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Identity Theft

Identity Theft

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as your Social Security number or your credit card or bank account number, to commit theft.

Is Identity Theft A Crime In Hawaii?

Yes. In Hawaii, identity theft is a felony. Hawaii's identity theft laws:
Under Hawaii law, a person commits the offense of Identity Theft if he/she transmits the personal information of another person by any oral statement, any written statement, or any statement conveyed by any electronic means with the intent to commit the offense of theft.

A person who obtains property (or who attempts to obtain property) the value of which exceeds $20,000 faces a mandatory prison term of up to 20 years. If the value of the property exceeds $300, the person may face a prison term of up to 10 years. And if the value of the property is less than $300, the person may face a prison term of up to 5 years.

Prosecuting Identity Theft in Hawaii

The Department of the Prosecuting Attorney is committed to protecting the public from identity thieves. That commitment is reflected in the aggressive approach that the department takes toward prosecuting identity thieves. By taking a “zero tolerance” approach, the department has been able to achieve positive results in court. Those results are reflected in the following cases:
  • Akop Changryan and Vardan Kagramanyan were sentenced to 20 years in prison for installing skimming devices inside gas pumps at four local gas stations, thereby compromising the accounts of 196 people. They used the compromised account information to make counterfeit bank cards, and then used those cards to withdraw more than $200,000 from the victims’ accounts.

  • Pyong “Peter” Pak was the leader of an identity theft ring that victimized 256 people and caused more than $250,000 in losses. Pak was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Six co-conspirators received 10-year prison sentences.

  • Susan Shaw was sentenced to 20 years in prison for taking out 60 credit cards in the names of 23 people, and then using those cards to cause more than $150,000 in losses.

  • Audrey Collins was sentenced to 20 years in prison for fraudulently acquiring loans while posing as six different victims, thereby causing more than $50,000 in losses.

  • Henry Calucag was sentenced to 20 years in prison for creating a fraudulent warranty deed and then forging the victim’s signature to steal the victim’s land.

  • Tunji Oluwale was sentenced to 20 years in prison for using counterfeit credit cards to purchase high-end merchandise while posing as six different victims.

  • Jonathan Saatkamp was sentenced to 15 years in prison for breaking into houses and cars, stealing blank checks, and then using forged checks and fake identification cards to steal thousands of dollars from three local banks.

  • Neil Driskill was sentenced to 15 years in prison for operating a mobile identity theft factory where he made fake identification cards and counterfeit checks, and then used them to steal thousands of dollars from numerous local banks.

  • Daniel Alfeiri was sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing the personal information of fellow military service members and then using that information to falsely obtain credit cards in their names. He later used the cards to obtain money and merchandise – all while the victims were deployed in Iraq.

  • Sonny Jenson was sentenced to 10 years in prison for impersonating a deceased person in order to facilitate a check-kiting scheme against a local bank, resulting in thousands of dollars in losses.
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How Do Identity Thieves Steal Your Personal Information?

Here are a just a few examples of how skilled identity thieves obtain access to your personal information:

Mail theft – They may steal your mail, including bank and credit card statements, “pre-approved” credit card offers, blank checks, tax information, and personal checks they find in your mail box.

Theft of your personal property – They may steal your wallet or purse. They may also steal personal information they find in your car, home, or place of business.

Dumpster diving – They may rummage through your trash, the trash of businesses or public trash containers.

Shoulder surfing – They may look over your shoulder as you enter your PIN number at an ATM.

Data theft – They may access your personal or work computer, or the computer network of a business or government agency, and then steal your personal information.

Phishing – They may send you an e-mail message that appears to be coming from a legitimate business, such as a financial institution. The e-mail will claim that there is a problem with your account and that it will be closed unless you immediately respond by providing them with your personal information.

Skimming – Employees at restaurants or retail establishments may “skim” or “swipe” your credit card through a small handheld electronic device known as a “skimmer.” The “skimmer” will record account information from the magnetic strip on the back of your card. Or, identity thieves may attach “overlay” skimming devices to ATMs or connect skimming devices to the internal components of a gasoline pump. Your account information is captured by the device and then either sold or re-encoded onto blank or counterfeit cards, which are then used to withdraw money from your account or to conduct fraudulent transactions.
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What Do Identity Thieves Do With Your Personal Information?

Once identity thieves obtain your personal information, they will probably use it to further a fraud scheme. For example:

Fake ID card – They may obtain false identification, such as a driver’s license, issued in your name but with their picture on it.

Forgery – They may forge your signature on checks, credit card slips, and bank withdrawal slips. They may even use a fake identification card with your identifying information to complete the transaction.

Bank account – They may open a new bank account in your name and write bad checks, or they may steal funds directly from your account using a stolen, counterfeit, or “skimmed” bank card.

Credit card – They may open a new credit card account in your name. When they use the card and don’t pay the bill, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. They may also use a stolen, counterfeit, or “skimmed” credit card to put fraudulent charges on your account.

Change of address – They may call your bank or credit card issuer and change the billing address on your account. It may be some time before you realize that charges are being run up on your account. The may also submit a “change of address” request to the post office and have your mail re-directed to delay your discovery of the scheme.

Phone service – They may open up a cellular phone plan in your name.

Loan – They may take out a loan in your name.

VIN number – They may use you vehicle identification number (VIN) to register a stolen vehicle.

Police contacts – They may give the police your personal information during a traffic stop or during an arrest. When they fail to show up in court, a warrant for arrest is issued in your name.
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How Can You Tell If You Are A Victim of Identity Theft?

You stop receiving bills, financial statements, or other mail.

Your bills or financial statements contain unexplained or unauthorized charges or withdrawals.

You receive a credit card for which you did not apply.

You are denied credit for no apparent reason.

You receive calls from debt collectors or companies about merchandise or services that you did not buy.
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How Can You Reduce the Risk of Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft?

Mail – Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery. Deposit outgoing mail in a post office collection box. Do not place outgoing mail in an unsecured residential mailbox. If you are going to be out of town, either place a hold on your mail at the post office or arrange for a trusted friend or neighbor to pick it up for you. Notify your creditors in advance of any change of address. Before you discard mail that contains your personal information, shred it. Keep track of when your bills are received. If you notice that your bills are arriving late or not at all, contac your creditors immediately. Similarly, if you applied for a new credit card, or your old card expired and your new card hasn’t arrived in a timely manner, contact the credit card issuer immediately. Missing mail is a red flag for identity theft.

Personal information that you carry – Empty your wallet or purse of unnecessary credit and debit cards, your Social Security card, blank checks, usernames and passwords, PIN numbers, your mother’s maiden name, and any other unnecessary personal identifying information.

Personal information in your vehicle – Do not store personal information in your vehicle, especially mail, blank checks, and financial information.

Personal information in your home – Do not leave personal information (such as your passport, Social Security card, and financial records) lying in obvious places around your home. In the event of a break-in, it should be difficult for a burglar to locate your sensitive personal information. If possible, store your personal information in a secured, fireproof safe that is difficult to find and even harder to access or haul away.

Discarding personal information – Shred all documents containing personal information before throwing them in the garbage. Cut up expired credit cards, and shred pre-approved credit card applications.

Receipts – Never leave receipts at bank machines, in trash receptacles, or with retail merchants. Save all ATM and credit and debit card receipts and match them against your monthly statements.

Mobile devices – If you carry a mobile device, such as a cellular phone or a tablet or laptop computer and that device stores your personal information or could be used to access your personal information, block access to that device by using a strong PIN number or password. Do not use obvious or easily-guessed passwords. If possible, enable encryption and “remote wipe” features, and consider installing a “lost device” tracking application. Do not remain “signed in” to applications that can access your personal information, especially financial, e-mail, and online shopping-related applications; always “sign out” from those applications.

Telephone calls – NEVER give out your personal information over the telephone UNLESS you initiate the telephone call AND you trust the person or entity that you are calling. If someone else initiates the contact by calling you, DO NOT give that person your personal information, even if the person sounds official, or claims to be calling from a reputable company or government agency.

Internet communications – The rule is the same: NEVER give out your personal information over the Internet UNLESS you initiate the contact AND you trust the person or entity that you are dealing with. If someone else initiates the contact by sending you an e-mail, DO NOT give that person your personal information, even if the e-mail looks official, or the sender claims to be associated with a reputable company or government agency. In 2011, the Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that the No. 1 Internet-related crime involved the suspect posing as the FBI to induce the victim to disclose personal information.

Internet safety – Block access to your computer and wireless network by using a strong password. Do not write down, or store written passwords near your computer. Consider installing encryption software and password-protecting sensitive files stored on your computer. Do not open e-mails from strangers, or click on suspicious e-mail attachments or hyperlinks. Update your anti-virus software and anti-spyware protection software on a regular basis. Make sure that you have a firewall software application installed on your computer and that it is “enabled.” Never send personal information over the Internet unless the website is secured AND the recipient is a person or organization that you fully trust.

Credit reports – Order your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year. (www.annualcreditreport.com). Review your credit report for suspicious activity or discrepancies.

Stop unsolicited pre-approved credit card applications – Stop mail solicitations of pre-approved credit card applications by removing your name from the credit bureau marking lists. You can do this at www.optoutprescreen.com or by calling (888) 5OP-TOUT. OptOutPrescreen is the official reporting industry website to accept and process requests from consumers to opt-in or opt-out of offers for credit or insurance.

Stop unsolicited phone calls and mail from telemarketers – The National Do Not Call Registry gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing phone calls at home. Most telemarketers should not call your telephone number once it has been on the Registry for 31 days. If they do, you can file a complaint at https://www.donotcall.gov/default.aspx. To place your home or cellular telephone number on the Registry for free, visit the foregoing website or call (888) 382-1222.

If you want to remove your name from telemarketing telephone lists, visit the Direct Marketing Association website at www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offtelephone/.

If you want to remove your name from telemarketing mailing lists, visit the Direct Marketing Association website at www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist/
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What Do You Do If You Become A Victim of Identity Theft?

Immediately file a report with all three major credit bureaus. Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus and report that your identity has been stolen. Ask that a “fraud alert” be placed in your file. Also, consider whether to place a “credit freeze” in your file.

Trans Union:
800-916-8800

www.transunion.com
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton CA 92834-6790


Experian:
888-397-3742

www.experian.com
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013-1017


Equifax:
800-685-1111

www.equifax.com
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

File a police report. After filing a fraud alert with the credit bureaus, contact the police and file a police report – even if your financial institution covers your loss or reimburses you for your loss. Ask the police for a copy of your report. Your bank or credit card issuer may require that you show them a copy of the report to verify your claim. In addition, they may require that you complete a “Fraud Affidavit”.

Contact your creditors. Close accounts that have been compromised or opened in your name without your permission.

Obtain a free copy of your credit report. Examine it carefully and report any unauthorized accounts or activity.

If your bank checks were stolen, close your checking account and obtain new account numbers. Consider whether you should place a “stop payment” on any outstanding checks. Also, ask the bank to report the theft to ChexSystems, a consumer reporting agency that compiles reports on checking accounts. You can also put a security alert on your file by contacting ChexSystems at https://www.consumerdebit.com/consumerinfo/us/en/chexsystems/index.htm. If your ATM or debit card was lost or stolen, cancel the card and obtain a new one.

If you mail was stolen or your mail was-redirected, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. You can also file a report at https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/.

If your social security card was lost or stolen, file a report with the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 800-269-0271 or by visiting their website at http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/48/~/reporting-social-security-fraud.

If your passport was lost or stolen, contact the U.S. State Department by visiting their website at http://travel.state.gov/passport/forms/forms_847.html or by visiting their local field office.

If a tax return was fraudulently filed in your name, contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at 800-829-0433. In addition, if you are having trouble filing your return, contact the IRS Taxpayer Advocates Office at 877-777-4778.

If a fraudulent student loan was taken out in your name, contact the school or program that issued the loan. You can also report the fraudulent loan to the U.S. Department of Education, which can be reached by phone at 800-MIS-USED, or by mail at the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington DC 20202-1510 or online at https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/report-fraud/index.asp.

If you driver’s license number or car’s VIN number was misused, report the matter to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by calling 877-438-4338 or by visiting their website at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft.

For more information about questions you may have, please contact:

The Identity Theft Resource Center or call 858-693-7935;
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse or call 619-298-3396; or
The Federal Trade Commission.


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