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

01/14/05

Identity Theft A Growing Problem In South Mississippi

A home health nurse, a granddaughter, a son. They're just three of the people arrested this week on charges of identity theft or credit card fraud.

It's a crime that impacted half a million Americans in 2003, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Law enforcers in South Mississippi say it's growing here too.

In the last six months, more than 30 cases of identity theft were reported to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. And it comes in many different forms.

"Stealing somebody's date of birth, social security, bank account information," Captain Mick Sears with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department says.

Whether it's credit cards, ATM cards or banking information that is stolen, Sears says the thieves usually turn out to be friends or family.

"A son, daughter, in-law, friend of the family some how gains access to personal information and then uses that information," Sears said. "Just like Ricky Perry who had stole his father-in-law's information, opened up several accounts and ran up a credit card bill right around $20,000."

Like most crimes, there's no absolute way to prevent identity theft. But there are some things people can do to protect themselves a little better.

One thing Sears suggests is not using obvious numbers or names as passwords or pin numbers for credit cards.

"We use stuff that's easy for us to remember, okay. But the thing about it is a good identity theft thief, he's going to have all this information about you and he's going to go through it all and see what works."

Sears also suggests managing one's own personal information. Shred old bills and receipts before throwing them away, never use your mailbox to mail payments, and keep a close eye on wallets and purses.

Sears says the initial loss is just the beginning for victims.

"They can spend months, years, and their hard earned money trying to clean up the mess thieves have caused by stealing their personal information."

By being cautious, Sears says most people can prevent becoming victims.

by Josh Ridgdell

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