Identity theft often sees a spike during the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean every theft is as subtle as a phishing scam. In fact, several ID-crimes across the U.S. this year have involved auto burglary.
Fraudster makes car payments on Mercedes bought in victim’s name
According to the LA Times, a man on a business trip to Korea received a notification from Mercedes Financial Services that someone purchased a 2017 Mercedes Benz E300W in his name.
After calling the dealership, the store’s manager informed the man that his personal identification had been used to make the purchase. Fortunately, despite the fact that 6 million people are behind on their car payments, the identity thief had been making payments on the vehicle and left a trail behind.
Unfortunately, despite the inmate population increasing by 500% in the last 40 years, not every victim of identity theft is lucky enough to find a trail of financial bread crumbs. Other thieves, like those arrested in California two weeks ago, leave behind broken car windows.
Couple arrested for auto burglary and identity theft
On Thursday, November 21, the Palo Alto Police Department arrested Desmond Warren Silas, 20, and Serena Kimberly Robinson, 22. The couple was arrested for suspicion of auto burglary and child endangerment felonies.
Officers said they were stationed outside a parking lot, which had multiple reports of car burglaries. The officers spotted a car slowly circling the lot, which eventually parked. Police say Silas broke the window of a red Toyota Rav 4 and pulled a bag from inside the car.
When officers identified themselves and told Silas to stop, Silas ran toward a getaway vehicle. However, officers say the getaway vehicle fled and left without him.
Other officers stopped the getaway vehicle nearby. While searching the vehicle, police say they found Robinson’s children, a two-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl, in the car unsecured. Police say the children were close to a loaded, semi-automatic pistol that had been reported lost out of Milpitas.
The Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children Services were contacted; CPS protects over 3 million children. Robinson’s children were released to a relative.
On top of charges for auto burglary and child endangerment, Silas and Robinson were arrested for possessing burglary tools and possessing stolen property misdemeanors. Robinson was additionally arrested on suspicion of felony charges of conspiracy to commit an auto burglary and identity theft.
How can I protect myself from identity theft?
Based on the stories above, it’s safe to say that putting a password on your phone and avoiding public WiFi isn’t enough to keep your personal information safe this holiday season. While avoiding phishing scams and fake debt collectors are still important, here are a few other ways you can keep your identity safe and secure:
- Don’t keep valuables in your car. Once you park, it’s crucial that you bring any of your valuables inside with you. This includes your bag, wallet, and any documents that contain personal information.
- Monitor your purchases. Identity theft often spikes during the holidays because shoppers are making more purchases than usual. You’re less likely to monitor your credit card purchases and bank statements because you’re busy. But the holidays are one of the most important times of the year to monitor your purchases because you’re making so many. Remember that identity theft can completely ruin your credit score. Even invoice factors check the credit-worthiness of their billed customers before advancing 90% of the invoice amount. That being said, monitor your purchases like a hawk.
- Use wipe utility programs. During the holidays, many family members like to give their loved ones new phones, computers, tablets, and other tech. But before you get rid of your old technology, be sure to use wipe utility programs to completely delete any personal information that could be lingering on the device.
It’s important to keep your personal information secure, especially during the holidays when identity theft is on the rise. By following the tips above and keeping your vehicle secure, you can reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.