Home > 2013 > Identity Theft

New Identity Theft Victims: The Denver Broncos Cheerleaders

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

In this day and age, the question is no longer whether or not your identity will be stolen – it’s when it will get stolen and how bad the damage will be. The Denver Broncos Cheerleaders found that out the hard way this year when — according to police reports — Christopher Jason Bahl and Gary Dean Crowther allegedly stole mail from the mailbox of a Cheerleaders staff member and discovered a check from the organization. Police say that the two men – and eight other suspects – used the stolen checks to create other, fake checks in order to procure money for methamphetamine.

The suspects in the case were reportedly so accustomed to using stolen identities that, when one of them was injured and transferred by helicopter to a local hospital, he allegedly used a stolen identity to evade both arrest and the hospital bill.

Identity thieves aren’t necessarily always technologically sophisticated criminals, and they don’t necessarily always target victims with a lot to lose. The democratization of technology, the widespread availability of our personal information and our indifference to things as simple as how often we collect our mail or whether to shred documents means that it doesn’t take much time, effort or brains to steal people’s identities.

So what can a person do?

1. Be vigilant.

Check your credit reports regularly, and dispute anything that you don’t recognize. Check your bank statements, your credit card bills, your investment or retirement accounts and even your annual Social Security statements to make sure that all the information is accurate. Never carry around documents, like your birth certificate or Social Security card, that could make it even easier for someone to steal your identity. And (especially with the holiday season), be aware of your surrounds and your belongings when you are out and about – getting pick-pocketed can mean losing much more than the money in your wallet these days.

2. Be careful.

Don’t let mail pile up or papers with personally identifiable information go into the trash can on the curb for anyone to grab. Invest in a shredder, pick up your mail and don’t leave documents lying around where anyone can sneak a peek (or even grab them). And no matter what deal an email or a text message might offer, don’t click suspicious links or give out your personal information to anyone who contacts you asking for it.

3. Be proactive.

If you suspect that you might have been victimized – or might be immediately vulnerable because you lost your cell phone or your wallet – don’t hesitate. Call your cellphone provider, your bank, your credit card companies and any other financial companies that can help you protect your money and lines of credit from thieves. Call at least one of the credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – to ask that a fraud alert be put on your account, which will make it harder for anyone to open new lines of credit. Check your credit reports for accounts you don’t recognize. (My company, Credit.com, gives consumers their credit scores every month for free; a drop in your credit scores can alert you to possible fraud.) Check your bank account(s) and credit card statements for fraudulent charges and dispute them as soon as they appear.

There is no magic bullet to keeping yourself safe in today’s world, but you can make sure that, if and when you are victimized by identity thieves, you limit both the short- and long-term damage of their actions by limiting their time with your most precious asset – your identity.

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team