Spokane Community Oriented Policing Services received a $40,000 federal grant for its part of the Spokane Crime Victim Service Center.
Lutheran Social Services is the lead partner in this center – a collaboration of services rather than an actual building – and the Martin Luther King Center is also a partner.
The U.S. Department of Justice awarded the grant through its Office for Victims of Crime. The state administers the grants.
“We are really happy that we got the $40,000, but it really isn’t a lot of money,” said Cindy Shackelford, a crime victim advocate. “Our grant is centered on identity theft and fraud, and it focuses on helping the elderly and the working poor.”
Shackelford has been the crime victim advocate with COPS since July and, working closely with the Spokane Police Department, she has identified 484 cases that put victims at risk for identity theft.
“It really is rampant,” Shackelford said.
In the community, she holds what she calls identity theft safety talks.
The points she makes at her presentations may seem repetitious, but it’s surprising how often people make the same common mistakes, she said.
Scammers prey on elderly people sometimes pretending to be a relative who’s in jail or stranded somewhere.
“Elderly people fall for that over and over again. I can’t say it often enough: don’t ever wire money to someone you don’t know even if it sounds like your grandson,” Shackelford said. “Never send money to anybody because they called you on the phone and asked for it.”
Other types of crime that often lead to identity theft are burglaries and car prowlings.
“An incredible number of laptops get stolen in car prowlings. I had 11 car break-ins on my list from yesterday and in three of them, laptops were stolen,” said Shackelford. “You tell people to put stuff in the trunk when they leave the car. It’s just, don’t wait until you get to the store and then transfer everything to the trunk while the crooks are watching.”
Tourists, who pack everything in the car before they go out for a pre-travel meal, are often victimized, too, Shackelford said.
“As incredible as it may seem, I still get a lot of stolen social security cards, passports and checkbooks,” said Shackelford, adding that these are the documents that most frequently lead to identity theft.
In her opinion what are the most important things people can do to prevent identity theft?
“Don’t carry your Social Security card with you, and don’t carry any more credit cards than what you absolutely need,” Shackelford said. “And shred everything that has personal information on it – don’t put it in the garbage.”