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Take steps to avoid becoming a victim of theft, fraud

Article Published 07/10/2008

July 2008

LAYTON — "How can I protect myself from being a victim of crime?"

That's a question police officers are often asked. There are some general ideas on how to stay safe, and one of the very best ways is being aware of one's surroundings. Part of being aware is the realization that in spite of best efforts, it is possible to become victimized.

In 2007, the Layton Police Department handled more than 400 calls related to fraud and identity theft. That equates to just over one fraud or forgery incident taking place every day. In recent years, the Police Department has seen a steady increase in the number of calls for this type of investigation. The reasons for the rise in these calls are varied, and it’s important to note that criminals are actively engaged in this type of criminal enterprise on a daily basis within Layton.

The following precautions can help you protect yourself and your family.

Lock items up. As strange as it may sound, people continue to leave vehicles, garages and homes unlocked. Burglars are not forced to do anything other than walk up, in many cases in broad daylight, and help themselves to property. Purses, checkbooks, day planners and electronic storage devices should never be left in vehicles. When at the store, keep an eye on your purse, and don't leave it unattended in your shopping cart. The simple act of locking or removing valuables will preclude many thefts.

Leave important information in a safe place. Social security cards, birth certificates, unused credit cards and passports should be kept in a safe, locked place. If these items are stolen, the thief has everything needed to apply for credit cards and open accounts in the victim's name. While most financial institutions won't hold the victim responsible, the individual still has to take time to file reports, contact creditors and do whatever else needed to clear their name.

Don't use a home mailbox to mail out payments. The flag telling the letter carrier to pick up the mail is a sign to thieves as well. Take the few extra minutes to run payments to the post office, or simply drop payments in a mailbox. Speaking of mail, be sure to shred any unwanted credit applications or junk mail correspondence. The small investment of a cross-cut shredder can save hundreds of hours of filing paperwork and conversations in the event your identity is stolen.

Finally, get a copy of your credit report on a yearly basis and check it closely. At times, the credit bureau may have information contained in your credit report that may be inaccurate. Only by checking the report will you find these discrepancies. Also, by consistently checking your credit report you are taking a proactive step in making sure your identity is safe, and that you don’t become a victim of fraud.

These steps will go a long way in preventing identity theft and fraud. Also, reporting all incidents of theft or fraud to your local police department is essential. By keeping an eye out, on your own property as well as your neighbors, our community will become safer and more secure.

For more information on crime prevention, visit the Layton Police Department online at www.laytoncity.org.