Canonsburg neighbors victim of identity theft

Published Jan 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm (Updated Jan 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm)

Denielle Bickmeier still doesn’t know how two women in Tennessee managed to get her Social Security and driver’s license numbers, learn her maiden name and be able to duplicate her signature.

But the two women went on an estimated $6,000 shopping spree in August, courtesy of Bickmeier, who was home in Canonsburg.

In recent months, a number of residents of the Apple Hill housing development have become victims of identity fraud.

Unsure how their information is getting disseminated, they have wondered if someone is going through their mail, picking through their trash or if there was a breach of security in financial documentation when they purchased their homes.

Although the identity thefts among neighbors has been noticed in just recent months, Canonsburg police Chief R. T. Bell said identity fraud is a problem any time.

“I could have an officer or two dedicated to Internet problems,” he said.

He advises people to be vigilant in discarding information.

“Anything that goes in your garbage should be shredded or ripped up,” he said, suggesting people purchase and use a personal shredder.

Bell also noted that once trash is set curbside it is considered abandoned property and people have no right to expect it will remain private.

Police also warn people not to leave mail in their mailboxes or raise the box’s flag to alert postal workers there is mail to be picked up.

“Now is not the time to be putting something out in your mailboxes,” said Canonsburg Det. Alex Coghill.

Another Apple Hill resident, Kristin Speers, had her identify stolen and she, too, remains uncertain how it happened.

“It came out of nowhere,” she said of learning her information was used after receiving a $600 bill for the purchase of four cell phones.

She got the matter resolved, but it required a day on the telephone and filing a police report.

In Bickmeier’s case, her homeowner’s insurance policy has a service to help policyholders restore their credit and notify credit card companies about the fraud.

Today, the women’s accounts are password protected, there are fraud alerts on their credit cards and they are very careful about what goes in their trash.

But with those who stole her identity still at large, Bickmeier admits she can’t help but wonder, “Will it happen again?”

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