How you, too, can be an identity theft victim

The story begins at a sandwich shop. I go in, order a turkey on wheat, lettuce, tomato, pickle, oregano and a shot of spicy mustard. The employee — I guess the manager — is frustrated. He’s making a sandwich while talking on his Bluetooth phone, trying to get one of his employees to come in because his 11 a.m. guy didn’t.

I’m second in line behind a woman who’s facing away from me as she stands at the checkout line. The manager is running behind as a result of his noon employee being late. He’s making sandwiches and handling the cash register, too.

As we stand in line, he is ignoring the cash register, focusing instead on constructing the woman’s sandwich. She looks of normal height and weight, has long hair and wearing a sport jacket, jeans and a pair of boots. She looks maybe 30 to 40 years old from the back but I can’t see her face so I really don’t know.

(In this situation, men tend to fill in the blanks so I asked my imagination to paint a mental image of her face for me. In this kind of scenario, the male libido often looks up to the brain and chips in on how the image should look so by the time my brain e-mailed the image to me, she was a very pretty woman indeed. More on this in a moment.)

The sandwich manager is struggling to fill the order. While she waits, the woman decides to fill her drink at the fountain, which is located around the corner from the cash register. As she walks around the counter, she leaves her wallet lying open on the counter. Her debit card is on top of the wallet in plain view and I could clearly see all of the numbers.

All it takes is a few seconds

Fortunately, I’m out of practice on my memorization skills so I decided to see if I could photograph the information. I pulled out my phone, looked around, then shot a photo to see if the numbers would show in the picture. As a bonus, her driver’s license, next to the debit card, was visible.

I got it all and no one saw me.

In an instant, I had her address, debit card number and date of birth. That’s all one needs to do really bad things to your credit.

(I deleted the file later that night after I bought a Lear Jet.)

Most of us know leaving things like debit cards out for all the world to see isn’t a smart move but sometimes we get really lazy — even for just a moment. She had no idea I was even behind her and never turned around to look. The manager, who was absorbed in building the sandwich, never looked up.

Finally, she did turn around and looked me straight in the eye — which leads me to the second point: Too much of a good thing is not good at all. Mother Nature only allows for so much plastic surgery before you start to look clownish. When your lips start just below your earlobes, it’s time to stop.

The real point to this is don’t let your guard down. Standing in a checkout line is time to make sure no one has a sight-line on the debit-card swipe thing when you punch in those numbers. You can easily shift over to the left, blocking the view of everyone. Or do like I do and pull out the Glock and fire a warning shot. Either way, remember that even really sneaky people need a little bit of opportunity. Don’t let them have it.

11 comments Add your comment

Fletch

March 3rd, 2011
3:39 pm

Lt, another A+ for a good tip to avoid becoming a victim. Been reading your column.

Fletch

March 3rd, 2011
3:40 pm

StJ

March 3rd, 2011
3:56 pm

We can fire warning shots at people who are snooping our personal info? I suppose a bullet whizzing by would tend to make them forget whatever numbers they had memorized :)

PinkoNeoConLibertarian

March 3rd, 2011
4:28 pm

Should have printed out the picture and mailed it to her.

Cop Supporter

March 3rd, 2011
4:29 pm

We have permission to shoot? I need to invest in a gun.

When I am in a checkout line I always hold my wallet like its a life line. I have seen people leave their wallet like that before all I can think is “idiot”.

Great topic Lt. Steve…

Patrick

March 3rd, 2011
6:37 pm

Same sort of people leave their wallets on the restaurant table, or their handbags hanging from the chair, or their laptop sitting out, and then wonder where oh where those items have gone when they get back from the washroom. Who would take a wallet just left sitting out in public? Golly!

Then again, there are reports now and then about cops leaving their duty firearms IN the restaurant bathrooms as well, so perhaps the moral is, people please! Don’t leave your stuff anywhere!

Men, put the wallets in your pockets. Ladies, take the handbags with you. Laptop lovers, unplug and take it with you. LEOs, and those who love their 2nd Amendment rights, please watch what you do with your multi-hundred-dollar weapons.

Big Al

March 4th, 2011
7:48 am

You said “Most of us know leaving things like debit cards out for all the world to see isn’t a smart move”

As a retired banker, let me assure you that even having a debit card is not a smart move unless you do not have the dicipline to handle a charge card properly.

Sorry about how that lady looked when you saw her face. Maybe it paid you back some for leaving the picture of Nancy Grace on your site last October and November. Now you know how we felt checking your site and being scared.

Wiiliam Casey

March 4th, 2011
8:13 am

Another method of identity theft is the Department of Moter Vehicles’ policy of mailing new driver’s licenses to people rather than making them immediately and handing them to the driver at the office. Mine got “lost in the mail” and I had to return to the office and get another temporary paper license. What brilliant government bureaucrat dreamed up that idea?

Great Stuff!!

March 4th, 2011
10:42 am

Always protect your ID data.

El Kabong

March 5th, 2011
4:01 am

Best identity theft tip I ever got came from Lt. Steve. Years ago due to his advice I got a PO Box and quit having my mail delivered to my home. Best peace of mind money I ever spent.

I came out of the Post office one early Sunday morning and found a couple going through the PO trash can. I am sure they were looking for discarded credit forms. Please be careful with your trash mail.

Pick a Deli

March 5th, 2011
9:53 am

I know exactly what Det. Steve is saying this day about identity theft in a deli, cause one time, I, the uncoddled troll, went to a deli everyday for a year and bought the same baloney, sweet relish and yellow mustard on toasted rye each day. So they named a sandwich after me, “the uncoddled troll”. It was up there on the board behind the counter for all to see, and of course, someone stole all the information, you know, the baloney, the sweet relish, and yellow mustard, the toasted rye, and of course the name. Sure enough someone went out and bought a new Chevy Malibu in my name. That was before the banks tightened up the credit requirements though. I think it’s harder to do that now.

My payments are $569/mo.