By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - Scores of law enforcement personnel converged on Fort Hood Thursday to learn how criminals can hijack a person's personal information in the Internet-age criminal epidemic known as identity theft.
Representatives from the FBI-Law Enforcement Executive Development Association (FBI-LEEDA) and identity theft protection company LifeLock said they aimed to educate officers to recognize identity theft when they see it.
FBI-LEEDA is a nonprofit corporation not associated with the FBI, according to the company's website. LifeLock is a for-profit company that tries to protect consumers from identity theft for a monthly fee.
Killeen Mayor Timothy Hancock praised law enforcement personnel for their positive impact on the community. He presented a proclamation declaring this week as Identity Theft Awareness Week in Killeen.
"Each day, you'd be surprised how many calls I get from citizens looking for help," Hancock said.
He recommended victims report any abuse to police. Without a report, little can be done to prosecute identity thieves.
More than 11 million people were victims of identity theft last year. In Texas, more than 98,000 had their identities stolen, the third highest among all states.
LifeLock vice president of communications Mike Prusinski said tracking down identity thieves can be a rough road for criminal investigators.
The simple theft of a Social Security number or credit card can easily reach into other states and countries, Prusinski said.
While many people are concerned about protecting their credit cards, only 18 percent of ID theft cases relates to stolen credit cards. More commonly, thieves will obtain a Social Security number. With that in hand, a criminal can easily apply for a loan, open a cell phone account or create a credit card fraudulently.
Protection from identity theft requires being extra careful with personal information.
The National Crime Prevention Council recommends shredding all paperwork containing personal information. Thieves sometimes search trash bins for paperwork with identifying information.
Prusinski recommended not using peer-to-peer software to download music or movies. Those computer programs often give network access to all documents on a computer hard drive, including tax returns.
LifeLock CEO Todd Davis is known for broadcasting his Social Security number to illustrate how confident he is in the company's services. However, those ads have since disappeared after Davis' ID was stolen at least 13 times since the ads appeared, according to a report in Wired Magazine.
The company has also been fined $12 million for deceptive advertising by the Federal Trade Commission.
Contact Philip Jankowski at email@example.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.
Protect yourself from identity theft
Don't put outgoing bills in curbside mailboxes. Use USPS mailboxes.
Don't write your account number on the outside of envelopes containing bill payments.
Make sure nobody is standing behind you when using an ATM machine.
Don't give out your credit card on the Internet unless it is an encrypted or secure website.
Examine your credit reports from the three major credit agencies at least once a year.
Shred all financial statements, billing statements and pre-approved credit card offers.
Minimize the number of ID cards you carry. Do not carry your Social Security card.
Commit all passwords to memory. Do not write them down.
Source: National Crime Prevention Council