Murder, kidnapping, and theft, all significant issues that greatly impact our society. The first two crimes, grab the attention of every American at first glance, the other not so much. So why is that we don’t take theft too seriously? Perhaps because we associate this crime with material things such as bikes, technology, or even vehicles. But one of the most common types of crimes is identity theft or credit card fraud.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2014 alone, 17.6 million U.S. residents experienced identity theft. Nasdaq.com has also found credit card fraud to be on the rise, in 2014 about 31.8 million U.S. consumers had their credit cards breached. Despite popular beliefs identity thieves do more than spend funds in a victim’s name, they also take out loans, enjoy medical services, commit crimes and even generate criminal records. This is a great way for criminals to skip out on the consequences of their actions. “This is a common issue everywhere. Sometimes people are just tricked into giving their information, so we’re finding that identity theft has been a problem for the last 10 to 15 years.” said Lt. Matt Williams of the Glendora Police Department.
Unfortunately no one is an exception to this crime, last Wednesday February 10th just before 7 p.m. a man and a woman were arrested outside of a Walmart on Auto Centre Dr. in Glendora. The 911 call was a possible check fraud in progress, shortly after police arrived on scene they contacted the duo and began their search. “The female suspect was in possession of a meth pipe and numerous fraudulent checks. A routine booking search also found methamphetamine on the male half who was also arrested for check fraud.” said Lt. Matt Williams. As they dove further into the call, they recovered hundreds of fraudulent credit card numbers and stolen identities with dozens of re-encoded credit cards, including a card re-encoder. So what a re-encoder does is it allows the suspects to change the information on the max drive to whatever information they want to have on it. After the arrests officers were still going over the evidence found inside the duo’s stolen vehicle.
The woman was a 33-year-old transient named Carolina Lara, and the male was 30-year-old Brandon Liebowitz, both refused to give any statement to the police. They were neither intoxicated or armed. Walmart’s management and media relations division both declined to comment on the events that occurred just outside their store. However since this incident occurred right outside of a public store, there were several eye witnesses at the scene.
“I was nearly ran over by the police car as he zoomed into the parking lot. The suspect ran into the garden area with a large duffle bag. The officer threw him to the curb and emptied the contents of his bag. A girl was in a car in the parking lot and started to run they got her too. My initial reaction was to protect my granddaughter and to remove myself from the situation,” said Glendora resident, Cynthia Edwards. Edwards who was enjoying an evening shopping trip with her granddaughter did not appreciate the lack of caution by police officers responding to the call and claimed he was not careful with them crossing the street. “I also didn’t like the fact he told the young man to shut up and sit down” said Edwards.
According to the Glendora City News the female suspect Lara, was “booked on suspicion of identity theft, identity theft of more than 10 people, check fraud, passing a “bad check,” counterfeiting, issuing false identification to an officer and burglary.” She has three warrants and is being held without bail. Liebowitz faces suspicion of vehicle theft, possession of a hypodermic needle, theft and an outstanding warrant. His bail is $100,000. The two appeared in the West Covina Courthouse on February 16.
Theft of any sort is a crime that often goes unnoticed unless it happens to you or directly affects you. Resident of Glendora, Juventino Robles knows this feeling all to well as he was once a victim of this devastating crime. Currently self employed in the car parts business, Robles recalls a financially difficult time for him and his family. “I kept receiving similar phone calls from people who wanted to do business over the phone. They knew a lot of my personal information and claimed to be family members as they attempted to scam me out of credit card information” said Robles.
Unfortunately for this business man they were able to solicit that information which resulted in financial troubles for his family of four. Robles talked about how this negatively impacted his family and his business. “It’s just sad, you know we are the ones who go to work everyday to make a living and support the families but these lowlifes out there are stealing what we earn, it’s not rise” said Robles.
Others who have been through similar situations feel the need for more protection and awareness on the issue. For the sake of his privacy Joaquin asked to exclude his last name from this article. “I think this is a crime that people never think will happen to them until it does.” said Joaquin resident of Los Angeles County. Joaquin also sensed something was wrong when he received a suspicious phone call from someone who posed to be a telemarketer, fortunately he contacted law enforcement immediately and just like that the perpetrator was nipped in the bud.
In early January a story was made viral when a victim of credit card theft confronted the Starbucks barista who stole her information. The Huffington Post along with several other news organizations covered the story and Starbucks was forced to issue out an apology to the woman. Another question that has now come up a lot after this scandal, who can be trusted with our financial information?
This is not just a problem in the U.S., it has affected several countries around the globe. In fact a 2015 research note from Barclays found that the United States is at fault for 47% of the world’s card fraud despite the fact that U.S. only accounts for 24% of the total card volume worldwide. This kind of fraud has it’s repercussions and it isn’t cheap either. “Nearly 90 percent of card breach victims in 2014 received replacement credit cards, costing issuers as much as $12.75 per card” (nasdaq.com).
Experts believe this is such a huge problem in the U.S. because it has been slow to adopt something called EMV. EMV is a global standard that forces credit cards to carry computer chips that can significantly decrease counterfeiting by “authenticating card transactions.” Other countries have already adopted this method and seen a huge decrease in identity theft and credit card fraud all around. The State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General website offers identity theft first aid, information sheets, tips for prevention, and privacy enforcement along with protection.