BALTIMORE (WJZ)—It’s one of the fastest growing crimes in the country, and it’s happening in your backyard. Maryland ranks ninth in the nation for identity thefts.

Christie Ileto has more on what local law enforcement is doing to curb this growing trend.

It might be the last thing on your mind this holiday season, but Candice Knox knows all too well the dangers of identity theft.

“It happened to me twice!” she said.

And Monday identity theft protection agency, LifeLock, schooled 150 local law enforcement officers on how to crack down on the growing trend and keep you from becoming the next victim.

“Identity theft is a complex crime, it’s ever evolving,” said Paige Hanson with LifeLock.

Identify theft happens thousands of times a day, and experts say you can easily become a target every time you use Wi-Fi on your cell phone to every time you swipe your debit card.

WJZ got a firsthand look at the equipment being used to steal your identity.

“Thieves are using a device called a skimmer,” Hanson said. “One swipe and your card is now in this device. What the fraudster will do is upload all of the numbers to a computer program, and ‘viola’ been duplicated successfully.”

And the information is copied right onto a blank plastic card.

“What’s scary is that most of the time you can’t pinpoint where the compromise happened, and it leaves you very vulnerable,” Hanson said.

“The average consumer needs to be aware that with the electronic world that we’re living in, there are so many ways to get into it,” said Tom Stone, FBI-LEEDA.

And while we’re in the peak of the holiday shopping season, experts want to make sure you’re being careful.

“Secure your mail,” said Lt. Robert McCullough. “Don’t visit unsecure sites. Secure your computer.”

“I’m just really aware of using my card,” Knox said.

Precautions Knox says others should also take, so they don’t become the next victim.

Experts say stay away from unsecured websites and Wi-Fi, check your bank accounts regularly and cut up envelopes with your name and address on them before you throw it in the trash.

Baltimore County Police are responsible for bringing LifeLock and the FBI to the area for the two-day seminar.


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