Protect yourself from identity thieves

Protect yourself from identity thieves

Sara Reed
7/15/2007 – Christina Moehring is a little apprehensive when she checks her mail each day.
“There’s nothing like going to the mailbox and cringing every day,” she said.Four months ago, Moehring, her husband and their 4-year-old daughter stayed a night in Amarillo, Texas, as they moved from the Houston area to Fort Collins.
That night, thieves stole the small trailer they had with them, making off not only with their belongings, but also with blank checks, tax returns, credit card and bank statements and more.

Three weeks later, Moe-hring started getting collection letters and phone calls for bounced checks on the accounts — which had been closed within six hours of the theft — as well as on accounts that didn’t even exist.

“I did not have a ton of fi-nancial documents (in the trailer),” she said. “But all it takes is a name and an address.”

Identity theft is a high prior-ity for the Fort Collins police financial crimes unit, said Detective Brien O’Malley, one of three full-time detectives with the unit, and remains very prevalent in the city.

“It’s still a decent size of our caseload,” he said. “It’s mostly credit card or check fraud or (perpetrators) using someone else’s checks.”

If you do become the victim of identity theft, act as soon as you find out, O’Malley said.

“The quicker you do it, the quicker it’s taken care of,” he said.

Dealing with the collection agencies was the most stressful part of the ordeal, Moe-hring said.

“You are guilty until proven innocent with them,” she said. “They were calling seven times a day. They were calling at 7 a.m. on Saturdays. It was probably the most stressful thing anyone can go through.”

Now Moehring wants others to know that it doesn’t take much information for identity thieves to turn your life up-side-down and that it can happen to anyone.
“People need to know it’s going to happen,” she said. “How much it’s going to hap-pen is up to you.”

Identity theft victims seeking relief from collection agencies should first send the agency a police report and a signed affidavit stating they are a victim of identity theft, said Nate Strauch, spokesman for the Colorado Attorney General’s office.
If that does not work, the victim should send a letter prohibiting any further con-tact, Strauch said.

Identity theft became a specific crime in Colorado on July 1, 2006. Between that time and May 31, the Office of the District Attorney for the 8th Judicial District, which covers Larimer and Jackson counties, has filed 195 charges of identity theft.
Prior to the Colorado Legis-lature designating identity theft as a specific crime, such cases were charged as fraud, forgery or criminal impersonation.
District Attorney Larry Abrahamson has long blamed the increase in methampheta-mine use for the increase in identity theft and other types of fraud cases.
O’Malley agrees.

“There’s definitely a correlation,” he said. “It’s probably the No. 1 way you see (drug users) getting money to sup-port their habit.”

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