Identity theft tops crime chart

Green Tree Police Chief Robert Cifrulak knows the effect that identity theft can have on a person.

He is beginning to see it more often.

“The victims of this crime come to us in a panic,” Cifrulak said. “They have this look of panic on their face. They tell us what happened. ‘My (credit) card is maxed out’ or ‘I got a bill that isn’t mine.’

“That’s when we know what’s going on.”

The incidents are increasing in Green Tree, to the point where the police want to raise awareness of the crime. That’s why the police, along with the state’s attorney general’s office, will host an identity theft seminar on April 10 at 7 p.m. at the Green Tree Fire Hall Social Room.

Each year, more than 10 million Americans are affected by identity theft. Personal information including name, social security number, bank account, and/or credit card number is stolen.

The most common form of identity theft is credit card fraud. According to the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center, identity theft is sub-divided into four categories:

• Financial identity theft, or using another’s identity to obtain goods and services;

• Criminal identity theft, or posing as another person when apprehended for a crime;

• Identity cloning, or using another’s information to assume his or her identity in daily life;

• Business/commercial identity theft, or using another’s business name to obtain credit.

Cifrulak is concerned about the rise in credit card identity theft in Green Tree.

“We are seeing more and more of it. People come in to see us with that glazed look in their eyes, and we know almost instantly what has happened to them.”

According to Cifrulak, the criminals could vary from young people who want to seize an opportunity for money or goods, or professional criminals “who know what they’re doing.”

“These are people who don’t care or are not aware that the crime is hurting other people. You have young kids out there who are very good at this now. It’s almost like a game or a challenge for these kids. They are just a little smarter than you.”

Several of the crimes in Green Tree have taken place at restaurants and retail stores, Cifrulak said.

“Anywhere where you have an unscrupulous employee who is willing to take money away from you.”

No arrests have been made in Green Tree as of yet, but several cases are under investigation, Cifrulak said.

“We just want people to be aware that this has become a very serious crime. And we would like a packed house at the seminar.”

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