DELPHOS — Identity theft occurs when a criminal obtains and uses someone else’s personal information — credit card numbers, bank account numbers, insurance information or Social Security number — to purchase goods or services fraudulently. Identity theft is a state and federal crime.

According to Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2014 Identity Fraud Study, there was one new identity fraud victim every two seconds in the US in 2013 and the number of victims climbed to 13.1 million.

Delphos Police Chief Kyle Fittro reported that somebody stealing a plastic financial instrument — credit or debit card — and making purchases is pretty common with three or four reports each month.

“Most of our bad guys are not sophisticated; they steal cards, make purchases and then we find them,” Fittro explained. “Conversely, there are jurisdictional boundaries and little we can do if someone out of state or out of the country gets a hold of account information and makes purchases online.”

Fittro explained thieves who steal checks or credit cards are committing multiple crimes.

“If it’s a credit card used, the crimes include theft and misuse,” Fittro detailed. “If they steal and use a check, the crimes are theft, forgery and uttering [passing a check].”

First Federal’s Community Banking Center Manager Cindy Metzger said identity theft is a huge problem and there are frequent notifications of new scams targeting banking customers.

An example of a phishing scam is where a customer is contacted by email where a criminal posing as a representative for an account tells the victim their information was compromised and requests confirmation of their personal information.

“That’s a prime example of how it all gets started,” Metzger said. “These criminals use fear as a tactic to get information.”

Metzger described a vishing scam (automated phone calls from an organization trying to obtain financial or other confidential information) where one elderly individual received a call and was told she would be arrested at work if she did not provide the information they requested.

“It’s everywhere and not just in the big cities,” Metzger added. “Criminals seem to always be a step ahead.”

Metzger cautions customers who receive suspicious emails. She said if the recipient hovers over the hyper link provided within the email which will direct them to another website, they should check the information on the link before clicking on it. If the website address looks like it is not associated with the institution — maybe it looks odd or it’s an address out of the country — do not click on the link.

She said financial institutions will never ask for or claim they need a customer to verify personal or account information in an email and they would never claim a customer’s account may be closed if they fail to confirm personal identification within an email.

“Go paperless. We encourage folks to do as much as they can digitally,” Metzger said. “It’s important to protect all financial information on computers by using updated anti-virus and anti-spyware programs to detect and remove viruses and spyware that steal personal information.”

She also stressed the importance of people using hard to guess passwords with a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers as characters for all accounts, whether financial, email or to log onto a computer.

“Don’t take identity for granted,” Metzger said adamantly. “Be proactive. A $20 cross-cutting shredder for financial documents and any other documentation sought after by thieves, will add security.”

This is a list of items identity thieves seek from the trash: expired credit and debit cards; credit and debit card receipts; unused credit card checks; credit card statements; pre-approved credit card offers and applications; checking and savings account statements, canceled checks; investment and pension account statements; paycheck stubs; wage and earnings statements; phone and utility bills; retail invoices and statements; tax returns and statements; medical bills; insurance policy and claim information; and expired identification documents (driver’s licenses and passports).

Some interesting demographic statistics on identity theft:
• Children are targeted 35 times more often than adults;
• People with social media profiles — Facebook, Twitter etc. — are also easy targets due to the personal information they put on their profiles;
• Seven percent of smartphone owners are impacted since 62 percent of them do not use a password on their home screen and 32 percent save log-in information on their devices;
• Nearly 3 million of the 12 million people affected by identity theft each year are deceased people;
• College students with clean credit scores are ideal targets;
• Victims of data breaches are 9.5 times more likely to be a victim of identity theft;
• Households with incomes of $150,000 or more (7.7 percent) are more likely to be victimized; and
• Thieves can steal credit and debit card information through a technology called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), which uses radio waves. The ‘digital pickpocket’ brushes a device called a skimmer close to someone’s purse or wallet and steals the information from the cards inside. The information is overlaid onto any card with a magnetic strip and used to make purchases. People can protect themselves by purchasing RFID blocking devices which are wallets, purses, or other containers that prevent radio frequencies from penetrating and reaching the cards.

For more information on identity theft and fraud visit