Identity Theft Still a Threat

The Hurley Wealth Management Group sponsored an identity theft workshop on March 22 at Descanso Gardens.

"It is a way to educate people," said Nicole Hurley, team leader for the company.

This is not this first time the company has sponsored this type of workshop; they sponsored one last June. According to Hurley, the methods of identity theft are always changing and people need to be aware.

"They [those who perform ID theft] are always thinking of new ways to do it," Hurley said.

At last week's meeting U.S. Secret Service agent Clarence Jorif advised the audience members not to use their ATM cards for purchases. He said many people do not realize that the magnetic strip on the back their card contains personal information including the cardholder's name and telephone number.

He gave an example of a waiter at a restaurant who took a cards and, with the use of a portable "skimmer," took information from the ATM cards without leaving the table. The skimmer is a small device that can be held in the palm of a hand to record the personal information, and it can be used anywhere a credit card is used. Another recent use of a skimmer was at Los Angeles area gas stations. A skimmer had been attached to the pump; customers were not aware that as they swiped their card it was being recorded not only by the service station but also by the criminal's skimmer. All he had to do at the end of the day was remove it from the pump and download the personal information.

The main focus of the meeting was that criminals are getting smarter. Jorif said consumers must understand that much of their information is held on the back strip of all their credit cards, making them vulnerable to identity theft anytime their cards are used. Handing someone a credit card and looking away is no longer an option if they want to avoid ID theft.

Hurley said that this will probably be the last of these types of workshops for awhile. "We will not be having one next year because of the elections," she said. "The Secret Service will be a little too busy."

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