Pinellas County Sheriff’s Detective Korey Diener discusses trends in identity theft Sept. 26 during a Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce Learn at Lunch event at the Dolphin Beach Resort.
ST. PETE BEACH – Imagine yourself at the Trop or maybe Raymond James Stadium among a large crowd of people.
You decide to get up from your seat and purchase an adult beverage. But in the process, you bump into a person holding a small radio frequency identification (RFID) scanner. Within seconds this person has stolen your identity from credit and debit cards, your driver’s license information and others pieces of identification you may have in your wallet.
That’s how quickly it can happen, said Pinellas County Sheriff’s Detective Korey Diener, who investigates this type of crime as a member of the sheriff’s Economic Crime Unit.
“RFID came on the scene a couple of years ago and it’s really been great for the fraudsters,” he said. “If you have someone with a reader, they can walk past you at the mall or a sporting event, and they can obtain all of your information out of your wallet. It’ll give them expiration date, card number, your name and obviously they’re on their way.”
Generally, the culprit needs to be within about 10 inches of a victim’s wallet. The good news is there are deflectors available on the market for wallets and women’s purses.
“But I’ll tell you this,” said Diener. “A piece of aluminum foil works for me because the reader can’t communicate with the card.”
Just what is identity theft? In its basic form, it’s the theft of a person’s name, date of birth and Social Security number. Diener said much of it could be prevented through education, such as the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce Learn at Lunch gathering he addressed Sept. 26 at the Dolphin Beach Resort.
“It’s really about educating people because information is worth a fortune. Information is just invaluable,” he said. “You can use it on the Internet, overseas and you can use it to obtain (fake) identities. It’s just the hottest thing that’s been going on for the last five years.”
Interestingly, Diener said many of the former drug dealers he arrested in his earlier days as a narcotics detective are now involved in identity theft. But the majority of the activity takes place by people overseas – usually in Bulgaria, Russia or China.
For example, the Chinese are very good at installing malware on our computer browsers, designing Android apps and installing third-party vendor issues.
Therein lies the problem for law enforcement.
Once they discover where an illegal computer IP address leads them, it’s usually outside their jurisdiction or it leads to a public computer at a library or a college.
But that’s just part of the problem. The other aspect lies with the victims.
“In my honest opinion it’s because we, as Americans, are lazy,” Diener said. “We are in a society today of cashless transactions. Who wants to go out and write a check any more? Everything is done via the Internet, smart phones or iPads.”
For that reason, ID theft is on the increase. The latest figures say one in every six persons have been a victim and the FBI estimates one in four will be a victim within five years.
Diener suggests avoiding suspicious emails, never give out any information about yourself over the telephone, shared personal records at home and don’t be afraid to call the sheriff’s office with any questions.
“When you think it’s a stupid phone call, those are the best ones for us,” said Diener. “Don’t hesitate to give us a call.”