LAPD data shows 130 percent increase in identity theft in City of Los Angeles
In 2022, the City of Los Angeles was hit with a surge of identity theft reports that had not been seen for years. According to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), there were 19,852 identity theft reports in 2022, a 138 percent increase from the 8,335 cases reported in 2021.
Law enforcement representatives believe one element contributing to this increase is thieves preying on recipients of electronic benefit transfers (EBT). EBT cards are used by low-income California residents to access funds for various state programs. Skimming devices have been placed over card readers at stores and banks to steal card numbers when the unsuspecting victim uses their card.
“Thieves are able to get information off the magnetic strip of the EBT card. Thieves then upload it to a ‘clone’ card,” Captain Alfonso Lopez, the head of the LAPD’s Commercial Crimes division, told Crosstown.
The LAPD recommends using contactless forms of payment and tap options whenever possible to reduce the risk of skimming. It should be noted, however, that EBT cards do not have a tap function or security chip. Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed, however, that the California Department of Social Services pay $76.5 million over the next three years to heighten the security of EBT cards.
According to the LAPD data on identity theft, the most heavily impacted communities are Westlake (860 reports), Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw (628 reports), Downtown (604) and Boyle Heights (592). These neighborhoods all have large populations of low-income residents—in eight of them, 30 percent of people have a median household income below $20,000.
The LAPD also noted that identity thieves also tend to target multi-unit dwellings as they provide easy access to mailboxes that can contain personal materials used for identity theft.
“Thieves are getting people’s identification, and are able to work backward to get their information,” Lopez told Crosstown.
According to the data, women were the victim in nearly two-thirds of identity theft reports in 2022, up from 51.7 percent in the previous year.