INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - You get your credit card bill in the mail, and go through your purchases only to find thousands of dollars worth of items that you didn't buy! Identity theft affects thousands of Americans, but what if the criminal isn't even in the United States.
Sheriff's deputies in Independence County have had their hands full, not with the typical identity theft, but cases with the criminal being traced overseas. The problem is, it's hard for deputies to do much about it.
A whole lot. It seems like here 5 to 6 per week we get these reports," says Detective Jeff Sims, with the Independence County Sheriff's Department.
Reports of individuals getting phone calls from the bank saying their account is overdrawn. Sims says it's been a recurring problem since May, but the theft isn't being traced close to home.
"They have no money in the bank, and they look and it's charges that are made from overseas...to France...to Switzerland, wherever," says Sims.
While Sims says it's hard to determine how the individual's personal information was obtained, he does have an idea.
"Probably off of internet transactions, if you've purchased something off the internet off the different companies and stuff and somehow they found a way to hack into it and gain your information," says Sims.
A report on FBI.gov says you can't always trust a site just because it claims to be secure. It says before you decide to make a purchase check to see if there is an icon of a padlock. It doesn't guarantee it's secure, but gives some assurance. Sims says the challenging part about cases like these is finding out where it originated from.
"They're very hard to solve. Say someone has a fraud that occurs in their bank account and it leads back to France, did the crime occur in France or did it occur in Batesville," says Sims, and the accounts the transactions go back to are either closed or don't exist. So, how do you prevent this from happening? Sims suggests....
"Checking and try to limit your purchases online and using what little information you can," says Sims.