Albany County District Attorney David Soares is warning people to be aware of the potential for identity theft and counterfeit currency as the holiday shopping season kicks off.
Soares on Wednesday, Nov. 20, was joined by the Secret Service, local law enforcement representatives, and SEFCU during a press conference highlighting how identity theft and counterfeit currency victims are affected and what can be done to prevent it. The District Attorney’s Office said counterfeit activity has significantly increased in the area in recent years, along with instances of identity theft.
“As we enter the biggest shopping season of the year, I urge local retailers, businesses and financial institutions to be vigilant in their transactions with cash currency,” Soares said in a statement. “We see an increase in counterfeit activity around the holiday season and retailers are on the front lines of detecting and stopping the passing of fraudulent currency.”
Soares urged people to frequently check their bank accounts and immediately report any suspicious active to their bank and local police.
“Detection and reporting are essential in responding to identity theft and from stopping phony bills and credit cards from being passed around the Capital District this season,” Soares said in a statement.
Counterfeit groups are using easy access to highways and the multitude of area retailers to exchange “phony dollars” for merchandise and gift cards, according to law enforcement officials. After using counterfeit money locally, criminals will quickly flee the area unless apprehended.
Identity theft incidents have also been reported, which have criminals using the bank accounts to order items online or to generate fake credit cards for in-store purchases.
John DeCelle, chief marketing officer of SEFCU, said education is “one of the most effective ways” to prevent identity theft.
“SEFCU is committed to ensuring that our members know how to keep their confidential information safe,” DeCelle said in a statement. “In addition, we also provide a number ways members can easily monitor their accounts – like online banking and smartphone apps – so they can quickly detect unauthorized transactions.”
Soares at the event also awarded two local police officers “who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to address these crimes.”
Guilderland Police Department Investigator Charles Tanner and Colonie Police Department Investigator James Gerace Sr. received the DA’s Badge of Honor Award for this work on local investigations and arrests of counterfeit perpetrators.
The DA’s Office also offered tips for consumers and retailers to address identity theft and counterfeit currency:
- Carefully check your financial statements and report suspicious activity immediately.
- Run your credit report annually and review for accuracy.
- If you are handed an item that appears to be fake currency or a fraudulent credit card, contact your local police department or United States Secret Service field office. Do not return any suspected fake bills to the passer.
- Observe the passer’s description, as well as that of any companions, and the license plate numbers of any vehicles used.
- Limit the handling of the note. Carefully place it in a protective covering, such as an envelope.