Identity Theft Growing - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

06/26/03

Identity Theft Growing

Identity theft & fraud is the fastest growing crime in the country, striking approximately 750 thousand people each year. The 'Association of Fraud Examiners' said it costs business $600 billion every year, which is more than America spends on national defense. Thieves use your name and identity to steal.

This week, several customers of a restaurant in Ocean Springs fell victim to an employee who stole their names and credit card numbers.

37-year-old, Charles Kevin Edmonson, from Vancleave was arrested by Ocean Springs police Tuesday and charged with credit card fraud. He was released; and arrested again Thrusday for a parole violation for previous crimes of the same nature. Thursday, he was in the Jackson County Adult Detention Center.

The victims in Edmonson's crimes hope their story will help the public realize how easily theiridentity can be taken.

Tiffany and Ryan Kennedy played with their son Ryan, Thursday afternoon. Tiffany had no idea her credit card had been stolen until she got a call from Ocean Springs police a night after she picked up food for family.

"You wouldn't think going into a restaurant that your stuff would get stolen. I just want to let people that it's not safe anywhere you don't know who's working there what kind of checks they do on the people," Kennedy said.

Monday night, Kelly Walters received a call from someone trying get her three digit security pin. Walters called police, because she was suspicious. Police said the caller was Charles Edmonson, saying the restaurant was having computer problems and need her security code.

"It just sucks that it happen to us, we're just glad that he got caught, and that it didn't happen to anyone else," Walters said.

Tiffany Kennedy said she probably would have given out her security numbers had she gotten that same call.

"Thank you for picking up on it and saving everybody else the hard ache of getting a lot more money stolen from them then just a little bit," Kennedy said.

"That's why we're paying high rates on credit cards because they have to make up for their losses that are great," Capt. Louis Miller of the Ocean Springs Police said.

Miller said you must use common sense when using any credit or debit card. For your protection he said: 
          * Never throw your receipts in any public garbage can.
          * Destroy your receipts or keep them in a safe place.
          * Scratch out your card number, if the full number appears on your receipt.
          * Don't let anyone see you punch in your pin.
          * Don't give your pin to someone else to punch in.

Police said it's also important to try and advert identity theft at your business or company, especially if you want to avoid civil lawsuits. A recent survey reveals that 66% of workers say their 'co-workers' pose the greatest risk to consumer privacy, not thieves.

By Nathan Mihelich

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