- Cullman, Alabama

September 6, 2013

Officials: Identity theft becoming more frequent

By Lauren Estes
The Cullman Times

— Authorities report identity theft is becoming more frequent, particularly among the elderly.

Nearly nine million people have their identities stolen each year. According to Equifax, Alabama ranked 10th in the FTC Consumer Sentinel’s list of the states with the highest per capita rates of identity theft as Alabama had 104.9 identity theft complaints per 100,000 people in 2012. Although there have only been a few cases reported in Cullman County, Cullman City Investigator Matt Dean said he recalls working one that involved roommates.

“I had a case where a cable company reported that a local woman was not paying her cable bills on a recently opened account,” Dean said. “After talking with the woman and investigating the claim, we discovered that the case could potentially be that of identify theft.”

Dean said the victim was living with several roommates at the time and one of them had allegedly taken her bank information from a bill and made a cable account. Once the woman received notice that she owed money for the monthly cable bill, she refused to pay it and claimed she had not opened an account.

“The cable company of course was out the money on this case, but typically it would be an individual,” Dean said. “Still, we have been unable to prove which roommate took her information, or if it was all scam and she just didn’t want to pay the cable bill.”

The age group that is typically seen to be taken advantage of through identity theft and similiar scams are the elderly because they often have no way of knowing their information is being taken and used, especially if they live alone, Dean said.

Dean offered some tips that were available through which assisted in the prevention of having identity’s stolen.

Tips for avoiding Identity Theft:

 Never throw away your ATM receipts, credit statements, credit cards, or other bank statements in a usable form.

 Never give your credit card number over the telephone, unless you make the call.

 Reconcile your bank account monthly, and notify your bank account of discrepancies immediately.

 Keep a list of telephone numbers to call to report the loss or theft of your wallet, credit cards, etc.

 Report unauthorized financial transactions to your bank, credit card company, and the police as soon as you detect them.

 Review a copy of your credit card report at least once each year. Notify the  Credit Bureau in writing of any questionable entries and follow through until they are explained or removed.

 If your identity has been assumed ask the credit bureau to print a statement to the effect in your credit report.

 If you know of anyone who receives mail from the credit card companies or banks in the names of others, report it to  local or federal law enforcement authorities.

Lauren Estes can be reached at or 256-734-2131, ext. 137.