Canton town hall addresses identity theft

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Dian Slavens said she gets as many emails about identity theft problems as any other subject.

Canton Police will tell you identity theft is one of the biggest crimes residents report to them.

So it made sense for Slavens, the state representative from Canton, and Lt. Craig Wilsher of the Canton Police Department to team up with the Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office and the Michigan State Police to conduct a town hall forum to help residents learn how to beat the criminals.

Slavens hosted the forum Monday at the Canton Public Library.

“I get a lot of emails and talk to a lot of people about this problem,” Slavens said. “I just thought it made sense to talk about it.”

While actual statistics aren’t readily available, Wilsher said identity theft is a “problem” in Canton.

“It’s definitely one of our biggest crimes,” Wilsher said. “We have a dedicated detective working on computer-based crimes. We’re going to see what we can do to combat that.”

According to Trooper Walt Crider of the MSP’s Metro Post in Oak Park, there are some 12 million victims of identity theft nationwide in a year. Those victims lose an average of some $5,000 apiece.

One of the most telling statistics, according to Crider: One in every eight Americans has had a credit card hijacked by an identity thief. He told a story reminiscent of the Jason Bateman movie Identity Thief, in which Bateman’s identity is stolen and he winds up being arrested for a crime the identity thief committed.

The story Crider told, through the use of a video, was of a California woman who had her driver’s license stolen, then committed a crime and failed to show up for court. A warrant was issued and the woman whose driver’s license had been hacked was actually arrested several times before the issue was finally resolved.

“People believe identity theft is something that ‘can’t happen to me,’” Crider said. “If we keep making the same mistakes, we’re going to have to pay a price we don’t want to pay.”

Crider said it could take some 600 hours of work to repair a case of identity theft.

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