Identity theft jumped 14 percent in Tulsa, Okla., in 2008, according to a new report.
The rise echoes a nationwide spike in the crime as more Americans do business online. In less than a decade, complaints of identity theft surged roughly 430 percent across the country, according to the report by the Federal Trade Commission.
Records show Tulsa logged 819 cases last year, up from 719 in 2007.
Police expect the trend to continue as computer-savvy criminals refine their techniques, said Cheryl Compton, a detective in the Tulsa Police Department’s Financial Crimes Unit.
“It’s so easy to get anything they want on the Internet,” she said. “If you take the time, it’ll tell you all kinds of information.”
The process starts with obtaining a person’s name and address. Once a criminal has them, he or she can “wash checks” and insert the pilfered information, Compton said. Phony routing numbers and other information can be added with a household computer and printer.
“You can ruin somebody’s life in a heartbeat for just 40 bucks, because that’s what it costs for the software and a ream of checks,” Compton said.
Jeremiah Mydland said he learned that his identity had been hijacked when bounced checks started piling up at his home in Claremore.
After notifying police and canceling the fake accounts, Mydland was left with an avalanche of paperwork. He said he spends hours every day repairing his damaged credit and disputing bogus claims.
Police eventually found a suspect, who was driving through Broken Arrow with a carload of stolen mail. Criminal charges are pending, Compton said.
Credit card fraud is the most frequent type of identity theft in the Sooner State, followed by phony claims for government benefits. The FTC estimates that roughly 9 million people a year most of them in their 40s have their information stolen.
Tulsa ranked 265th of almost 400 U.S. cities based on the number of complaints per 100,000 residents. Oklahoma City was listed as 207th in the FTC report.
Information from: Tulsa World, www.tulsaworld.com
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