ID theft a growing problem, sheriff says

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 16, 2009

Crime in Warren County has not changed significantly in the last year, Sheriff Martin Pace told a Lions Club meeting Wednesday, with the exception of high- and low-tech identity theft.

“It’s getting easier and easier,” Pace said.

Some identity theft is Internet-based, but more commonly the victim and the thief have had some contact with each other.

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Most common types of identity theft involve someone fraudulently using a legitimate account, and someone opening a new account using stolen information.

Pace outlined several scenarios, including one in which a diner pays for a meal by credit card, not realizing until too late that the waiter or waitress has copied all pertinent card information and can now use that information to make purchases by phone or online.

“They can damage a lot of people in short order,” Pace said.

Telephone scams have also been reported.

Precautions include monitoring one’s credit report regularly, keeping checkbooks, spare checks and credit cards in a safe place and never giving out bank account or other financial information over the phone. “If anyone calls you and says they are your bank and need your information, they are lying to you,” he said. “If it’s really your bank, they already have your information.”

The county recorded 35 incidents of fraud and six forgeries in 2008. All were cleared by arrests.

Pace also reported that 103 burglaries were reported in 2008, 170 larcenies and about 350 traffic accidents. “Most people are concerned that their house will be broken into, but you are more likely to have an accident driving home than have your home broken into,” he said.

To minimize the chances of a home burglary, however, the sheriff said to keep valuables and things often targeted by thieves put away. Don’t advertise that you are away for the weekend or on vacation by leaving the porch light on or letting newspapers and mail build up. Lock the car, and don’t leave things in view that even just appear to be valuable.

The sheriff’s office is interested in county residents who want to set up a Neighborhood Watch program for people who want to keep an eye out for activity in their areas. “You don’t have to live in a subdivision to do this,” he said. “It can be a rural road in the county.”

Interested residents can call the sheriff’s office at 601-636-1761 for details.


Contact Pamela Hitchins at