Identity theft on the rise in Redmond and nationwide

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in Redmond and nationwide, with the 2009 U.S. victim population estimated at 10.4 million, according to Lt. Doug Shepard of Redmond Police Department (RPD).

Redmond Police Department Lt. Doug Shepard said social media is a “huge source of information” for identity thieves.

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in Redmond and nationwide, with the 2009 U.S. victim population estimated at 10.4 million, according to Lt. Doug Shepard of Redmond Police Department (RPD).

Shepard shared facts about identity theft and tips on how to prevent it at the Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce’s Sept. 15 luncheon at Matt’s Rotisserie, Redmond Town Center.


Half of all identity theft is committed by someone the victim knows, said Shepard.

While the elderly are frequently targeted, the largest number of victims are actually in the age group between 20-29, the most likely to freely use social media.

“Facebook is a huge source of information for fraudsters,” Shepard warned. “Everybody puts everything on Facebook and it’s not as secure as they say it is.”

Stolen or lost credit cards or driver’s licenses often lead to identity theft, he added. Other scams happen via telephone or the Internet.

These include advance fee schemes, job scams, sweepstakes/prize scams, foreign lottery scams and so on.

Shepard showed a bogus document made to look like a sweepstakes claim notification. The scammer asks the recipient to send a tax payment of $2,995 in advance of receiving a prize of $250,000.

“If it’s too good to be true, it’s not,” Shepard stated.


Shepard outlined other common scams:

• Pharming occurs when criminal hackers redirect Internet traffic from one Web site to a different, identical-looking site to trick you into entering your user name and password.

• Phishing is the solicitation of personal and account information through realistic-looking account verification e-mails.

• Vishing (voice phishing) is using the phone to obtain your personal information, usually in an automated recording.

• Smishing refers to social media schemes involving text messaging to your cell phone that sends you to links that ask for your personal information.


Scammers can easily obtain your personal information by stealing your mail, prowling your car, digging through your trash or installing skimming devices at ATMs, said Shepard.

“Your cell phone nowadays is the computer of 20 years ago,” said Shepard. “But it’s a great source of information for us to investigate fraud.”

Just as text messages can try to infect your phone and gain access to personal data, police can use stored data from your phone to track down the bad guys. Of course, don’t respond to suspicious messages, Shepard said.

And with regard to social networking, via sites like MySpace and Facebook, Shepard commented, “As a cop, it would be a bad idea to tell everyone where I live, what I like to do, what my family looks like. … It’s a bad idea for police or anyone. … And if employees use Facebook at work, now your company is vulnerable because they may provide access to sensitive information. Craigslist is also a huge source of scams.”

“Is there any safe way to use social media?,” a luncheon attendee inquired.

“No,” Shepard replied.

Other tips from Shepard include minimizing the number of credit cards you carry. He said you shouldn’t carry your Social Security Card or print the number on checks or anywhere else.

Shred financial statements and credit card offers and faithfully monitor your bank statements, he added.

Don’t put outgoing mail in your mailbox.

Be suspicious of aggressive customer service representatives and never give personal information to someone who initiated a call to you.

Never leave valuables or personal documents in your car.

Watch out for people hanging around ATMs and call 911 if you see something that makes you uneasy.


Shepard said RPD and other law enforcement agencies are sharing information on suspects, trends, schemes and hot spots involving identity theft.

Through a similar effort, car thefts have been drastically reduced in Redmond and our region, he remarked.

“Coordination, collaboration and cooperation” are key factors, said Shepard — “and it takes help from the private sector, too. Educate yourself and others, be alert, take preventative measures and act quickly if your information is compromised.”

If you have questions for Lt. Doug Shepard, e-mail

More in News

Ashley Hiruko/staff photo 
                                Redmond’s new police chief Darrell Lowe stands outside the Redmond Police Department on Nov. 13. Lowe comes from Santa Monica PD, where he spent 27 years serving.
Redmond’s first black police chief talks on transparency and race

He spent 27 years at the police department in Santa Monica.

Political activist Tim Eyman campaigns for Initiative 976 on Nov. 5 in downtown Bellevue. The initiative promised $30 car tabs while functionally eliminating the ability of agencies like Sound Transit to raise taxes for its projects. Photo by Aaron Kunkler
Election analysis: Eastside cities largely voted against I-976

Most Eastside cities weren’t swayed by I-976, though more voters approved it than the county average.

A King County judge found the company misled customers into thinking it was a charity. Photo courtesy of the state Attorney General’s office
Judge rules Value Village deceived customers

The King County judge found the company misled customers into thinking it was a charity.

LWSD now second-largest district in Washington

2019-20 brings an 11th year of significant growth to the district.

Madison Miller/staff photo
                                Dianne and Dick Haelsig were honored as donors at the LWTech’s Bright Futures Benefit Breakfast on Oct. 29.
LWTech raises more than $250,000 at annual benefit breakfast

The fundraising event supports students with scholarships, program support and emergency funds.

Eastbound SR 520 in Seattle closed

Nov. 9-10 weekend to reduce highway to two lanes

Eastside Veterans Day Ceremony expected to draw crowd

The annual tradition will honor Eastside resident Joe Crecca this year.

Most Read