You can never to too safe from ID theft

The number of identity thefts in America is rising rapidly, even becoming more frequent than physical theft.

"You're now 25 times more likely to have your identity stolen than to have your car stolen," said Todd Davis, co-owner of LifeLock, an identity-protection company based in Tempe, Ariz.

The Seattle area has not been immune to this increase in crime: In 2006, the Seattle Police Department's Fraud Unit received 1,363 reports classified as identity theft.

Some of the more common ways that identity theft can occur are mail theft, car prowling, burglary or purse or wallet theft. Even some business employees who steal or sell client information can lead to identity theft, according to Seattle Detective Karen Haverkate in an e-mail.


Moss Patashnik, vice president of the North Seattle-based Seattle Jewish Community School and a current LifeLock client, suffered a case of identity theft in the beginning of 2006.

"I found out about it from my credit-card company when someone from the fraud department called," he said. "They told me that someone just made a $10,000 purchase of computer equipment in New Jersey."

After calling the credit-card company, Patashnik learned that the Secret Service was working with the company to track down the thieves, and that it was necessary to leave the account open.

However, checking his account days later, Patashnik discovered a $5,000 transfer from one account to another and knew that he had to change his information. "I wound up changing everything - shut down all four accounts and got new IDs and PIN numbers," he explained.

While there is a vast number of cases that are reported to the Seattle Police, according to Haverkate, many are not referred to the detectives to investigate them "because the vast majority of cases do not have an identifiable suspect."

In instances where a suspect or group of suspects is identified, the Seattle Police Fraud Unit will work to bring charges against them, sometimes collaborating with federal agencies.


In starting his company LifeLock, Davis hoped to eliminate the trouble of shutting down accounts and changing information before it starts.

While Davis has not been a victim of identity theft himself, LifeLock co-owner Robert Maynard spent seven days in jail in 1998, after someone opened fraudulent accounts under his name in Las Vegas.

LifeLock begins by contacting credit reporting companies such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to place fraud alerts on an individual's account. If a new account is opened, the individual is contacted by telephone for approval.

Davis is so confident his service works that he doesn't hesitate to give out his Social Security number on the website (

"We have over 100,000 clients, and from those we've only had three instances of identity theft," he said.


With the growing risk of becoming a ID-theft victim, Haverkate offers a number of tips to ensure the security of your personal information:

❚ Regularly obtain a copy of your credit report;

❚ Shred all items containing your personal information;

❚ Do not carry your Social Security number with you;

❚ Be certain of the security of any website you use for on-line purchasing; and

❚ Have a good firewall and anti-spyware program on your computer.

Even though he is covered by LifeLock, Patashnik still checks his credit accounts much more frequently than in the past. "I think the most diligent way to beat [ID thieves] is to continue to check your accounts," he said.

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