In 2008, I was part of a group of Newport Beach PD detectives that arrested eight people in an identity theft ring. The criminals made fake credit cards (with real credit card numbers) and fake driver’s licenses to match. It was estimated they fraudulently bought over $1.1 million in products and resold them on the internet for 100% profit. The biggest reason this case was solved was because one store trained a few employees to recognize a fraudulent ID.
Property management and various industries (i.e. pawnbrokers, healthcare, finance, mortgage, banking, auto sales, and notaries) ask for identifications to conduct business. I found that asking for identification alone is flawed if you do not know the difference between a fake or real identification; there are over 240 forms of valid licenses and identifications in the USA; there are millions of hits on YouTube on how to make a fake ID at home. Anyone can purchase a fake ID on the internet to match any name for a background check or credit history.
Today’s news is constantly reporting about another data breach where millions of citizen’s personal information has been compromised. The sad news is that identity theft and data breaches will not stop. Why? Because people are involved. And people who have legitimate access to this information could either use it illegally or sell it to someone else, or a computer hacker will steal it. I’ve had people in property management tell me that they do background checks so they think they are protected. You have to remember these checks are based on information provided by the criminal and sent in by you. The background check company has no idea who is standing in your office with the rental application. The eviction process is long and costly already. The problem is multiplied when the wrong identity is on legal documents.
The Alcohol and Beverage Control department teaches the F.L.A.G method to recognize a fraudulent identification. F.L.A.G. stands for:
“F” is For Feel: States have put security features on their licenses that are detected by the sense of touch. This is why you should request a customer to remove their identification from the wallet when you ask to see an ID. For example, criminals will put their picture over the license picture of another person and laminate it. This will cause an edge to be felt around the picture’s border. Identifications should be flat and smooth to the touch. Another feature to be aware of is an identification card should not split in half like the photo below shows.
“L” is For Look: There are numerous security features to look for that can be seen with the naked eye or require special equipment. There could be a special font used, misspelled words, or blurry/bleeding letters. You should also be checking the physical description (height, weight, eye and hair color) on the identification compared to the person who presented it to you.
“A” is For Ask: The bouncers at the liquor bars are good at this. The criminal will try to memorize the information on the identification, but will sometimes get the answer wrong. For example, they won’t remember the zip code or know the Zodiac sign for their date of birth.
“G” is For Give Back or Give to Police: If the identification passes your security check, then give it back to the owner. But if it does not, Section 25659 of the California Business and Professions code allows for a business to confiscate a fake identification and give it to the police. The code requires a receipt be given to the suspect, a written report of the incident and be given to the police within 24 hours.
Common ways identity theft can occur include the following:
1) Dumpster Diving – Criminals will look for trash for personal information that is thrown away. Be sure to shred bills and other documents.
2) Skimming – Criminals will use special card swipers to steal credit card numbers. They can use the stolen numbers for their own use or sell to a computer hacker to use for online purchases
3) Phishing – Criminals pretend to be company representatives or financial institutions to get you to reveal personal information on the phone or computer.
4) Hacking – Your computer can be hacked into and a criminal could access your account records or email.
5) Old Fashion Stealing – Criminals will steal your wallet, mail or pay other people inside an office to copy your personal information.
6) Shoulder Surfing – Be aware when you are talking aloud on the phone, writing information on paper or typing into a computer. Can anyone see or hear what you are doing?
After 21 years in law enforcement, I created G2 Identity Management, LLC and I have taught thousands of people in various businesses and their staff how to protect themselves by recognizing a fraudulent identification. During my seminar, I use real and fake IDs for hands on training. The seminar takes about 1.5 hours to teach the variety of security features to check for.
While we can’t stop the theft of personal information, we can stop the use of that information from being used illegally. It is extremely difficult to commit identity theft if you have to show a bona fide State identification; criminals are counting on your lack of knowledge. With simple training and some tools you can dramatically reduce the risk of you being a victim.