ALBANY, N.Y. -- Albany County District Attorney David Soares is sending out a warning about identity theft and counterfeit cash as the holiday shopping season getting into full swing.
Federal and local law enforcement officials gathered on Wednesday, to address increased identity theft and counterfeiting in the Capital Region.
Albany Secret Service Agent Bill Leege says both identity theft and counterfeiting have been rising steadily in our region over the past few years. Counterfeit bills get passed and credit card numbers are stolen more frequently during this time of year, when shoppers and store clerks tend to be more distracted.
"You have to remember more things are being bought this time of year, so your percentage of purchases increases, therefore your percentages of credit card theft or counterfeit currency appears also to increase," said Leege.
John DeSalle from SEFCU says the best way to monitor your money is by enrolling in online banking. "What that will do, will allow them [customers] 24/7 access to see their accounts and in many cases catch something before it becomes very, very serious," he explains.
Leege suggests being aware of the texture of money when it comes to counterfeiting. "When you're feeling the money," he explains, "You feel the texture on the money and stuff like that and if one feels a little different, take a close look at it."
He says counterfeiting is especially high during the holidays and people should be aware of the method called skimming.
"The skimming device looks exactly like you'd swipe your card when you make a purchase," says Leege, "It is very narrow, it can be smaller than a cigarette pack. They swipe that card and they have all that information on that magnetic strip"
Leege also says that thieves will dumpster dive to search for discarded phone bills and gas bills. The information on those papers could give the criminals enough information to be able to create a second identity. He also says that thieves will eavesdrop and shoulder surf to gain any amount of information.
When it comes to in-store theft, officials say thieves target frazzled, frustrated, or distracted shoppers. This means anyone shopping throughout the season can be a victim. Holiday shoppers are reminded to pay more attention to bank account and credit card statement in the coming months.
Store clerks are also asked to be mindful of shoppers spending big bills, like 50's or 100's on small items, like chewing gum or a hamburger at a fast food restaurant.