Police raise concern over identity theft

Published 11:26 am Thursday, June 2, 2011

It was once said that all people ever really have to themselves is their name and their pride.

Thanks to recent rises in cases of identity theft and fraud, those two things may be in danger.

According to Captain David Clackley of the Clanton Police Department, identity theft has become a regular occurrence around the area. Since the beginning of the year, 14 reports of identity theft and 17 fraudulent uses of credit card cases have been reported.

“Those are just the ones that have been reported,” he said. “Not everyone reports it.”

So far of all the cases worked, most have occurred online, and the Clanton Police detectives located suspects in Georgia, West Virginia, China, Africa and Germany.

Thieves use practices such as viruses for information gathering and proxy servers to cover their tracks, creating a complex trail to follow.

These cases rarely result in an arrest due to the jurisdictional and extradition limitations of international crime. Though the FBI and other federal agencies have the ability to work international crimes, most of the cases CPD receives do not meet the criteria for them to be adopted by any of the agencies.

“If it’s local, we can arrest and charge,” Clackley said. “But we can’t subpoena in foreign countries.”

With each case requiring multiple subpoenas to be issued to obtain information for locating the offender, these cases are time consuming and complex for the detective working the case. The Internet is now a widely used medium for thieves from all over the world to access and use people’s information to make money.

“Be careful whom you give your information to,” he said. “You can order from a fraudulent company. I prefer to go through a major company [that I know]. You can also research companies on the Internet before you buy from them.”

The best approach to fight Internet crime is to safeguard all of your information by making sure your computer is secured and virus free. Some of the viruses that are created by hackers are a type of spyware that will not noticeably harm your computer but rather hide inside, gathering information as you use your computer. The program gathers your credit card information, date of birth, address or other useful information and sends it back to the hacker, where it can be used or sold to the highest bidder.

Clackley said he thinks Internet fraud rates will increase due to the strategies used by hackers.

“It’s going to be more and more prevalent,” said Clackley. “A hacker can access a million card numbers, charge $2 to every card, and he just made $2 million. But who’s going to go to the trouble to report $2 missing from their account?”

Chief Brian Stilwell agrees and encourages people to report any and all crimes.

“Even though these cases do not end in an arrest a lot of the time, I strongly encourage victims to report these crimes. It is very time consuming for our detectives, but we can sometimes help get credit report issues, that are resulting from identity theft, cleared up.”

The Clanton Police Department is trying to work with the community to prevent residents from becoming the victim of preventable thefts. CPD detectives will host Internet safety classes and will provide information to victims of identity theft to assist in straightening out their credit out.

CPD will post dates and times of classes on their website, Facebook page and in The Clanton Advertiser.

“We’ve talked about having a class on it and offering protection tips on our Facebook page,” said Clackley. “We just want to make sure the interest is there.”

For resources and information in fighting and preventing identity theft and internet crime, visit www.ic3.gov.