Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Montana’s U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich has been working with law enforcement throughout the state, but specifically in Billings of what is called the Aggravated Identity Theft Initiative.

The effort has resulted in numerous federal prosecutions and mandatory prison sentences for those suspected of stealing personal information and using it to commit fraud.

Laslovich spoke to KGVO News on Thursday about those individuals who were captured and prosecuted in this initiative.

Dozens of Arrests for Identity Theft So Far

“What happened here in this instance is that identities are being stolen, not just for the sake of it but because they're trying to forge a check, they're trying to get a credit card that they then use to either get cash or they just directly use or a gift card and they're using that to fund their drug habit,” began Laslovich.

Laslovich offered important tips to help Missoula area residents protect themselves from identity theft.

“People need to be vigilant about not leaving things in their vehicles, certainly locking their vehicle regardless,” he said. “To the extent that there is a break-in, they should not hesitate to call the authorities so that we can get involved because we've had some success here. We hold these folks accountable and importantly, in the federal system, we get them in a mandatory minimum of two years.”

Be Careful with your Laptop at the Local Coffee Shop

Laslovich spoke to the thousands of Montanans who take their laptops to local coffee shops to surf the internet, not understanding that their networks are not secure.

“For those unsecured public networks, people need to be especially disciplined about what they're accessing,” he said. “When I'm in those public settings, I'm on a public wifi network that is not secure. Because of that, I'm not going to my online banking app. I'm not using personal items or apps, such as Facebook.”

Parents Need to Actively Monitor their Teenagers' Online Activity

Laslovich made a special emphasis on protecting children and teenagers who spend the most time online by asking parents to closely monitor their online activity for their own protection.

“With kids, in particular, you have these violent criminals who prey on them as sex offenders, and so it is especially important for parents and grandparents to make sure the kids are aware of that,” he said. (The internet) is their world. I have a teenager myself, and we are particularly strict with him on what apps he can have in what he can't have.”

For those who experience hacking or theft of their credit cards, Laslovich urges victims to be proactive and contact all financial agencies as soon as possible to stop access to the stolen items.

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