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FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2007
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The Fight Fraud Day at Central United Methodist Church had a good attendance.
Daily photo by John Godbey
The Fight Fraud Day at Central United Methodist Church had a good attendance.

Experts offer anti-fraud tips

By Emily Peck
epeck@decaturdaily.com · 340-2408

It’s your worst fear.

Overnight, your credit card bill becomes astronomical and your bank account funds disappear.

Someone has stolen your identity.

On Thursday, Decatur took action. Fight Fraud Day educated citizens on how to protect themselves from identity theft.

Government experts and local leaders talked about everything from pesky Nigerian e-mail scams to sweepstakes fraud.

“I think it makes a dent in the problem,” said former TV news anchorman Tom Kennemer, who moderated the sessions at Central United Methodist Church. “It makes the community more aware.”

Speakers

Speakers included an attorney from the Federal Trade Commission in Atlanta and a detective from the Decatur Police Department.

Mayor Don Kyle said he attended the morning “scam jam” to learn as well as to support local agencies.

“I want to learn about the kind of things people pull,” said Kyle. “It’s a terrific program for the community.”

Seats were full at the morning scam jam. In the afternoon, participants shredded sensitive documents free of charge at Family Security Credit Union.

The day was for newcomers as well as past participants.

“You can never know it all,” said Ruth Standridge of Decatur.

Standridge has been to scam jam events before and attended Thursday’s session with her husband William.

Children

Even children were among listeners at the event.

11-year-old Alexis Millsaps is learning about identity theft at a young age.

“She helps me a lot,” said her mother Irma Johnson. “She’s here so she can know how to watch for things that are wrong.”

Identity theft is a growing problem, said Tricia Pruitt, regional vice president of the Better Business Bureau and one of the event’s organizers.

“People are concerned about it, and they should be,” said Pruitt. “Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America.”

Pruitt said she recently learned of a local incident involving a 17-year-old boy.

“His wallet got taken when his car was stolen,” said Pruitt.

“His parents didn’t think anything about it at the time. Later they found out checks had been counterfeited in his name and cashed all over North Alabama.”

It’s those types of situations that Fight Fraud Day hopes to prevent, said Pruitt.

“We may not be able to do much about the scam artists, but we can teach people how to protect themselves,” she said. “If there’s no victim, then there’s no crime.”

Pruitt and 21 other community leaders began planning the event in January. Committee members posted signs in their neighborhoods and publicized the event in multiple counties.

“The goal was to reach everyone in the community,” said Venessa Edmonds, chairwoman of the Minority Development Committee of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce.

“Diversity is key,” said Edmonds. “We have a very inclusive group today.

Ten local organizations partnered to form the planning committee. Pruitt said they hope to hold the event yearly.

Fight Fraud sponsors

The following organizations sponsored Fight Fraud Day:

  • 3M in Decatur.

  • Athens-Limestone Hospital.

  • Better Business Bureau.

  • Central United Methodist Church.

  • City of Decatur.

  • Community Action Partnership of North Alabama.

  • Cook’s Pest Control.

  • Decatur General Hospital Lifestyle.

  • Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce.

  • Family Security Credit Union.

  • Hartselle Medical Center Senior Circle.

  • Holiday Inn, Decatur.

  • Hutto Printing.

  • Lynn Layton Chevrolet.

  • North-central Alabama Regional Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging.

  • Pepsi of Decatur.

  • Regions Bank.

  • Secure Destruction Service.

  • UNA Small Business Development Center.

  • WHNT-TV.

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