Identity and credit card thefts on the rise in Iowa, but convictions aren’t keeping up


June 24th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

An investigation by the Des Moines Register reveals that while complaints about identity and credit card theft is in the rise in Iowa, the number of convictions for the crime are few and far between, especially outside the metropolitan areas. Identity theft ranks as the number one consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, but it often ranks low as a law enforcement priority according to the paper, because it’s difficult to catch those responsible, and many of the losses are absorbed by banks and credit card companies. 

The Register’s analysis of data from Iowa’s Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning shows of the 558 crimes related to identity theft resulted in felony or misdemeanor convictions during a three-year period covering 2009 to 2011. Sixteen Iowa counties had no convictions for identity theft or unauthorized credit card use, from 2009 to 2011. 46 counties had anywhere from one-to five-convictions, 37 had six or more convictions. In the KJAN listening area, there were two convictions reported in Cass and Mills Counties, according to the data; Pottawattamie County reported 78 convictions…the most for any southwest Iowa county; Guthrie County reported three convictions for ID theft, Shelby, Harrison and Union Counties each had one conviction over the three-year period. 

One of the ways thieves can get your information and steal your money, is through the use of a skimmer device, which attaches to the card slot of an ATM, allowing thieves to copy debit and credit card numbers. A vehicle pulled over on Interstate 80 in Cass County last year by Trooper Jaerod Clyde, contained a skimmer, wrapped in a garment bag, Inside the trunk of the vehicle, the Trooper also found a Micro SD card, a card reader and USB cord, along with other items used to copy and transfer financial data to fake credit cards. The driver of the vehicle is set to stand trial September 10th. He faces up to 15-years in jail if convicted on the felony charge of “Unauthorized access devices.”

A computer crime expert and professor in information systems at ISU in Ames predicts identity crimes will become a greater problem in Iowa and the rest of the country, as criminals stay ahead of law enforcement in their understanding of technology. For tips on keeping your identity safe, visit the Iowa Attorney General’s website.