Stay on guard for identity theft and scams

Identity theft cases are reported between two and five times per month

Identity theft cases may not crop up frequently in Crook County, but they do happen and law enforcement personnel consequently urge residents to exercise caution.

Prineville Police Sergeant Larry Seymour, who handles many such cases, estimates about one to two identity theft calls come in per month. Those cases involve victims whose personal information has been stolen and used for some sort of monetary gain.

“Some of the thefts we get are linked to past roommates or past relationships,” he said.

However, the calls they receive most recently involve the use of personal information to convince people to send money to professional scam artists.

“They will do a little bit of research on someone online,” Seymour said. “You can research anyone’s name, their phone number, their address and date of birth. It will also show their known relatives.”

Scammers then use this information to prey on senior citizens, posing as a family member who is in immediate need of some monetary help. Using a smart phone app to generate a random number on the receiving party’s caller ID, they will call and try to convince them to send money.

“I’m in Mexico and need to get some money for bail,” Seymour offered as an example. “The elderly people will ship them money and then they (the scammer) will call back and say they need more. They will keep doing that until it stops and then they will go on to the next person.”

The police department sees between three and five of these sorts of cases per month.

“Not all of those are actual victims,” Seymour clarified, noting that some of the people called suspect something wrong about the call and not send the money.

“That’s our biggest problem with regards to identity,” Seymour said. “They won’t necessarily steal it, but they will use it to partake in that scam.”

When it comes to any form of identity theft, local authorities urge people to take certain steps to protect themselves from falling prey to different schemes.

“Any time you have to send or give someone money or information prior to them giving you a product, you want to be a little bit leery,” Seymour said. He went on to suggest that people not act in haste when pressured over the phone. Offer to call the person back then look up their number on an internet search engine. Oftentimes, the phone number will already be listed as a scammer number by others.

“People are quick to report that kind of stuff,” he said.

Other ways to protect identity and personal information include shredding your mail after reading it, using a post office box if possible or making sure mail doesn’t stay in the mailbox too long. Seymour noted that professional identity thieves will search mailboxes all looking for credit card offers or other items they can use to their advantage.

“Any kind of phone conversation with anyone, don’t reveal any information as far as Social Security number, date of birth, or driver’s license number,” he added.

Those who fall victim to identity theft or related scams can potentially recoup what was lost, but it depends on the type of incident involved and the amount of time that has passed.

“If you are a victim of monetary loss from a bank, a lot of times the bank will take that in as a loss,” Seymour said. “You have to file a police report and an investigation will begin on our end.”

Restoring a damaged credit rating is not as easy. Seymour said that working with credit companies is often an uphill battle, particularly if the person has been victimized for a year or more.

“It makes it harder for us to investigate and harder to get if off of your credit,” he said.

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