A majority of identity theft cases on the Big Island involve $300 or less.
From January through June of this year, 189 of the 273 cases of identity theft reported to the Hawaii County Police Department were third-degree offenses.
Typically, identity theft in the third-degree deals with cases involving $300 or less, while second degree offenses involve cases of $300 or more and first-degree offenses involve $20,000 or more. All are felonies.
The numbers are steady in comparison to last year’s. In 2012, 339 out of the 476 cases of identity theft reported were third degree offenses.
Hawaii County Police Department Capt. Robert Wagner said the issue is “widespread.”
“Your identity is all over the place. Your identity is your name, social security number and date of birth. Someone could go to town with that information. That information is on driver’s licenses. There’s so many people who have it and it’s just out there,” he said.
Capt. Wagner said the first thing a person should do if they have reason to believe that they’ve been victims of identity theft is to file a police report.
“With filing the police report, what it allows you to do is get the records from businesses and put the businesses on alert,” he said. “It’s a way to say ‘Hey, I’m a victim of identity theft. I’m not responsible for these transactions. I made a police report, filed forms, and give me your records for the police.
“It’s a way of trying to clear up your credit because; otherwise, your credit will go to crap.”
Capt. Wagner said police also provide victims with a packet of information on identity theft recovery, which explains the benefits of requesting a fraud alert with one of the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, Transunion and Experian).
“That will put an alert on your credit for 90 days for free. The credit bureau will report to you if any unusual activity occurs regarding your credit. It will alert you and when you tell one credit bureau, they automatically inform the other ones,” he said.
After the 90 days, the individual has the option to continue the fraud alert for a monthly fee, he said.
There are other ways to protect your identity from theft including monitoring your bank account regularly, being cautious when distributing your social security number to businesses including your doctor’s office and even your bank because, according to Capt. Wagner, you can never be too safe.
“There is no way you can 100 percent protect yourself. That’s why you need a fraud alert,” he said. “We give our information out to all these people all the time, and you just trust them. Is that a good idea? Maybe not.”
Email Megan Moseley at firstname.lastname@example.org.