Identity-theft detective shares know-how in talks on Westside

       John Amundson told horror stories about identity theft and recommended ways to avert being victimized by what he termed the “fastest growing crime in the world” at a seminar attended by about 25 people April 23 at Pikes Peak National Bank.
       One such story involved a 91-year-old woman whose Social Security card had been used by identity thieves for 10 years - to the point where she nearly got sent to jail for having accumulated half a million dollars in debt.
       Amundson, a former Colorado Springs Police detective speaking as a volunteer, will present additional such talks May 7, 12 and 14 at Pikes Peak National Bank, 2401 W. Colorado Ave. Admission is free.
       He advised listeners April 23 to take efforts to safeguard their personal information, in large part because of modern electronic advances (including the Internet) that allow crooks to impersonate reputable people, use their good credit and steal their money.
       Not all identity thieves are high-tech. Some look over people's shoulders at ATM ma-chines, dig through garbage or steal wallets, purses and mail. Counterfeit checks have been made by perpetrators as young as 12 years old, explained Amundson, a 25-year police veteran and certified fraud examiner.
       Preventive steps citizens can take are watching their mail (incoming and outgoing), not giving account numbers over the phone, locking up unused credit cards and shredding potentially sensitive financial documents instead of throwing them away, he said.
       But even being vigilant could not have helped one attendee. She told Amundson of a recent incident in which she opened a bank account and a bank executive entered her necessary personal data on his laptop. Shortly afterward, she learned to her consternation, the executive's laptop had been stolen. So now she waits, fearful that her identity is in the hands of criminals.
       In such an unhappy situation, the retired detective pointed to steps people can take. These include getting copies of their credit histories (to see where discrepancies might be occurring), obtaining fraud information from the Federal Trade Commission, contacting their financial institutions and notifying the police. For those concerned enough to pay for protection in advance, insurance is available through different private entities, Amundson said.
       For more information on the upcoming identity-theft presentations, call 205-1212.

Westside Pioneer article