Identity theft a growing concern

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 2004

As the world becomes more technologically savvy, the simple armed robbery will be left to the amateurs.

The new criminals are going after people’s money using their identity.

It is called identity theft and in the last few years, it has continually become a growing national problem.

How can someone steal your identity? It’s really rather simple, according to the federal government. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.

It can be used to gain financial information to something as simple as someone giving your name to commit some type of crime.

As noted it is a growing problem.

Just recently, a Greenville woman was the victim of identity theft when another woman used her name, address and phone number.

Ashely Michelle Fenner, 22, of 1319 Wisteria Lane, now faces charges for allegedly signing another woman’s name.

According to Georgiana Police Chief James Blackmon, Fenner was arrested after allegedly taking dime rolls and filling them with pennies.

She then allegedly took these rolls to a local merchant where she passed them as dimes.

&uot;When they asked her to write her name, address and phone number on them, she wrote another woman’s information down,&uot; he said.

That case is now under investigation by Georgiana Police Investigator Allen Ward.

Blackmon said this is a good example of simple identity theft.

&uot;It doesn’t have to be checks or credit cards,&uot; he said. &uot;If you use the names of someone else to commit a crime, it is an identity theft.&uot;

Identity theft is a serious crime. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years – and their hard-earned money – cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record.

In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn’t commit.

Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram said the city of Greenville has not had very much identity theft victims, but that can change quickly.

&uot;I’m sure we’ve had some of that, but not that much,&uot; he said.

&uot;It is a serious problem and a very real problem for the victims if they don’t safeguard their identity.&uot;

Ingram said anyone who believes they have been the victim of identity theft need to report to the police immediately.

&uot;They need to come to us and we would help them make contact with the credit reporting agencies, state agencies and Department of Public Safety,&uot; he said.

&uot;We would do everything we could to help them find out who did it, but we would also do everything we could to help them the people and companies the victim deals with.&uot;

He said they would also notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Attorney General, so that all agencies could work in a concerted effort at solving the case.

&uot;We would want the victim to get their life back, and that is essentially what has been stolen, their life,&uot; Ingram said.

According to the FBI, you need to take a few simple precautions to protect your identity.

N When ordering checks omit your first name and have only initials and your last name printed on them. If someone takes the checkbook, they will not know how to sign the checks.

N On checks, list a work phone number instead of a home phone.

N Using a post office box is preferable to a home address.

N Never print a Social Security number on checks.

N When writing checks to pay credit card accounts, do not put the complete account number on the &uot;For&uot; line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number.


Make a copy of all the contents of your wallet, including both sides of driver’s licenses and credit cards. It will provide a record of what is in your wallet, and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel if necessary. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. This principle also applies to international passports.


If credit cards are stolen, they should be canceled immediately. But the key is having the card companies’ toll-free numbers and account numbers handy. Keep them easily accessible.


File a police report right away in the jurisdiction where it was stolen. This indicates due diligence to credit providers and is a first step toward an investigation.


Call the three national credit-reporting organizations to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number.

The numbers are as follows: Equifax, 1-888-766-0008; Experian, 1-866-673-0140; Trans Union, 1-800-680-7289; and the Social Security Administration’s fraud line, 1-800-269-0271.