Nevada ranks second in the nation in reports of identity theft per capita, and federal and Las Vegas law enforcers said they've formed a task force to fight it.
"Southern Nevada's identity fraud problem is overwhelming," Daniel Bogden, U.S. attorney for Nevada, said as he and local officials on Wednesday made public a joint local-federal effort dubbed the Southwestern Identity Theft and Fraud Task Force, or SWIFT.
Bogden cited a January report by the Federal Trade Commission that found Nevada had 2,541 identity theft victims in 2003 - second behind Arizona per capita. The state ranked sixth nationwide in fraud complaints.
The investigative team includes Las Vegas area police, U.S. Secret Service and postal inspectors, and Clark County and federal prosecutors. Since April, federal charges have been filed against 41 people on allegations of conspiracy, bank fraud, identity and credit card theft, document forgery and possession of stolen mail, officials said.
Identity theft can stem from thieves collecting bank account and personal information from trash bins, stealing credit or bank automatic teller cards, or forging checks.
Clark County Sheriff Bill Young said financial institutions can profit from criminals posing as someone else, and said businesses have to help to reverse the trend.
"We need a major effort from many fronts. It can't just be law enforcement," he said.
Jeff Bargerhuff, senior vice president of marketing for Nevada State Bank, said financial institutions try to prevent fraud and identity theft. He said state law prohibits them from sharing some information with police.
"This is an example of one agency telling us they need the information and the other telling you that you can't provide it," he said.
Las Vegas police Detective Kim Thomas, a task force member, said a new state-issued identification card is easier to counterfeit than an old Nevada ID.
"The thieves are buying the same printer as DMV is now," she said.
On the Net:
Federal Trade Commission consumer fraud Web site: http://www.consumer.gov/sentinel