Residents warned identity theft is on rise

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 19, 2003

Increased use of the Internet is causing more people to become victims of identity theft, according to Tom Gay, head of corporate security at the local Peoples Bank and Trust Company.

Gay spoke about how to avoid the scams, and the ways bank customers can recoup their losses, at a Camellia Club meeting Thursday morning.

Gay said Peoples Bank uses several on-site methods to ensure private details about their customers are protected-including locking all the trash containers, using shredders, and hiring a private trash disposal service.

But there are also things that people can do at home.

Gay said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Secret Service are responsible for identity theft cases, but there are so many that they only handle those involving over $250,000.

Gay said people can protect themselves by never giving out bank or credit information over the telephone to someone they don’t know.

Sensitive information should also be torn up before being tossed out in the trash.

When it comes to money scams, Gay added, he follows to old adage that if something is too good to be true, it probably is.

During his presentation, Gay gave a few examples of how some of the bank’s customers nearly became victims of fraud and how he helped them avoid it.

Gay said identity theft is dangerous to people not because of the amount of money they lose, but how it affects their credit.

Peoples Bank representative Sandra Smitherman said the Camellia Club is for customers who are 50-years-old or older. The group holds meetings twice a year and goes on several trips together.