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Identity theft crimes continuing to escalate

Identify theft continues to pose a mounting law enforcement concern at locations across the nation and the state.

Thousands of Americans fall victim to the crimes and the Utah Attorney General's Office indicates that Carbon County residents are not immune to the escalating problem.

Identity thieves utilize various modes of operations, but tend to rely on several general tactics to unlawfully obtain the personal information of potential victims, points out the attorney general's office.

The common modes of operation the criminals follow to commit identity theft crimes include:

Stealing the identification cards, credit cards and bank cards of consumers.

Stealing an individual's mail, including account statements, pre-approved credit card offers and income or property tax information.

Buying the personal information of potential victims from sources like employees at stores, restaurants or hotels.

Downloading an unsuspecting target's personal information off the Internet.

After obtaining the information, the identity thieves frequently open new credit card accounts using the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of the victims.

When the subjects use the credit cards without paying the bills, the delinquent accounts are listed on the victims' credit reports.

Identity thieves also call a victim's credit card issuer and, by pretending to be the individual, change the mailing address on the account.

The subject then runs up charges on the credit card account, continues the attorney general's office.

Since the bills are being sent to the new address, the victim may not immediately realize there is a problem.

In addition, the criminal offenders open bank accounts using an individual's personal information, write bad checks and establish cellular phone service in the victim's name.

Becoming educated about the issue is the best way for Carbon County residents to minimize the danger of falling victim to identity fraud, emphasized the attorney general's office.

Local consumers can alleviate the risks of identity theft by:

•Never disclosing Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers before determining exactly how the requester plans on using the information.

•Never giving Social Security numbers, a mother's maiden name or account information to strangers who contact consumers at random, especially by phone, Internet or mail.

•Always collecting mail as soon as possible after delivery. Consumers should never allow mail to build up while they are out of town, stresses the attorney general's office.

•Monitoring the arrival of monthly bills and promptly contacting creditors when statements are late.

•Storing all personal information, including account statements, receipts and forms, in a secure location. When the items are no longer needed, consumers should shred or tear before throwing written documents into the trash.

•Leaving Social Security cards in a safe place. Residents should not disclose Social Security numbers unless absolutely necessary.

•Carrying only the necessary identification and credit cards. Consumers should leave unneeded identification and credit cards in a secure location.

One of the best ways to minimize the risk of identity theft is to request a copy of credit reports annually, points out the attorney general's office. Consumers should check the credit reports for inaccuracies or inconsistencies.

To file an identify theft complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Carbon County residents may contact the agency's telephone hotline toll-free at 1-877-438-4338. Consumers may submit written complaints to Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.

Citizens may report suspected fraud incidents to the U.S. Social Security Administration by calling the federal agency toll-free at 1-800-269-0271 or writing to SSA Fraud Hotline, PO Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235.

To report suspected mail tampering incidents, residents may contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service office at 801-974-2271.

Consumers may call the Internal Revenue Service toll-free at 1-800-829-0433 with income tax fraud and identity theft concerns.

In addition, Carbon County residents may contact the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's Utah field at 801-579-1440 with identity theft complaint.

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