and park in a well-lighted area.

  2. Use a visible or audible device warning that your car is protected. That could include a steering-wheel lock, VIN etching or an audible alarm that you set when you leave the vehicle.

  3. Use an immobilizing device that keeps thieves from starting the car. Those could include smart keys with a chip embedded, kill switches, fuse cut-offs and fuel-pump disablers.

  4. I cannot recommend this highly enough – you might want to consider purchasing a device that help track and recover a stolen car, which may include LoJack or onboard telematics systems such as OnStar. They give you your money back if your car gets stolen and it is not recovered.

I would also like to think that stop theft courses would keep thieves from ever entertaining the idea of stealing your vehicle, but that might be naive. What are your thoughts?

Protect Your Vehicle This Summer and Promote Anti- Theft Class

by Mike Miller July 16, 2014

Have you ever had your car stolen? Do you know anyone who has had their vehicle boosted? The odds are you have. Car theft, especially along the states and cities that border our good friend to the south – Mexico, is quite common.

I would like to make sure you are aware that we are currently in National Vehicle Theft Protection Month! As reported in www.marketwatch.com.

The International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI) and LoJack Corporation are partnering to promote the annual National Vehicle Theft Protection Month. Throughout July, the top month of the year for vehicle theft, IAATI and LoJack are partnering to educate vehicle owners and raise public awareness of the issues and criminal behaviors around auto theft.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lojack, it is a small monitoring device placed discretely inside your vehicle that monitors its location through a microchip.

The summer months of July and August are the top months of the year for vehicle theft, which continues to be a significant problem throughout the United States. Despite the common misconception that theft is often a result of teenage joyriders, auto theft cases often involve professional thieves using sophisticated technology and techniques.

During July and August – the top months for auto theft – vehicle owners must embrace their shared responsibility in protecting their vehicles. Here are a few tidbits of information about stolen vehicles:

  1. Many of today's car thieves are seasoned criminals whose main occupation is to make a profit from stealing vehicles.

  2. Professional car thieves are often linked to large international crime rings that are more than happy to drive or export their new car outside of the U.S. and sell them to unsuspecting customers

  3. Many vehicles stolen by professional thieves are taken to chop shops , where they are dismantled and then sold off as parts. Stolen auto parts account for millions of dollars a year in profits for criminals.

  4. Criminals also look for an older vehicle that can be stolen and stripped for its parts, which can then be sold – piece by piece – to any local salvage yard or online.

We will continue to look at vehicle theft in subsequent blogs at stoptheftclass.com.

Stop Theft Class will Keep A/C Going

by Mike Miller June 29, 2014

Have you ever heard of Freon being stolen? Most people probably do not even know what Freon is. However, if you live in a warm climate, and have air conditioning in your car – beware!

Have you turned on your air conditioning yet only to find it's not working? It's a problem several people in Nevada have experienced. As reported in www.kolotv.com.

One air conditioning repair man has noticed a disturbing trend. Clients are calling because their unit isn't putting out cold air, and now he knows just what to look for. The caps are missing and there will be some oil at the port and the system's blowing hot air – a perfect indicator that the client has been the victim of Freon theft.

I will not say how it is done as I do not want to abet any would-be thieves. The robbers have been targeting vacant homes as well as neighborhoods where homes are less clustered. And they are hitting anywhere they can.

The Reno Police Department says they had one report last year where thieves took parts from and abandoned superstore in North Reno. They say air conditioning parts are often stolen, but Saba is noticing the trend grow.

"We've definitely seen more of the theft occur in the past 2 to 3 years."

He has also noticed the thieves are targeting older units because they contain a very specific item; R-22.

It's the common refrigerant used in units older than 2010, but the use of it is being phased out because it has been deemed bad for the environment.

The government has required the use of R-22 be banned by 2020 but by next year, any units sold must use the more environmentally friendly 410A Freon. Saba says the regulations are making the R-22 Freon more valuable.

"Right now they're reducing the production, so supply and demand has gone through the roof and it is much more expensive than it use to be."

Which may be why thieves are stealing the Freon, and why it's going to cost you to replace it.

"It's going for about $50 a pound today," Saba said. "An average system if it's empty, is going to need about 4 to 8 pounds. It's going to cost you a couple hundred [dollars] to replace what's been taken."

Saba says to ward off thieves, you can build an enclosure around your unit, but he also recommends installing locking caps.

"They require a key to take them off so [it's] a little bit tougher to get into your system."

The Freon can be collected and resold on the black market, but that requires the use of special equipment. Saba says it's more likely the thieves are kids looking for a high. They can easily collect the Freon in a bag and huff it, but it's often fatal from the very first sniff. The Freon blocks air from getting into your lungs and will cause suffocation.

Car Thief Should Be Mandated to Theft Program

by Mike Miller June 24, 2014

It is not every day you catch someone stealing your car. What would you do if you saw someone driving away in your prized vehicle? Here is a great story about this very scenario.

Police are looking for a suspect in a car theft who took off in a hail of gunfire from the victim, who hit the front and rear driver's side tires on his own car.

The victim came out of his residence to see his dark green 1997 Buick LeSabre being stolen. In his defense, first he pleaded with the driver, the suspect, to stop. The windows were up. He was yelling at him and the thief continued pulling out of the parking lot. That's when the victim fired 5 to 10 times at his own car, hitting two of the tires.

The car thief, shirtless fled on the freeway where he was pursued and later lost by a witness.

How do you feel about a victim firing shots at his own car? Keep in mind that the victim was lawfully carrying his weapon and fortunately, no one was hit by the gunfire.

Do you think mandatory theft prevention classes for all public school children would have prevented this situation? I would like to think that theft education, combined with strong parenting and good morals would keep our world a better place to live in.

Newspaper Thieves Need Online Anti-Theft Class

by Mike Miller June 19, 2014

The newspaper industry is having a difficult enough time staying afloat without thieves steal .50 newspapers. Why would anyone steal a newspaper? The answer to that question is pretty simple – because they can.

Many newspaper vending machines have easy-to-reach openings in the back. It is easy to reach in and grab a freebie. As reported in courier-tribune.com.

Not surprisingly, the number of places customers can buy inside stores is going up as the number of outdoor newspaper racks goes down.

A recent study found that there was a 31 percent theft rate of papers in outdoor racks. Is it just me, or is that an astounding figure? Could it be that almost one in three papers in outdoor racks get pilfered?

The phenomenon is part of a nationwide trend, according to West, fueled in part by coupon clippers and a popular television show called “Extreme Couponing.”

The problem is getting worse. In years past someone might pay for a paper and take one or two extra. Now they pay for one and take five or six — or more.

Many papers around the country are considering not selling the Sunday paper in racks because of these thefts. How do you feel about stealing about newspapers for the coupons?

I have to admit that I too am a coupon clipper. In fact, I can easily justify the cost of subscribing to my local paper as a great deal because the coupons I clip more than pay for the paper itself.

I would hope that this trend does not persist and that newspapers thieves who are caught be mandated to an online stoptheft class.

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