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Identity theft crusade comes to city

State Attorney General Rob McKenna will be shredding it up in Oak Harbor, Thursday, Oct. 18.

McKenna is visiting Oak Harbor as part of a statewide “GUARD IT! Washington” tour to raise awareness of identity theft prevention and to help people keep sensitive documents out of the hands of crooks.

Identity theft is a crime in which a culprit steals a person’s personal information and uses it to commit fraud or theft, such as opening a credit card in someone else’s name. The crime is a huge and growing trend that can devastate people’s credit and finances.

More than 5,000 Washington residents become victims of identity theft each year, according to reports from the Federal Trade Commission. That ranks Washington in the top 10 states for per capita victim reports.

In Oak Harbor, Police Chief Steve Almon said his detectives spend a great deal of time investigating ID theft and training to keep ahead of the bad guys. The department investigated 12 major ID theft cases last year, plus many more forgery, credit card and other fraud cases.

“They are becoming more and more sophisticated,” Almon said. “With such an Internet-based society, it’s become so easy for people to take your identity and run with it.”

Thursday, McKenna will speak to the business community at the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce meeting at 11:30 a.m. at the Elks Lodge. He will discuss how businesses can improve data security in the workplace. Please RVSP to janelleg@atg.wa.gov if you are not a chamber member but would like to attend.

Then from 5 to 7 p.m., everyone is invited to bring their sensitive documents to be destroyed for free by Base Secure Records Destruction at Skagit Valley College’s Oak Harbor campus parking lot, which is also the Sno-Isle library parking lot.

From 6:30 to 8 p.m., McKenna, AARP’s Cheryl Reed and Rebecca Sears from the AGO Consumer Protection Division will speak about identity theft prevention at Skagit Valley College’s Oak Harbor Campus, Hayes Hall, room 137, 1900 SE Pioneer Way. Folks can learn how to protect themselves from identity theft and what to do if they are a victim. Register online at www.guarditwashington.com or call toll-free 1-800-646-2283. Walk-ins are welcome.

The attorney general also set up an informative Web site, www.guarditwashington.com, with a great deal of information, including step-by-step instructions on what a person should do if he or she becomes the victim of ID theft.

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