Archive for Thursday, March 29, 2001

Not-so-secure bank numbers can bring big woes

March 29, 2001

Cathy Box knows the problems credit cards can create.

Her learning experience

didn't come from skipping payments or increased interest rates. Her credit card nightmare came after the number to the family's card was stolen.

In September 2000, Box noticed some unusual charges on her credit card. At first, she thought they could be related to the family farming business.

"About the third month of it, I said, 'What is this charge?' And it actually was a porn site," Box said.

A quick investigation led her to conclude no one in her household could have authorized the charges and the credit numbers had been stolen.

Eudora Police Cpl. Greg Neis said problems with stolen credit and banking numbers have been reported "three or four times in the last five years." However, Neis said there have been cases of credit card applications being filled out and then sent to another address. The addressee who threw out that application could then become the victim in a case of stolen identity.

"You'd be surprised how many we've had in Eudora of somebody using their identity," he said.

Neis said if credit card applications come in the mail, even if the addressee doesn't open them, the applications should be disposed of properly. One way violators can get numbers and private information is by simply checking the trash. By disposing of credit applications and the like properly, problems such as these could be easily avoided. Trash sitting next to the house is covered in privacy rights, trash at the street is not, he said.

"It has been ruled by the Supreme Court that you have no right to privacy of trash once it's set out to the curb," Neis said. "Things like (bank numbers), when you put them out in the trash, they need to be torn up or run through a shredder."

Gayle Larkin, city prosecutor, said anyone caught and convicted of stealing numbers could be slapped with a misdemeanor charge if the amount is under $500. If over that amount, the crime is a felony. Larkin said she saw many cases of stolen bank numbers during her experience working in the Douglas County District Attorney's office. Some were from stolen mail and trash, but many were from store clerks that stole from unsuspecting customers.

"When I was at the district attorney's office, we had a lot of cases like that," Larkin said.

Robin Kilmer, Eudora branch manager for Douglas County Bank, said customers are given personal identification numbers (PIN), which are only known by the customer and the main bank. Kilmer said the PIN provides a safety measure for transactions such as online banking. She said about 50 percent of the bank's customers use online banking, mainly to check balances. With automated teller machine (ATM) cards, the bank can take instant action on stolen numbers.

"On the Internet, we assign a certain PIN number," she said. "If they lose their ATM number or debit card, we can stop it immediately."

Her advice regarding ATM cards is simple, be it for college students or senior citizens.

"Never give your ATM card to someone else," she said.

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