Identity theft a growing problem in Tahoe |

Identity theft a growing problem in Tahoe

William Ferchland

Some believe that everyone has a twin. According to authorities, thousands of such twins are popping up across America every day.

The fastest growing crime in the nation, identity theft, has filtered to South Lake Tahoe with more than 130 related crimes since January 2003, said Robbie Hight, a South Lake Tahoe police detective.

“I don’t think it’s that much per population, really; it’s just the nature of crime now,” Hight said. “Economic crime, white-collar crime is growing quickly.”

One man who was arrested in South Lake Tahoe earlier this year on a theft warrant from Los Angeles used the identities of two dead people to hide from the law. He established a corporation in Nevada. Hight said the man had a list with six names of deceased people.

Hight would not provide the man’s name. The detective is still working on the case, trying to determine if the man elicited funds from the identities he used.

Hight made a presentation to the South Lake Tahoe City Council on the subject Tuesday. Councilman Tom Davis requested the presentation so it could be taped and aired on the city’s public access channel.

“You can have identity theft right now and you wouldn’t know it until you get your next bill,” Davis said.

“Anything with my name on it I shred now,” he added.

Although there are many ways crooks can obtain personal information, one popular process is the use of skimmers. The little black boxes the size of a Bic lighter are used by people who regularly handle credit cards, such as waiters or clerks, to obtain quick money.

Although the practice has led to arrests of restaurant workers in the South Bay, Hight said the practice of “skimming” is nonexistent in South Lake Tahoe.

“The scams are almost endless on how to get your information if they really want to,” Hight said.

In Douglas County, more identity theft occurs in the valley than at the lake, according to Sgt. Dan Britton of the sheriff’s department. The reason for the imbalance is the higher proportion of residents in the valley compared to the lake’s transient population, Britton said.

Douglas County sheriff’s Lt. Mike Biaggini said some residents are receiving calls from people claiming they are bank representatives. They ask for the last four digits of a person’s banking number.

“We see a number of them … We agree it’s something people have to be cognizant of on who they give their information to,” Biaggini said.

– E-mail William Ferchland at

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