Our View: Don't be the next victim

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Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— Last week's arrest of two longtime Routt County residents suspected of embezzling $1.2 million from Alpine Bank customers has shocked our community, and rightly so. It very well could be the largest theft of its kind in the history of Steamboat Springs.

But regardless of the outcome of any potential criminal case against Terri Dawn Moody Fatka and Pamela Jean Williams, who are presumed innocent until proven guilty, the alleged embezzlement of $1.2 million from five account holders at a local bank serves as an important reminder about financial accounting practices for all residents and businesses.

We can hardly blame the individual victims; many of us simply skim over - or worse yet, ignore - the bank statements sent to us each month by our financial institutions. Many of us also forgo balancing our checkbooks on a regular basis.

Such apathy usually goes unpunished, but incidents such as this bring cause for more careful inspection of how we handle our personal and business finances.

The Internet has made it easier for consumers to keep up with their finances on a continual basis. Most banks now provide free online banking for their customers, but it's a resource that must be tapped in order to be useful.

"It's amazing how many people don't check their statement very carefully," said Steamboat Springs resident Rob Douglas, a former private investigator who now works with the financial services industry to prevent theft inside and out. "There is study after study that shows that those of us who are fanatical about banking online and checking our statements online are the least likely to be victimized, and the most likely to catch it."

Any mistakes or suspicious activity must be reported to your creditor within 60 days in order to be subject to the Fair Credit Billing Act and Electronic Fund Transfers Act, which establish procedures for resolving mistakes on credit account and bank account statements. The correct reporting procedure includes sending a written statement including your name and account number, a statement that you think the bill contains an error and the amount of money involved, and the reason you believe there is a mistake. More information is available at www.fdic.gov.

The embezzlement investigation also raises important reminders relative to business practices and oversight beyond the banking industry. Retail losses accounted for $41.6 billion in 2006, according to the National Retail Security Survey. Almost half of the losses, or $19.5 billion, was the result of employee theft. Administrative error ($5.8 billion) and vendor fraud ($1.7 billion) also were major contributors.

Employee theft and administrative error occurs at businesses small and large. The net effect can be particularly devastating for small businesses, which dominate the landscape in Northwest Colorado. Sound accounting practices and diligent oversight from business owners can go a long way toward preventing such losses.

Not to be overlooked is the increasing rate of identity theft locally and beyond. The Steamboat Springs Police Department handled more cases of identity theft in 2007 than in any previous year. The department investigated an additional 42 cases of fraud, many of which involved credit cards. Social Security numbers, bank account information and credit card numbers provide easy avenues for identity thieves. Steps for decreasing your risk of identity theft include: shredding all documents containing personal and financial information, including credit card solicitations; protecting your Social Security number - never carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse; refusing to provide personal information via telephone or e-mail; and keeping personal information in a secure place in your home.

The bottom line is this: thieves always will find ways to victimize the innocent, but there are a number of steps each of us can take to prevent our names from being next on the list.

Comments

STEMBOATwannabe 6 years, 7 months ago

There is some very useful information above.

What idiot in this day and age would carry their Social Security card around with them??

The bank tellers were just charged with the theft. They have not been found guilty in a court of law - yet. So they have allegedly stolen the funds from the bank. They allegedly are the only ones involved. So at this point, unless they plead guilty, they are innocent until proven guilty.

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colobob 6 years, 7 months ago

Up until now THIS idiot. Never gave much thought to losing my wallet or having my pocket picked and if it did happen shouldn't I be just as concerned about my credit cards? I guess I'll just have to take a chance on the credit cards as for the soc. sec. card, it just went in the safe. So much for not being able to teach an old dog new tricks.

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katrinkakelly 6 years, 7 months ago

I am one of the fanatics with online banking yet I do see I have my social security card in my wallet, oopps. Take my wallet, take my purse, no worries because I will terminate what is stolen, my cash is always on me!

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STEMBOATwannabe 6 years, 7 months ago

Please put your SS card in a VERY secure place.....Identity theft is growing. buy yourself a schredder for all that junk mail that has your infomation on it. One thing to be thankful for is that the area around SS does not have mailboxes by the street. That is just a buffet for identity theives...no locks, easy pickens.

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prayforsnow 6 years, 7 months ago

Yeah I am one of the idiots as well. I figured I'd always know where my card was if it was in my wallet with my id. I had never heard until now that it is bad to carry it in the wallet. I'm taking it out right now and will tell friends and family to do the same.

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 7 months ago

you can burn your S/S card, all you need is the number, keep copies of everything in the safe, shred everything except the cash..............

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id04sp 6 years, 7 months ago

When you apply for a job, your employer is supposed to SIGHT a social security card. It may also be required for getting a driver's license or other purposes. Don't shred it unless you want to spend a few days establishing your identity at some branch SS office trying to get a new one, and guess what, you can only get a total of 8 in your lifetime. Marry wisely, ladies . . . . you'll need a new one every time you change your name.

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Littletickers 6 years, 7 months ago

It is an excellent idea to remove your social security card from your wallet. It is also a good idea to photocopy everything we carry in our wallet. The copies should be stored in a secure area of our home or in a bank safe deposit box. That way, if we ever lose or have our wallet stolen, we know exactly what we carried in our wallet and will be able to contact our credit card companies to prevent any fraudulent charges from appearing. We must show diligence in helping financial institutions protect us. Someone has to suffer a loss and if we can minimize it, all the better I say! How many of us know exactly what is in our wallets right now when we are not even under duress? Alpine Bank spoke at a Rotary meeting a few years back on ID Theft. It was an enormous awareness to most of us and we took away a lot of good information on how we could prevent being a victim.

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spukomy 6 years, 7 months ago

ID, Employers don't need to see a SS card just to apply for a job. When you are hired they need to see either a passport or a combination of Drivers liscence, Military ID, SS card, State ID, ect. Since they only need two pieces, you don't need to show them a SS card, providing you have 2 of the others.

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