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Paradise Valley police report spike in identity thefts
The Paradise Valley Police Department is launching a reverse 9-1-1 notification system to alert residents during emergency situations. (File photo)

There have been more than double the amount of identity thefts reported within Paradise Valley town limits so far this calendar year compared to the last two years combined.

In the first seven months of calendar year 2013 there have been 26 reported identity thefts by Paradise Valley residents, according to the Paradise Valley Police Department.

That number more than doubles the last two calendar years combined, records show.

In 2011 there were 15 reported identify thefts while in 2012 there were only nine reported, according to Paradise Valley Community Resource Officer Kevin Albert.

Of the 50 cases reported since January 2011, the Paradise Valley Police Department Criminal Investigations Bureau has solved 22, which equates to a clearance rate of 44 percent.

“It is one of the most frequent crimes primarily because of the general ease of committing those crimes,” Officer Albert said Aug. 1 at police headquarters. “It can take someone 3 to 5 seconds to get to your information.”

While the identity theft rate more than doubles the last two years combined, police officials contend the spike in reports is normal for this time of year.

“The most typical we see is mail theft,” said Lt. Michael Cole of the Paradise Valley Police Department. “We see this spike about this time of the year.”

While many vulnerabilities exist -- from using unsecured Wi-Fi connections to throwing out the latest credit card offer through the mail -- Lt. Cole says mail theft remains the No. 1 issue for Paradise Valley residents locally.

“Primarily we have been seeing (identity theft) come from mail theft here locally more than anything else,” he said of this year’s numbers.

Using a computer in what seems to be a safe place can also provide ample opportunities for identity thieves, Officer Albert contends.

“When you go to a place that has open Wi-Fi it is a matter of seconds before someone can get in your laptop and personal information,” he pointed out. “Bad guys can get what they want in a matter of seconds.”

The best defense against identity theft: Keep your personal information secure.

Officer Albert says a simple $2 padlock on your mailbox to secure senstive mail can solve potential problems.

“Or you get something that looks official (in an e-mail) and you just provide your personal information ... people just don’t realize what they are doing,” he said of taking a common-sense approach.

The rise in identity thefts is not isolated to Paradise Valley. Lt. Cole says it’s a growing problem everywhere.

“A lot of these (crimes) don’t even occur here in town,” he pointed out of the sometimes seasonal nature of Paradise Valley residents. “We do a courtesy report here locally, but the crime didn’t actually occur here.”

Officer Albert agrees.

“It is not a local thing,” he said of the majority of crimes reported by residents. “It is just a big web of people passing on your information.”

Officer Albert says the best thing a person can do to thwart would-be identify thieves is to not make it so easy for criminals to find their information.

“They already have your name and address,” he said.

He suggests residents do an online search on free people-finding websites such as pipl.com or zabbasearch.com to see how much of their information is already available. “If you make it difficult, they will move on the next guy.”

News Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at 623-445-2774 via e-mail at tthornton@newszap.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/nvnewsman

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