Identity thief attempts to place advertisement in The Blount Countian

After an investigation conducted by the Oneonta Police Department, Investigator Mike Harris says the person who tried to place an advertisement in The Blount Countian was intending to steal readers’ identities.

The newspaper received two e-mails from separate individuals, one in June and one in July, wanting to place a classified ad. They said they needed someone to help with housework and other domestic labor and offered to pay more than $500 a week for these services. Both e-mail writers gave addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and a valid credit card to make a payment. They asked anyone interested to send their resume to the given e-mail address. Considering the e-mails seemed suspicious, a call was made to the phone number, which was the same in both emails. No one answered, and the call immediately went to voice mail. The Blount Countian opted to involve the police, and Harris was assigned the case.

Harris discovered the phone number was originally an AT&T landline in Graysville, Ala., but is now an Internet phone number, which makes it untraceable. The two credit cards were tracked back to separate individuals, one resides in Minnesota and the other is from the northeastern part of the United States. Neither individual was aware of their card being used and denied sending an e-mail to the newspaper.

The individual from Minnesota told Harris he rarely used his credit card, but when he did it was mostly for purchases in restaurants. According to Harris, the restaurant could be where the credit card information was stolen. He says in some cases waiters will use portable card read- ers to obtain customer’s card information and number. When the diner gives the card to the waiter to pay for their meal, the waiter will slide the card through their portable reader retrieving all of the information they need to either steal the person’s identity themselves or sell the person’s identity to someone else.

Harris advises anyone dining in at a restaurant to use either a prepaid card or cash.

“You never want to use a debit or credit card at a restaurant,” Harris said.

The person who used these two credit cards to try to make an advertisement payment with The Blount Countian aspired to gain personal information by asking readers to send their resume over e-mail. Once this person offered that information, the thief was given all he needed to steal their identity.

“Since they tried this but the ad was not put in the paper and the two credit cards have been closed, they know they have been found out and won’t try that in this area again,” Harris said.

He said if the advertisement had been printed in the paper, the police department could have been overwhelmed with identity theft.

The case is now closed and there are no victims. Harris expects the person isn’t a resident of the United States and was able to find valid Oneonta addresses by simply going on the Internet. The thief might have also used 411 to determine what age the person residing at the address was. Both people living at the physical addresses given in the e-mail were elderly. The thief wanted to ensure the person who supposedly needed help appeared to be in need of housework, according to Harris.

“Internet crimes are getting to be the most common kind of crimes, and they can be the most dangerous,” Harris said.