Protecting who you are

Police-offered Identity Theft Kits help prevent fraud

Do you carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse?

Leave your purse in the grocery cart for a minute as you browse another aisle?

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Throw your medical records or bank statements in the garbage?

Answering yes to any of these questions puts you at risk for identity theft, according to the Colorado Identity Theft Repair Kit -- a 20-page handbook written to inform people about identity theft.

The handbook defines identity theft as when someone fraudulently uses your personal information to obtain credit, take out a loan, open accounts, get identification or any other activity in which a criminal uses information in an unauthorized way.

Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in America, law enforcement agencies contend.

With 23 percent of Colorado residents complaining of credit card fraud, Colorado Attorney John Suthers believes it is vital that Coloradans learn how to protect themselves.

Suthers was concerned with the increasing number of identity theft cases in Colorado. For this reason, he created the Identity Theft Repair Kit.

When Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta learned about the kits at a conference hosted by Suthers, he wanted to bring the Identity Theft Kits to Craig.

Vanatta received the handbooks yesterday and encourages residents to come to the Public Safety Center, W. 800 First St., and get one.

"The Identity Theft Repair Kit is for anyone interested in learning how to prevent fraud," Vanatta said, "or for those who have had their identity stolen and want to get their life back on track."

Within the 20 pages of the handbook, residents will learn the different types of fraud, 10 steps to take if they fall victim to a fraud and tips on identity theft prevention.

Vanatta believes, as the popularity of the Internet increases daily, fraud prevention becomes more difficult. The Internet gives thieves access to almost anyone's personal information.

"Because of Internet exposure, someone in New York City could steal a Craig resident's identity," Vanatta said. "It is difficult to prosecute that thief through Colorado law because there are so many types of fraud classified under identity theft."

Although small-town atmosphere breeds neighborly trust between Craig residents, a simple error in judgment is enough of a window for thieves, Vanatta said.

"In Craig, we have seen an increase in fraud," Vanatta said. "Several cases of forged checks, stolen IDs and fraudulent checks have been reported."

Vanatta and Police De-

partment officials will use these cases and the Identity Theft Repair Kit as a guideline for future public presentations on identity theft.

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