By SINA MATTHES
Orem police say credit card and check fraud occur more often during the first few months of school than any other time of the year.
Police advise students to be aware and protect their personal information and belongings.
“It’s like everywhere else, we deal with pretty much everything from forgery to counterfeiting to embezzlement,” said Sgt. Kris Hendricksen of the Orem Police Department.
“You have a lot of young people and this is their first time away from home. Mom and Dad have set them up with a checking account or credit card account and they’re not used to balancing books, a lot of times they hide it and that’s when roommates come by who may be a little more advanced of how to defraud someone,” Hendricksen said.
“The problem we have with credit card or check fraud is a lot of people leave their information accessible to roommates or accessible to thieves,” said Lt. Bob Conner of the Orem Department of Public Safety.
In a recent case involving credit card fraud, Conner reported a victim in Orem left her personal information at home, her sister obtained her social security number and used that number to obtain a credit card. The victim’s sister ran up a $6,000 bill by fraud.
“By protecting your social security number and your personal information, you can prevent some of these crimes from occurring,” Conner said.
Police in Orem warn with the advanced technology of computers, laser copiers and scanners fraudulent credit cards look like legitimate cards.
Hendricksen said a group of credit card defrauders from California recently came through Utah, starting in St. George and traveling throughout the state, including Provo, Orem and Salt Lake City using fake credit cards.
“Everywhere he went he would get between $600-$1,300 … when I talked to First Card, they were already out over $1 million to this group,” he said.
Credit card numbers can be stolen from anywhere, Hendricksen said, and he advises card holders to be aware.
“They can steal numbers from anywhere. One of the biggest places they steal numbers in over the Internet — unfortunately, it’s hard to protect stuff that goes over the Internet — or they’ll go to garbage Dumpsters at the mall or anywhere else where stores don’t shred them up,” Hendricksen said.
Keeping a close eye on valuables is something police say will prevent most thefts.
“If I could give anyone any piece of advice it is that if you have a day planner or purse, don’t leave it in open sight in a car. Always keep it with you. In Utah County there’s probably a good 8-10 cases a day of someone who has lost their purse or day planner and inside are their cash and credit cards,” Hendricksen said.
Crimes involving credit card and check fraud may seem to be victimless crimes, but in the end everybody has to pay for it, Hendricksen said.
BYU Police report although fraudulent crimes usually occur off campus, credit cards are stolen from on campus locations.
“We do see theft, (but) there are several areas of prime spots on campus: the P.E. locker rooms, study areas in the library and dance labs in the ELWC,” said Lt. Greg Barber of the BYU Police.
Barber lists these three areas as the most active places where theft occurs on-campus. He advises students to secure their valuables in the P.E. locker rooms especially when they leave their lockers to take a shower. When studying in the library he said students should not leave their wallets or day planners unattended. The dance labs at the Wilkinson Center are popular because students leave their valuables on a chair intending to keep a close eye, but get involved with the activities in the lab.
According to Barber, backpacks or wallets are often found in a trash can near the area where it was reported to be lost or stolen, and the cash and credit cards are usually missing.
“All it takes is a moment’s distraction and the wallet is gone,” Barber said. “Even though we live, work and study in a safe environment at BYU, if the opportunity is too prevalent, thefts will occur. We need to be cautious and not allow ourselves to become victims,” he said.