Mail theft: identity fraud cases on rise

Three recent identity theft cases have led the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office to warn citizens about leaving their mail unattended on rural delivery routes.

Detective Gerry Tiffany said that two victims in Parkdale and one in Cascade Locks have come forward to report criminal activity on their credit card and bank accounts since mid-June. He said all three of these incidents appear to have originated with stolen mail that gave suspects the opportunity to assume a false identity.

The worst case to date, he said, is that of Woodworth Road residents who had a box of 200 new checks taken out of their mailbox last month. Not only are these individuals trying to iron out about $3,000 of bad check problems, but they are also fielding the collection calls from irate business owners.

Even more sinister, said Tiffany, is that the victims recently received a telephone inquiry about their Social Security numbers from a suspect who claimed to represent the sheriff’s office — and they turned that data over in trust.

“No one should give out that type of personal information over the phone, if we need to ask you those kind of questions we will pay you a personal visit or ask them when you call us,” said Tiffany.

The second case in Parkdale involved a Trout Creek Ridge Road couple who were moving and might have left a credit card application in their old mailbox. The suspect in that incident ran up $1,500 in charges before the identity theft was discovered. In Cascade Locks, the victim had also recently moved but was able to close down her account after losing only $800 from the cashing of fake checks.

Tiffany said these crimes are probably being committed by people in the drug trade and are interconnected. He said two of the cases involve false photo identification that appears to be computer generated, a growing problem in Portland.

“It is a long drawn process to get these types of problems fixed and people need to take extra steps to protect themselves,” said Tiffany.

Local law enforcement officials recommend that residents take the following precautions:

* Take outgoing mail to the post office, never put it in the box with the flag raised — an open invitation to thieves.

* Don’t throw unwanted mail away intact, especially pre-approved credit card applications. Burn or shred these items first.

* Make arrangements with the postal service to have mail held if you will be leaving town on a vacation; do not leave your mail in the box overnight.

* Make sure you completely destroy old credit card receipts and reserve one card only for internet purchases to better track usage.

* Check your credit report periodically to ensure that no one is mounting up debt in your name.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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