Law enforcement, including the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, continues to work closely with business partners in the commercial fitness industry to educate the community about locker room thefts.
“Unfortunately, people let their guard down when they go to the gym because their priority is working out,” said Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Kevin Demer, who has prosecuted numerous identity theft cases that originated from a person’s wallet being stolen from a gym locker. “Even though you may have what appears to be a heavy-duty portable lock, it can take just a matter of seconds for someone to break through using mini-bolt cutters or other concealable tools, and it’s a lot quieter than you’d think.”
This summer, a Multnomah County grand jury indicted a 19-year-old man who is accused of unlawfully using the identities of several others after he allegedly stole wallets and credit cards from fitness centers located in Portland, Oregon.
During the investigation, law enforcement learned that many of the stolen credit cards were used to make multiple purchases of $500 gift cards using self-checkout machines.
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office encourages the community to consider leaving personal items, such as credit cards, jewelry, electronics and other valuable items, in a more controlled and protected environment, such as a personal residence or workplace office, if secured.
“If you don’t need them, don’t take them inside a gym,” DDA Demer said.
Items left in a vehicle should be well hidden and placed out of sight, thereby reducing the risk of a car prowl.
“One of things we’ve seen work well is for people to place their driver’s license and one or two credit cards in between their cell phone and its case. That gives you the ability to hold onto your phone while at the gym or to place it in a waistband or pocket,” DDA Demer said.
Other safety prevention tips:
- Avoid using any portable lock that can be easily defeated, such as a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) travel lock
- Consider separating your valuables by keeping your clothing in your main locker and storing your wallet in another location. Many gyms will have small, wall-mounted combination lockers that can accept a customized code with each new user. Typically, the front desk will have a key to unlock the device should you forget the code. It’s important that gym employees ask for a detailed description of what’s inside the locker before unlocking it and allowing the person to retrieve the contents
- Purchase fitness apparel that allows you to store your ID, credit cards and phone on your person securely
- Pick your locker carefully. Most gyms have several sets of locker bays. Some bays may see less foot traffic than others, depending on the gym’s layout
- Report any suspicious person seen lingering in the locker room or anyone who is tampering with lockers
- When a gym facility allows you to customize your locker’s combination, make sure you cover the pad or dial when entering the code, just like you would when entering your ATM PIN
- Report any theft to police immediately
- Have the phone numbers to your financial institution’s fraud department readily available in multiple places, such as in your phone, stored in an email or with a trusted person so you can access those numbers in a timely fashion should your wallet be stolen
- Have your “Find My Phone” feature activated so in the event it is stolen, you can log on and track its location
- Set up and activate alerts and notifications on your debit card and/or credit cards to detect potentially fraudulent use.