Third in a series…
By Gina Joseph
[email protected] @ginaljoseph on Twitter
People in Michigan are either too trusting, generous or ignoring the warnings about protecting personal information.
This is evident by our ranking as the No. 1 state in the country for identify theft.
Ive been a victim of identity theft, said the FBIs Nishawn Spiller, who spoke about complex financial crimes and public corruption at the Citizens Academy, which aims to foster a greater understanding of the role of federal law enforcement in the community. It happened before she became an agent and like most people she believe once the crisis is resolved theres no need to report it, to the police or FBI.
Thats not the case.
As she explained to academy members, who include business, religious, civic and community leaders nominated by an FBI agent for the elite opportunity there really is a need to report it. Doing so helps agents keep track of the thefts. It also helps investigators get ahead of the trends, be it telephone scams for personal information or skimming.
You also dont have to be a victim to report a crime, Stiller said.
So, what is skimming?
The term refers to the crime of stealing credit card information in an otherwise normal transaction. It can be as simple as photocopying a victims credit card number or a technical as using a small electronic device that allows the thief to quickly scan the card for information. Its done through a small electronic reader thats installed on the existing card reader. When you swipe your credit card the information is stored on the reader that is retrieved at a later date.
Among the places where this can occur are: gas stations, because the credit card slots are outside and not really monitored; and ATMs, for the same reason as the gas station and usually involves the same kind of reader or overlay.
One of the ways to protect yourself is to pay more attention to the device used to scan your credit card. If youre at an ATM and things look suspicious give the ATM a jiggle said Stiller. If it moves, you move on to a more secure machine.
Restaurants and retail stores also have their problems with identity theft. For one, most of us think nothing of a waitress or cashier taking our credit card. However, no business is completely immune to bad employees, who might scan a credit card or try to memorize a number when the customer isnt looking. The best thing to do is to keep an eye on the card and watch for anything suspicious like a cashier taking a particularly long time with the card.
Other tips via the Department of Justice include:
Watch out for thieves shoulder-surfing. These are individuals watching closely when someone is at a checkout punching in credit card number – or listening to a conversation that involves giving your credit-card number over the telephone.
Never respond to spam or unsolicited e-mails that promise some benefit but request personal information.
These tips and other recommendations are one aspect of the academy.
Another perk is hearing about famous cases.
This week members of the academy heard from Special Agent Bob Beeckman, who spent eight years investigating the corrupt regime of former Mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick.
The now-notorious mayor elected in 2002 — who was verbally boisterous and fashionably flashy — promised to revitalize the city. However, as Beeckmans presentation of the self-incriminating text messages and phone calls compiled during the investigation showed, instead he and members of his inner circle shamelessly used their positions to steal from the citizens he vowed to serve.
Kilpatrick pled guilty to two felony counts in 2008 and resigned his office. Two years later, he was indicted for mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion; in March 2013 he was found guilty of the wide-ranging racketeering conspiracy charges.
On the last day of the trial when Beeckman learned via an email that a verdict had been reached, and would be read aloud, he recalled how his heart pumped wildly in his chest until the word was read.
It was tremendously gratifying, Beeckman said, of hearing the word that brought an end to what was a historically-long investigation.
It also brought about changes to the states constitution including a 20-year ban on public officials convicted of felonies alleging violations to corruption from holding an elected or appointed position with control over public assets or public policy, according to the FBIs website.
Everyone here is so fed up with corruption, he added to his report Inside the Kwame Kilpatrick Case. Kilpatricks six-month trial really opened peoples eyes to exactly what this guy did and how devastating it was to the city.
To file a complaint or find additional resources visit IC3.gov