South San Francisco – This high-tech digital age we live in provides us with so many conveniences, especially when traveling, communicating with friends and family or shopping. Yet Identity theft and scams of all kinds is a very real danger.
In fact as reported by South San Francisco Patch news, this past August an identity theft ring was caught on Gateway Boulevard at a hotel not far from the Bayshore Freeway and West Harris Ave. This is an area close to San Francisco Airport, less than a 25 minute drive south of the City of San Francisco.
One male and two females, ranging in ages from mid-20’s to late-30’s, had been using the hotel room as their center of operation. They were caught using one of the stolen credit cards they had along with many birth certificates, social security numbers and a portable credit-card reader machine. All three were arrested and booked into the San Mateo County Jail in Redwood City, thanks in part to one of the many victims alerting authorities that a credit card was stolen.
Sergeant Bruce McPhillips of the South San Francisco Police Department told this reporter, on assignment for the Peninsula Progress, the day after Labor Day, that he had no new developments in the case. But he did say briefly as spokesman for the Community Relations Division of the SSFPD, “people must be extra careful these days.”
To reiterate how “close to home” and wide-spread this type of crime is, The Huffington Post reported back in December of 2011, that 23 Northern California Lucky supermarkets were vulnerable to identity theft through their “self-checkout” machines.
Lucky supermarket officials first noticed the plot when routine maintenance was conducted at 19 locations. More than a dozen Lucky locations on that routine maintenance check were right here on the Peninsula. Locations as far as Santa Clara and including Lucky stores on Mission Street in Daly City and Edgewater Blvd in Foster City were affected. Thieves used credit card “skimmers” to obtain information and pin numbers from unsuspecting customers as they used the self-check out machines.
People often don’t think when they are in a hurry and convenience often wins out over some basic safety precautions. Sergeant McPhillips noted that no one is completely safe of identity theft as new technology advances, so does the way thieves use technology to steal and scam people.
Some simple rules to follow to help safeguard oneself from identity theft are, keep all accounts, personal and important information away from situations were access could be obtained. For example, avoid giving out your Social Security Number, ID numbers, maiden names, pin numbers or anything that might give a thief opportunity to steal your identity. Avoid leaving bills, receipts, etc., behind or in places where thieves can take that info and use it to access accounts or records.
With regards to machines, such as the “self-check out,” avoid any machine, including ATM’s that look messy or as if they have not been maintained in a while. (Especially so for free standing ATM machines, those are usually independently operated and are not maintained by a bank). Lucky supermarket officials say that all their self-check out machines are safe and working properly.
Sergeant McPhillips and others say that people should be vigilant and keep watch for any suspicious activity on their credit card or bank accounts. Never approach a thief; contact police immediately if you suspect you are the victim of identity theft.