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Roach and detectives discuss growing identity theft problems

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By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

Identity theft was the subject of two town hall meetings last week hosted by State Rep. Dan Roach and two Washington State Patrol identity theft detectives.

The Bonney Lake Republican conducted the meetings Oct. 11 at the Bonney Lake High School Commons and Oct. 13 a Buena Vista Seventh-day Adventist School in Auburn.

About 45 people attended each meeting, according to Roach's office.

“It was a good start for educating people to the extent of the problem,” Roach said. “I saw on the Finance (Institutions and Insurance) Committee how much money was being lost not only by banks, but by the victims. It turns their lives upside down.”

The Washington State Patrol defines identity theft as when someone uses a name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information to commit fraud or other crimes.

“We are trying to do more prevention and make the penalties fit the crime,” Roach said. “Washington state has stiff penalties (compared with other states), but by the same token they are not stiff enough.”

Roach said he intends to put a package of bills together when the 2006 Legislature convenes in Jan. 9 to combat the problem.

The representative said when he was in college he was a victim of identity theft when a person stole his credit card.

“A police officer called me and said they had my credit card,” Roach said. “It was an eye-opener for me.”

The Washington State Patrol Web site lists the following precautions to avoid identity theft.

€ Do not give out a Social Security number, mother's maiden name or account numbers to strangers who contact by phone, Internet or mail.

€ Guard all mail from theft.

€ Pay attention to the time of month bills arrive.

€ Put passwords on all accounts with creditors.

€ Don't carry a Social Security card.

€ Don't carry credit cards or identification cards that are not needed.

€ Cut or shred unwanted documents.

€ Order a credit report at least once a year.

Go to the Courier-Herald Web site for a link to the WSP identity theft site for more information.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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