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Forum to address identity theft crimes

William Ferchland

To help protect people in El Dorado County against thieves targeting bank account numbers and the like, a forum on identity theft is scheduled in Placerville at the end of the month.

“It’s the fastest growing crime in history,” said Detective Jamey Morgan with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department.

“When I talk about it, I say it’s a low-risk, high-return business,” he added.

“It’s becoming a very lucrative business for the bad guys.”

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Morgan will be a speaker at the Aug. 31 forum put on in partnership with the sheriff’s department, El Dorado County Treasurer-Tax Collector and El Dorado Savings Bank in addressing issues such as how thieves use personal information, how the information is collected and how to reduce risk.

Sheriff’s Detective Greg Almos said he is frequently hearing scams such as organizations who announce a person has won a lottery but need $2,000 to process the transaction.

“The scams are on the rise and a lot of them are coming from Canada, which makes it very difficult to prosecute,” he said.

In regard to identity thefts, Almos advised people to limit giving their name to strangers and another tactic of minimizing banking or shopping on the Internet. Almos said he knows of instances where people have their laptop computers stolen.

“My advice is don’t do anything on the computer,” he said. “I know that makes it tough, but that’s … how crooks obtain (identifications).”

Destroying important documents such as credit card reports and personal banking statements with shredders is recommended as well as routinely checking credit scores, authorities said.

For law enforcement officers, investigating identity theft crimes is tricky. Usually people don’t realize they’ve been taken advantage of until a few weeks pass. Gathering evidence is a laborious effort and prosecution of the crimes is difficult because state lines are sometimes crossed.

In addition, identity thefts are typically part of other crimes such as fraud or burglary.

Morgan said seniors are sometimes targeted by callers who offer time shares but, when the senior declines the offer, strike up a friendly conversation. Shortly thereafter, the caller contacts the senior again, possibly referring to a great deal on grocery coupons in exchange for some personal information.

Morgan said the trick is to “social engineer them.”

“I think seniors are targeted because they’re usually home all day long and they’re easily accessible by phone,” said Barb Lissow in the county’s treasury department.

“The good old Dumpster diving is still popular,” Morgan said.

There have been 15 reported cases of identity theft during the past year, said Detective Robbie Hight with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department. Fourteen cases were reported from August 2004 to August 2005, Hight said.

Hight has given a Power Point presentation on the subject titled, “When Good Things Happen to your Good Name.”

One slide includes the factoid of the Federal Trade Commission estimating 3,100 people daily are impacted by identity theft.

The forum on identity theft will be held at the El Dorado County Library Conference Room at 345 Fair Lane in Placerville. Lissow said the area can hold about 40 people, but hopes to schedule another forum in a larger setting.

“What we hope is to give people information to have some weapons out there,” she said.

Need to know:

For more information on identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov.

For more information on the Aug. 31 forum at noon in Placerville’s library conference room, contact Barb Lissow at (530) 621-5803.


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