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Monday, Jul 09 2012 10:42 PM

Identity theft is on the rise locally

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Identity theft is on the rise locally with numerous reports of fraud, mostly stolen debit card information, being reported to authorities.

Identity theft is an increasing concern and a serious crime as a number of local residents have discovered lately after becoming victims -- learning that credit card accounts have been opened in their name or that hundreds or thousands of dollars are missing from bank accounts due to debit card fraud.

Tehachapi Police Chief Jeff Kermode said the police department is investigating.

"We have actually taken 18 identity theft reports from July 4 through, July 9. We are looking for the common threads between them, if any. It looks like most of them were compromised debit cards."

He advises residents to protect yourself themselves by not using debit or credit cards at stand alone locations like gas stations that are not manned at all times. Apparently one key fits most gas pumps and it only takes a a couple of minutes to open the pump and insert an additional card reader to skim off your card number.

Also, be extremely careful at restaurants where the waiter takes your card to a another area to swipe it. It could easily be swiped by a second device. Just be aware when you use your card.

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to steal your assets, open credit accounts in your name, and commit fraud or other crimes. If you believe that you may be a victim, here is what you should do:

Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three consumer reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report. Close any accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Report stolen checks, credit cards and driver's licenses.

To investigate the crime the Kern County Sheriff's Office or local police departments must receive documentary evidence of the crime. This evidence is obtained by you from the business where your personal information was illegally used. You must ensure the law enforcement agency obtains the documents before a investigation can start.

Call all your credit card issuers. Get replacement cards with new account numbers. Ask that the old accounts be processed as "Account closed at consumer's request." Also, add a victim's statement to your request such as, "My ID has been used to apply for credit fraudulently. Contact me at [your phone number] to verify all applications."

Notify your bank of the loss or theft. If you use an ATM card for banking services, get a new card, account number and password. Cancel your accounts and obtain new account numbers. Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 or at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.

You should also contact the fraud departments of the three consumer reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report.

If your Social Security number was used fraudulently, report the problem to the Social Security Administration's Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. Your SS card can be replaced by calling 1-800-772-1213 or visiting your local SS office. To get a replacement card, you usually need one identifying document, such as a driver's license or passport. Your replacement card will have the same number as your old card.

If you suspect mail theft, notify your local Post Office. Or call for the local Postal Inspector through the national center at 1-877-876-2455 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in all time zones

Local contacts to report Identity theft are the Tehachapi Police Department 822-2222 or the Tehachapi Sheriff's substation 823-6060 and the Attorney General's Office Consumer Resource Centers, toll-free at 1-800-551-4636.Reports of scams can also be reported at these same numbers.

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