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Everyone can be a target of identity theft

By Tim Schrag

The Hutchinson News

The U.S. Department of Justice reported a total of 16,580,500 cases of identity theft in 2012 with the losses totaling in $25 billion. It can happen to anyone.

Kelly Hutchinson, Central Bank and Trust's assistant vice president, said victims of identity theft come from all age groups and usually those committing the fraud are family members, loved ones or someone they trust. Hutchinson along with Monica Bergmeier, a customer service representative for the bank, Hutchinson Police Detective Dean Harcrow and District Attorney Keith Schroeder were part of a panel discussion for the Reno County Crime Reduction Imitative at Trinity United Methodist Church Tuesday.

Hutchinson said the largest target for identity theft is actually those under the age of 18 because they likely won't check their credit until they purchase their first car, apply for student or home loans.

"They are a prime target because it won't be discovered for years," she said.

However with the growing use of technology everyone is a target. It is important to stay vigilant. To stay alert Hutchinson and Bergmeier suggest asking questions early and often, checking statements regularly (shredding them when finished), when traveling inform financial institutions and check credit scores every four months.

Those who fall victim to financial crimes Bergmeier suggests should contact the authorities and your financial institutions immediately.

"A matter of minutes, hours or half a day can mean all the difference of thousands of dollars," said Bergmeier.

Detective Harcrow spoke about being alert to scams of all kinds, especially those involving debit cards.

"That's your money and it's going to take a while to get your money back," he said.

All four panelists said if a deal sounds too good to be true it likely is. Harcrow and Schroeder added that if something seems fishy, ask questions or bring it by their offices for them to investigate.

"Your best defense is common sense," Schroeder said. "You need to help us help you."

Schroeder estimated that only about 40 percent of identity theft crimes are able to be completely resolved here in Hutchinson due to issues with jurisdiction and the expense to investigate.

Penny Feist, program coordinator for the initiative, said the purpose of these awareness meetings is to help educate people so that they help reduce crime in the area. Earlier this year the initiative hosted a meeting about marijuana. Two other meeting are planned but the dates and topics have yet to be announced.

(c)2014 The Hutchinson News