by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
March 14, 2009
Perhaps one of the causes for the mass migration of gamblers to online casinos from their land-based counterparts is the increasing reports of identity theft in Nevada. Statistics show that Nevada has the nation’s third worst identity theft problem, according to a federal study known to substantially underestimate the rates.
A report from the Federal Trade Commission last week stated that there have been 2,930 counts of identity theft in 2007, enough to rank the state as the third in the nation, on a per-capita basis. Additionally, because victims of identity theft are not always known to report the crime to local police or the federal government, Metro Police said that number is closer to 9,000.
In just last year, Nevada residents reported $20 million lost to identity theft, and Metro Police Captain Stavros Anthony said that it is “expected to increase every year for the foreseeable future.” Most people who discover a missing credit or debit card call their banks to report the identity theft, rather than the local police. For this reason, Nevada may rank higher than third in the nation for identity theft – with 9,101 cases reported to the Metro’s identity theft and forgery task force. Bob Sebby, a lieutenant in Metro’s financial crimes section estimates that only one in every ten local victims files a police report.
Sebby claims that the casinos in Vegas are largely the reason for the higher counts of identity theft in Nevada, because of the large amount of cash casinos keep on hand. Using the right forged documents, identity pilferers can receive cash advances from casino cages with the credit/debit card or cashier’s check and trade them for chips and play at high roller tables. Unlike a local ATM which puts a withdrawal limit on a card per day, casinos tend to offer much larger cash bonuses, which in many cases is not even used to gamble.
Unlike online casinos, which require a valid form of identification and protect any financial information using encryption software as well as offer multiple deposit methods, most land casinos do not have a specific account designated for each gambler in most cases, allowing for an easier method of penetration into one’s funding.
Because of this, finding identity thieves is often a matter of excruciatingly long investigations than in many cases go unsolved. “We’re always searching for a ghost in the beginning,” said Sebby. “We have to take nothing and turn it into a live human being.”
The majority of the cases reported in Nevada of identity theft can be traced to the owner’s mailbox or trashcan that was pilfered for credit card information. In one instance, waiters had been skimming credit cards and selling the numbers to accomplices who would tap the account. Metro Police have fallen victim to similar techniques, Sebby reported. “It’s pretty brutal out there.”
Sebby suggests that credit or debit card users never let their cards out of their sites, and change their PIN number regularly. He also referred Nevada residents to a website, lvmpd.com, which offers advice on how to protect your identity.