Oct 192011
 
Authors: Jason Pohl

A surge in credit card theft in northern Colorado this week has prompted a police scramble and special investigation by the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.

A formal investigation was called for on Tuesday after eight separate cases were reported to the office, according to John Schulz, the public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office.

There is “definitely a sense of urgency to try and identify where the problem is coming from,” Schulz said in an email to the Collegian.

In the past few days, 15 reports have been filed with the Sheriff’s Office. They normally receive about two requests per week, Schulz said. It is not yet known if the incidents are connected.

District Attorney Larry Abrahamson who serves the 8th district, which includes Fort Collins, stressed that people should be wary of any suspicious messages during this recent spike. He emphasized a need for people to be cautious about any strange emails or phone calls requesting personal information.

“You don’t have to be paranoid,” he said. “Just use good sense.”

He further explained that people should be proactive in protecting their personal information, especially when it comes to popular sites asking you for information.

Known as “phishing,” thieves may pose as popular companies and say they are doing account upgrades that require your personal information.

A simple call to the company asking if they are truly updating the system can stop an attack and possibly save many others the difficulties that would likely follow.

“Be very careful about giving any information out you don’t want someone else to have to have,” Abrahamson said. “This is exactly what people are looking for who want to get access to you or access to your account.”

Abrahamson added that precautions should also be taken including making copies of your cards –– front and back –– so if something is stolen, you have the phone numbers necessary to contact your creditors.

“Just be very careful,” he said.

Police said that thieves would come up with any means necessary to get information from people.

“Identity thieves are clever, and may pose as representatives of banks, Internet service providers and even government agencies to get people to reveal their Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, account numbers, and other identifying information,” a Larimer County Sherrif’s Office news release said.

According to Kathleen Harward, the director of Student Legal Services, no student reports of credit card theft had been made as of Wednesday afternoon.

She said that by following the tips from the District Attorney and Sheriff, students can be proactive in protecting their identity.

Shanti Clawson-Miller, a sophomore biomedical science major, agrees that students need to be careful about suspicious messages, especially in today’s world of online trading sites including Ebay and Craig’s List.

“I feel like our generation is very comfortable giving information online, and they need to realize that it isn’t the real world,” she said. “People just need to be careful.”

Senior Reporter Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Protect yourself

  • Do not disclose personal information to the public, including Facebook
  • Confirm you are dealing with trustworthy groups
  • Call companies or banks if you feel concerned
  • Keep track of where your cards and receipts are
  • Make a copy of credit cards and personal information for reference
  • If you suspect something, contact the police as soon as possible.
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