Story courtesy of California Watch.
A Southern California man was convicted of identity theft after authorities discovered he had obtained more than 300,000 personal profiles. While not the most authorities have seen, it's a large cache of personal information, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Brown.
Robert Delgado Jr., 40, of Monterey Park was sentenced last week to eight years in prison and five years of supervised release for identify theft after authorities found an external hard drive containing individual profiles that included names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers.
The hard drive also contained computer images that could potentially be used to forge credit cards and driver's licenses. Before he was caught, Delgado accessed the accounts of at least 77 people, according to the sentencing document.
Delgado has been in and out of prison for most of his adult life for drug and property crimes, according to court documents and Brown. Delgado "argues that familial hardships led to his drug use which, in turn, led to his life of crime," according to the sentencing document.
Authorities were alerted to the latest scheme when a vacation hold was placed on a victim's mail without his consent, and "there were fraudulent charges on his Lowe's credit card," according to the statement.
Brown said stealing mail is a popular method identity thieves use to obtain information.
"Many identity thieves that I've prosecuted are keen on stealing pre-approved credit card applications, and you can go online or by mail and opt out of these," Brown said. "This is among the favorite documents of identity thieves."
On its website informing consumers about identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission recommends, among other actions, shredding personal documents before throwing them away, leaving your Social Security card in a secure place instead of carrying it in your wallet and using caution on the Internet.
While it helps to be vigilant, there's no foolproof way to avoid identity theft.
"Peoples' information is out there in so many different ways, it's almost impossible to prevent people from gaining access to it in one form or another," Brown said.
Agustin Armendariz is an investigative reporter for California Watch, a project of the non-profit Center for Investigative reporting. Find more California Watch stories here.