HOUSTON - Thieves seem to be hitting the jackpot breaking into Houston cars and lately, it isn't computers or electronics they're after-- it’s personal information and identity theft victims are making it easy for criminals.
Just overnight, three different accused criminals were caught with someone else's passport, social security card, driver's license, and even someone's birth certificate. Believe it or not, all of those things were stolen from locked cars.
“People are in those parking lots. They’re watching and they’re waiting,” explains Mary McFaden with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
McFaden says lately thieves who are breaking into cars are looking specifically to steal your personal documents and information.
“That information is worth more, it's a higher value than even your expensive purse or your computer," McFaden says.
McFaden says criminals want your driver's license, social security, and credit card numbers because they can sell them over and over.
”What we’re finding is a lot of these criminals are using the information themselves or they’re part of a larger ring and they share the information,” McFaden says.
On Monday, Nan Franklin's daughter had her wallet swiped from her car as she loaded her kids into her vehicle.
”Before she got home, they had already charged $200,” says Franklin.
So when we met her today, she wasn't taking any chances at the gas pump.
“That’s why I’ve got my purse, my phone, and my credit card all right here,” she explained while hanging on to her personal items while standing there at the pump.
”One of my friends had his car broken into. My wallet was in there and he had two guns that he owned that were stolen,” says Houston resident Ethan Ngo.
”The most valuable thing I ever keep in my car would be my banking information sometimes. (Why do you do that?) Because I’m a business owner. I do electrical contracting around the Houston area and sometimes my files are in my car,” says Ngo’s brother Hiu Ngo.
McFaden says once criminals have a tiny bit of your information they can do a whole lot of financial damage in your name.
“It’s not just the value of the item that’s stolen. It’s the value of the number and how many times you can resell it or how many times you can go to a bank and open an account or open other credit cards,” McFaden said.
Car break-ins always seem to increase around this time, the holiday season.
McFaden says you really should figure out what you need before you leave your house to go to the grocery store or the shopping mall. You don’t need your social security card or every credit card you own. So she says only take with you that one credit card and your driver's license and keep it on you, not in your car.