Identity theft not as problematic in Ames as elsewhere, police say

Saundra Myers

Cases of identity theft are on the rise nationally, but Cmdr. Jim Robinson of the Ames Police Department said fewer than 20 cases were reported in Ames in 2003.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, national numbers of identity theft complaints increased by almost 33 percent from 2002 to 2003, with nearly 215,000 total complaints. This is compared to a 24 percent increase in credit-card fraud complaints from 2002 to 2003 to a total of more than 300,000 complaints.

Bank employees in Ames said identify theft has not troubled ISU students often.

“Identity theft has not really been a problem with ISU student cards that double as debit cards, because it does have the student’s picture,” said Aaron Clayberg, personal banker at U.S. Bank, 2546 Lincoln Way.

The more common problem is credit-card theft of Visa or MasterCard logo debit cards, Clayberg said. The thief can use the cards like a credit card without the owner’s PIN.

He said patrons are quick to realize when someone has been using their debit cards because they start to get overdrafts. When this occurs, a customer needs to come to the bank to start the process of getting his or her money back, Clayberg said.

The bank files a dispute with the processing center through which the card is issued, and the customer has only 60 to 90 days to dispute charges, Clayberg said. If customers claim their cards or checks have been stolen they must file a police report, he said.

Bank card customers can be held responsible for up to $500 or more if they do not file a complaint in a timely fashion.

If the questionable activity is reported within the time limit, the liability falls back on the merchant or lending institution, which is in accord with MasterCard regulations, said Lisa Keigley, assistant cashier and branch manager of First National Bank—University Office, 405 5th St. Suite 1.

Doug Borkowski, ISU student financial counselor, said identity theft can cause permanent damage to victims’ credit history if not handled appropriately. Borkowski said students should check their credit report at least once a year.

He also recommended photocopying the fronts and backs of credit cards and keeping them in a safe place in case they are stolen. He said people should

not give out personal information over the phone, instead asking for information to be sent to a residence to be filled out, he said.