Car thieves using vehicle registration to steal identities

Erin Resnick

The reward a crook gets for stealing your stuff these days goes far beyond mere cash, and as students become more comfortable and careless with their valuables, thieves find more clever ways to steal their identities.

Like most college campuses, robbery, burglary and theft are commonly committed crimes, and at CSUN, the number of these crimes has gone up since 2004, many as a result of students’ absent-mindedness.

“I don’t think people even realize that a pair of sunglasses on the seat could be reason enough for someone to break into your car,” said Detective Cynthia Dragun, the auto coordinator at the LAPD Devonshire Division. “People aren’t taking car stereo’s anymore.”

Most students have enough to worry about on an average school day. Although they are rushing off in a hurry to get to class on time, they need to be aware of the opportunities they are giving thieves to obtain private information that can be found on things they leave unattended or unsecured in both their vehicles and on campus, such as thrown away receipts.

Some less obvious tools that thieves use to steal your personal information are things that everyone keeps in their car, such as insurance cards, registration and school documents. Even though your Social Security number isn’t on these documents your address is, and that’s all that is needed to start the downward spiral of identity theft.

According to the campus’ most recent daily crime logs, many of the reported lost or stolen items in the last few months took place in the Oviatt Library, when students left their belongings unattended, or in the CSUN parking structures when their car was broken into.

“Students should be more aware of not leaving property unattended as well as leaving an open opportunity for someone to take it,” said Christina Villalobos, head of CSUN’s community relations and crime prevention department.

Many of the entries in the crime logs underscore a student’s carelessness. Some reports said that students had walked away from an area leaving behind their belongings, and then returning to find them stolen. Other reports stated that purses and wallets were left on the seats and even dashboards of cars, in plain view.

“I guess it’s just a matter of out thinking them and securing your stuff in an un-obvious location such as your glove box, locked, or in your trunk,” says Dragun. “The majority of them wouldn’t spend 15 minutes breaking into your car. If they didn’t see valuables in the obvious spots they would probably move on to the next car.

“Students leave their electronics behind in the car, such as cell phones and iPods, thinking they will be safer there since they can’t have them in class anyway.”

In the last few months there have been many burglaries in some of the surrounding neighborhoods near CSUN as well numerous car robberies.

While one may think that leaving items behind in the car is one less thing to worry about, it’s just one more reason for a thief to break in, and iPods and laptops can hold a horrifying amount of your personal information.

The modern day thief is getting more intelligent and attentive when it comes to finding new ways to profit from your stolen goods and identity. If your cell phone, laptop, or iPod is stolen, whoever has them can often find information to help them open up new accounts and ruin your old ones.

Some criminals even organize their stealing rampages at local hotels, where they set up for a couple of days, robbing cars and apartments in the area and then taking all of the information and using it to compromise you and your identity.

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