MCSO investigators talk identity theft, protection at Watch Talk Wednesday

Identity theft and scams highlighted the presentation and discussion at The Woodlands Township Town Hall last week at the monthly Watch Talk Wednesday.


Montgomery County Sheriff’s Detective James Blackwell spoke with citizens about his own experiences investigating fraud and also armed attendees with information to protect themselves and loved ones from having their personal information compromised. Blackwell said businesses, individuals and governments can become victims of scams and identity theft. But for the presentation, he concentrated primarily on issues pertaining to individuals.

Blackwell said scammers are interested in a variety of information, including names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, email addresses, passwords, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers and even employer information. Such scammers can have a broad collection methodology, with criminals collecting data through burglaries, mail theft, Dumpster diving, phishing, hacking and the use of malware or botnets.

“At the Sheriff’s Office, every once in a while we might get an ATM skimmer; but for the most part, we see scams, Dumpster diving, mail thefts and burglaries,” Blackwell said. “We don’t see the more sophisticated criminals here too often.”

Counterfeit checks are most commonly seen by MCSO investigators; but once scammers have a person’s information, they can use it in many ways, Blackwell said. Among the fraud offenses a criminal can commit include purchases using a drop box or a fake address, account takeovers, phone service and utility theft, impersonation and even medical treatment or the purchase of education loans.

Blackwell said such scam artists can be multi-leveled and sophisticated with their operations.

“The more organized the scammers are, the more specific their job functions become,” Blackwell said. “The high-level guys have ‘collectors’ for info, ‘brokers’ to convert that info and pass on to people who will utilize that info for fraudulent activity.”

Citizens need to take plenty of care with email and phone-based scams, particularly those asking for immediate deposits or requests for personal information. Those who become victims of identity theft or fraud should contact their financial institutions, credit bureaus, file a police report and hang on to any records pertaining to the fraudulent activity, Blackwell said.

“If fraudulent checks are involved, make sure to either keep or get a copy of the front and back of the check for investigators,” Blackwell said. “The back of the check is the most important part.”

Citizens can minimize their risk for fraud by checking their bank and credit accounts frequently, immediately address any anomalies, protect vehicles and electronics with locks and encryptions and independently verify any requests made for personal information, Blackwell said.

The next Watch Talk Wedensday will be from noon to 1 p.m. April 23 at The Woodlands Township Town Hall, located at 2801 Technology Forest Boulevard For more information, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov.

Article source: http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/courier/news/mcso-investigators-talk-identity-theft-protection-at-watch-talk-wednesday/article_5f25c527-3c69-54ce-af59-7524bb3650d1.html

Technorati Tags: ,

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply