SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Out of all the possessions that can be stolen from you, one of the last items that comes to mind is your identity. Identity theft is the fastest growing white-collar crime in the United States according to the FBI and that does not exclude Sylacauga and the surrounding areas.
Just in the last few weeks, the Sylacauga Police Department has made multiple arrests related to identity theft. Thirty-eight year-old Lisa Faye Powell was booked on Jan. 19 and charged with two counts of fraudulent use of a credit/debit card among other criminal activities.
The unit also arrested 31-year old Jessica Karlin McDaniel. She is also charged with five counts of fraudulent use of a credit/debit Card.
SPD Chief Kelley Johnson said McDaniel’s arrest stems back to a vehicle that was broken into on Jan. 26. While McDaniel did not break into the vehicle, Johnson said she did confess to receiving the stolen credit/debit cards from the man charged with breaking into the vehicle, 40-year old Derrick Lashawn Welch.
Simply stealing someone’s credit card is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to identity theft. Breaking into a car or pick-pocketing a wallet seems to be only for the inexperienced and lazy criminals. Today, criminals are cunning and creative, and they find new ways to steal identities everyday.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website, criminals will go to great lengths to get their hands on your personal information. The site says identity thieves will call post offices to forward your mail to new addresses, calling credit card companies and sending your cards to a new address, and even creating unsecured websites to lure you into leaving your card information in their hands. Credit card theft is definitely the aspect of identity theft that first comes to mind, but there are other things in your wallet or purse that criminals may want to get their hands on, mainly your Social Security card and your checkbook.
The BBB says to only present your SSN when absolutely necessary. If an employer requires your SSN for records, ask if there is any other identification number that can be used in its place. Obviously if your checks are stolen you are at risk of having your bank account drained, but bank accounts can also be an issue if your SSN is stolen. According to the BBB, identity thieves can open checking accounts in your name using personal information such as your Social Security number. When they write bad checks on that account, those debts appear on your credit report.
The website breaks down the process of stopping identity theft in three categories: prevention, detection, and correction.
The site’s prevention tips include:
- Carry only the cards you actually need. Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry in your wallet or purse. Do not carry your Social Security card unless you need it.
- Cut up old or expired credit cards. Close all inactive credit card and bank accounts. Even though you do not use them, these accounts appear on your credit report and may be used by thieves.
- Memorize your PIN; do not write it on your ATM card or keep it written on a piece of paper somewhere in your wallet. Statistics show that in many instances of ATM card fraud, cardholders wrote their PINs on their ATM cards or on slips of paper kept with their wallets or purses.
- Keep personal information in a safe place. If you employ outside help or are having service work done in your home, keep your personal information out of sight.
- Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated contact or know the business with which you are dealing.
Although the proper steps may be taken to prevent identity theft, it can still happen to anyone. The steps to detecting it may be just as helpful as prevention.
BBB steps to detection are as follows:
- You receive bills for a credit card account you never opened, or you may notice unfamiliar and unauthorized charges on your bills. Collection agencies may contact you regarding the payment of such debts.
- A billing cycle passes without receiving your credit card statement or other expected mail.
- Bank statements include transfers or withdrawals you do not remember, checks are missing from your checkbook, or new checks do not arrive in the mail.
Correction may be the most important part of the process and the most difficult. Correction starts with reporting the crime to police once it is detected. Depending on your situation, you may need to call your local post office, credit card companies, and your bank to close accounts.
Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2017, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.