Stolen I-cards new form of identity theft

Identity theft doesn’t always have to involve a stolen credit card or driver’s license. After a University student’s stolen i-card was used at the Undergraduate Library, two Urbana residents were arrested, one of whom was charged with identity theft.

Police said the suspects — Robert Austin Taylor-Anderson and Devante Warnsby, both 19 — used the card to check out electronic items from the Undergraduate Library. Both were arrested on charges of theft of state property over $500, and Warnsby was charged with identity theft.

“It’s no different than stealing or finding someone else’s credit card and going to a store and buying stuff with a stolen card,” said Sgt. Matt Myrick of the University Police Department. “The concept is the same.”

Police said the students attempted to sell the video and computer games but were arrested.

Students suspected of misusing an i-card may be subject to University disciplinary action, according to the Student Code.

The owner of the stolen i-card became aware of the crime after receiving emails from library staff that the computer games he allegedly rented were overdue.

Myrick said witness statements are usually what catch those who misuse i-cards.

“In this particular case, I think there might have been some witnesses that were interviewed at the library and ... some surveillance video that was utilized,” Myrick said. “The suspects were identified and interviewed.”

Myrick said stolen i-cards are normally used to get into campus recreation centers and get free use of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, in addition to checkouts from the library.

According to the i-card program office, 6,000 i-cards were reported lost last year. In 2010, 6,000 also went missing, up from 2009, when 5,700 were reported lost. However, the lost cards are not always deactivated.

John Ealy, senior associate director of the i-card program, said it is important to remove that opportunity because these crimes can be easily avoided.

He said students can notify the ID center that their card is lost. After office hours, lost i-cards can be reported to University police, who can deactivate the card. He said University housing residents can use a temporary card until they receive a new one.

Lt. Tony Brown of the University Police Department said these prevention tips are important so the card can’t be used at campus recreation or dining facilities.

However, Ealy said those who are checking i-cards need to fulfill their responsibilities too. Students in roles at dining halls, libraries or campus recreation centers need to make sure they are verifying that the person giving them an i-card is actually the person the card belongs to, he said.

Carina can be reached at lee713@illinimedia.com.