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Identity theft an occurrence anytime, anywhere

In 2016 more than $16 billion was stolen from around 15.4 million U.S. consumers, according to the Javelin Strategy & Research.

Just this year alone, the North Dakota Tax Commission reportedly has stopped 121 fraudulent returns in over $171,000.

Dickinson Police Department Capt. David Wilkie said sometimes the theft can go unnoticed because of the small amounts of charges.

"Watch your statements. Make sure that the charges on there are yours," he said. "Sometimes what somebody will do is if they have card numbers they will maybe make a charge of $2 and all they are doing in that instance is seeing if the card will work for them. Then they will make a bigger charge after that."

While debit and credit card thefts are common throughout the year, this time of year also sees an increase in tax-related identity theft.

With the tax deadline fast approaching on Tuesday, some individuals who are filing late may be unaware that they could be a victim of tax-related identity theft.

The IRS defines a tax-related identity theft as a theft that occurs when someone uses a stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. People may be unaware that their identity has been stolen until they file their return and find that a return has already been filed under their SSN.

If a person believes their SSN has been used without their knowledge, they are encouraged to file a complaint with www.identitytheft.gov, contact their financial institution to freeze their accounts and contact their local law enforcement.

Wilkie said it is unlikely that DPD can do much investigating, since most of identity theft crimes take place outside of the state in which the victim lives. He said people should still report it immediately to local law enforcement for a report to be made.

People are then encouraged to visit www.ic3.gov or www.attorneygeneral.nd.gov to file the theft as well.

"Your scam or what happened to you is just a little piece of the big puzzle, but it might be the piece that somebody is looking for to break that case wide open," he said.

He said that people sometimes fall victim to identity theft when giving out personal information via a phone call.

The IRS website reminds people that they will never contact taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.

Vaune Johnson, Cornerstone Bank market president, said people should also be cautious when vacationing this summer to states with high identity theft or even internationally.

"If you're traveling, probably the safest thing to use is a credit card," she said. "If you're traveling out of the country, a credit card has much more protection and doesn't allow your account to be accessed by unauthorized people."

She said that credit cards offer more protection because they doesn't require a personal identification number that can be stolen.

With the implementation of chip cards on new debit cards, she said it is almost impossible to replicate a counterfeit card because of the encrypted code in the chip.

"Now you know with the criminals, they always try to stay one step ahead," she said. "There is the capability for chip readers so somebody could walk by you and get the information on your chip."

While she said that it is not an incredibly common theft practice, people who are seeking an extra layer of protection when traveling can purchase a RFID blocking wallet or carrying case that will stop a theft of a person's chip information.

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