- Identity Fraud?
Did you answer Ocean’s Eleven, Robin Hood and Mary Samsonite like myself?
I suppose Mary Samsonite wasn’t identity fraud per se, but that’s how these words exist for millions of people around the world. They’re made to be almost theatrical…imaginary, but if you’ve ever been a victim to theft or identity fraud, you probably have a vastly different view on the topic and thus, here’s what Havlar really wants you to know.
For the most part, theft is a crime of opportunity. Thieves are looking for easy targets that represent the smallest chance of getting caught, so we need to understand how they operate.
Ocean’s Eleven was not only a good movie, but also accurate in that thieves often work in teams, men and women. They’re often well-dressed, well-spoken and will distract you long enough to have their partner(s) steal your valuables. They often target senior citizens and women, as they’re more trusting, less likely to get into a physical altercation if caught and carry handbags / purses which are easier to steal than wallets.
But where do they operate?
Popular Target Locations
1) Shopping Centers and Grocery Stores – Distraction thieves will target hand bags or purses that are open at the top, as flaps and zippers present a barrier and they’re more likely to move onto the next person. Engaging in conversation about random topics, fruits, product information or suggestions, they’ll have you turn your focus away only momentarily while their partner swoops in for your valuables. The interaction happens fast and before you even realize what happened, the thieves will be long gone.
2) Parking lots - Often faking illnesses, asking for direction or help looking for a lost child, their objective is to wait for you to get back to your car, put your valuables down and then distract you long enough to gain access to your unlocked, vulnerable vehicle. Happening quickly and preying on the deeds of good citizens, they’ll quickly steal your valuables – GPS, wallets, purses, cellphone, etc. and flee the scene before you realized what happened. Some will even go to the extreme of puncturing your tire and giving you a “helping hand” to gain access to your vehicle and thus the valuables inside.
3) Banks - A popular location for thieves to scout, watching inside for large withdrawals and transactions. Working as a team, one member will signal their partner(s) in the parking lot and wait for you to get back into your car and put your valuables down. At this point, a seemingly good natured citizen will tell you that you have dropped money in the parking lot, hoping you leave the vehicle in search. In this brief moment, their partner will root through your vehicle and quickly remove all accessible valuables before you return looking for the “lost money”.
4) At home – The objective is simple - gain access to your home and either recon valuables for later or steal valuables immediately. The approach to access your home can always vary depending on how many thieves are in on it. A seemingly harmless utility call to “check your pipes”, or a solo “I’ve lost a pet”. Once inside, they will engage in conversation to divert your attention long enough to take anything of value. Alternatively, if you’re not home at all, they will just look for points of entry and see if they can get inside by any other means.
It is a shame that thieves prey on good, law-abiding citizens and use their compassionate, well-natured humanity against them. You would never assume that a well-dressed, well-spoken male or female asking about bananas was just about to rob your purse in your shopping cart, but the sad reality is theft happens every day. The only way you can help prevent becoming a victim, is being aware of what to look for.
If you carry a handbag while shopping, it’s important to never let it out of your sight and ensure all flaps and zippers are closed. With theft being a crime of opportunity, having obstacles for the thief to overcome can help in ensuring they keep moving. It’s also important to not carry more than you need, which will reduce your vulnerability to identity fraud and the utter headache of replacing all your items. Do you REALLY need your social insurance?
If you’re travelling with a vehicle, always ensure your valuables are out of sight. An unattended purse or bag in the backseat is an open opportunity for a thief while you’re away. It’s important to ensure your car is locked, as it only takes moments to snatch and grab valuables. You may think it’s silly to lock your car as you return a shopping cart, but sometimes that’s only as long as it takes.
At home, are you expecting anyone? Usually a utility or service company will call ahead or schedule an appointment prior to showing up at your home. Even if you are expecting an appointment and have any doubts, ask for their name tag and confirm identity prior to giving access to your home. A door chain can also be used as a barrier between you and a potential thief to protect yourself and deter uninvited guests.
In general, be aware of your surroundings and valuables so you don’t make theft easy. Is a stranger being overly nice or trying to make you turn your focus?
We all want to believe the best in people, but bad apples do exist. Hopefully this small blog will be enough of a mental reminder that you’ll remain safe and not have to deal with the headache of theft and identity fraud
"Identity theft is NOT a joke Jim, millions of families suffer every year" - Dwight