Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Public Service Announcement

I hate to hear about people being ripped off by identity thieves. Just like it is at shopping centers, this is a busy time of year for identity thieves. Some Christmas shoppers minds seem to be somewhere else while standing in the check out line, trying to remember, was something forgotten, where will they go to get that item that wasn't available at the shop they are about to leave? Sometimes they are just so busy that they might not notice what the person standing behind them in the check out line is doing. Sometimes they might not even be watching the cashier. There was an article about the distractions of the season in my local paper this morning.

Distractions of season increase chances of ID theft

Ahmad Safi
Public Safety Reporter

The story never tires this time of year: Some Grinch wants to steal your Christmas, and in some cases, your life.

The holidays may be the time for sharing, but that doesn't mean everyone's in a giving mood. More consumer activity means more risk of exposing your financial information, and shoppers often become more lax with personal information, said Detective Richard Shelton, an investigator with the St. Joseph Police Department's financial crimes unit.

The latest: Agile thieves can use camera cell phones to take photos of your credit cards while you're making purchases, your PIN number while you're at the cash machine and your bank's routing number when you're writing a check.

It's called "shoulder surfing."

To make matters worse, dishonest seasonal employees can steal credit card numbers by sliding a card through a second machine that stores the information from the magnetic strip.

When this happens, people have not only lost their credit ratings, money and reputations, they may spend years trying to straighten out their lives, Mr. Shelton said. Some may be refused loans, educational opportunities and job offers, he said.

Especially of concern during the holidays, he said, is that many people who don't have experience with online sales look around for the best prices and end up at Web sites with weak security.

He said it's also common that scam artists will target seniors or the "trusting generation," with intimidation calls, Mr. Shelton said.

"They will call and say, 'your information has been compromised and if you can prove who you are, everything will be OK,'" he said. Once the scammers have your Social Security number, your date of birth or even sometimes just your address and telephone number, they can use that information to pretend to be you, he says.

With that information, Mr. Shelton says a thief can open new credit card accounts, access your current bank accounts, rent a house or apartment, establish utility company accounts and even obtain a job - all in your name.


I hope that you are aware of what is going on around you while standing in that check out line at all times. Please don't allow yourself to become a victim.

(Thanks go to the St. Joseph News-Press)

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

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