Academy members learn about identity theft issuesPublished 8:30pm Thursday, February 16, 2012
By CAROL HEARD
BC Communications Specialist
Decatur County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Liz Croley told members of the Bainbridge College Academy of Lifelong Learners that identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes, and the damage can be difficult to repair.
“Criminals can do so much with just your Social Security number,” Croley said.
She started off with a quiz, asking members of the group if they carry their Social Security cards in their purse or wallet, and if their Social Security number is printed on their checks, driver’s license or other form of identification.
She said laws have changed to where companies and other entities should use another set of identification numbers other than a person’s Social Security number. For example, colleges and universities should be using another set of numbers as student identification numbers, and insurance companies should use a different set for identification purposes.
Persons also become victims of identity theft when they fail to properly protect their Social Security number and banking account numbers.
A favorite scheme is for con artists, trying to portray themselves as legitimate businesses or charities, to call potential victims asking for bank account numbers or credit card numbers.
“Banks never call and ask for that information,” Croley said.
She also said people should be more vigilant in protecting their personal information if someone calls purporting to be with a charity. She said if the charity is legitimate, it shouldn’t have a problem mailing information or accepting donations over a secured Web site.
“Running your credit report is extremely important,” Croley said. “It is a lot easier to prevent identity theft than it is to fix it.”
She added that persons need to reconcile their checking accounts, because a victim of identity theft didn’t track her checking account for several months and failed to realize she was a victim until it was too late.
Croley said that person was a victim because a criminal stole one of her checks and “washed” it, meaning the criminal was able to take the victim’s check routing and account numbers on the bottom and recreate an illegitimate check using a false name and address.
One way to prevent criminals from getting a copy of your check is to not mail bills from an unsecure mailbox.
The Decatur County Sheriff’s Office has information on ways to prevent identity theft, information on where to request credit reports and how to opt out of unsolicited phone and mail offers. Visit www.decaturso.com/index.php?pr=ID_Theft for more information.
Upcoming events for the BC Academy for Lifelong Learning are the bridge group meeting on Friday, Feb. 24, from 10 a.m. to noon; Wednesday, March 24, at 1:30 p.m., the academy will hear from Pamela Barnes on theater appreciation; and on Wednesday, April 11, at 1:30 p.m., the academy will host Liv Warren on being fit. All the meetings are scheduled for the Continuing Education Building at Bainbridge Mall.