DRWMAG.COM 34 #357 • JANUARY 2019 • 30TH ANNIVERSARY You may think how-to ar- ticles about avoiding iden- tity theft, preventing mail fraud, and thwarting porch pirates should be published before the holiday season. Once an anomaly in our area, the fact is, these criminal activities are surging all year-round as internet sales steadily increase. Over the next few months you will see articles concern- ing these felonious activities that will alert you to the issues, explain some of the ways these illicit activities are perpetrated, what to do if you’re a victim, and how to prevent becoming a target. It’s impor- tant for you to understand the issues confronting our families and how to defend your information. If you watchTV, listen to the radio, read magazines, or surf the web, you are probably aware of the services that can help protect your identity.There are ways you can protect yourself. Most people think about identity theft as an issue that only happens when a crimi- nal accesses personal information on the web, and then takes over a checking account, or opens up a new account under a new name. The reality of this is that identity theft often occurs when a thief gains access to info sent through the mail, disposed of in the trash, or cunningly obtained from you over the telephone. It is through these methods that criminals can access your name, Social Security number, or address, and then open up a new account or take over an existing one. When a high-level criminal hacker is cracking databases and stealing millions of records each year, there is someone else who is on the streets using a low-tech version of stealing identities.These thieves live near you, they are in our neighborhoods, and they steal your mail in hopes that they can obtain information that can be used to steal your identity. A couple of years ago, a neighbor we’ll call Mike had his identity stolen.The crooks stole money from his bank account, then hijacked his accounts and emptied the balances, used his identity to purchase from the web – tens of thousands of dollars of merchandise in his name – and had the goods delivered to the Pines main post office. How did this theft occur? Mike put a payment with check in the mailbox and put the flag up.Thieves stole it and made the next two years of his life a financial nightmare. Another resident last month was expecting a box of new checks; the thieves got it and were writ- ing checks by the end of the same day.A few months ago, a resident was contacted by their brokerage firm indicating that there was sus- pected fraud attempts to close their account. While I was campaigning this summer, I saw lots of really beau- tiful, creative, and fun mailboxes. Some looked like fishing lures, chickens, horses, houses, and other cool designs; but none of those decorative mailboxes were protected. I was impressed with the box- es that looked quite secure. In the cases of stolen mail, the best way to thwart these criminals is to invest in a locking mailbox. If thieves see a locked box, they will move on. If a lockable mailbox is not an option, try to retrieve your mail as soon as possible after it’s deliv- ered and never put your flag up.Also, remember the new phrase that has come into popular use, “If you see something, say something.” If you see any suspicious behavior such as an unknown vehicle circling your neighborhood, call 911. It’s little help to the police or your victimized neighbor if you mention that you saw something days or weeks after the incident. Concerning the brokerage account attempted theft, most finan- cial institutions have implemented security practices that make it difficult for someone to call with an account number and make un- authorized changes. If they suspect fraud, institutions will generally first attempt to contact you and if no contact is made,they will block the account until they hear from you.The credit card companies em- ploy similar methods. Next month we will look at preventing identity theft and mail fraud and how to proceed if you are victimized. On Saturday, December 8th, the Town hosted its annual Fun Horse Show. It was a perfect autumn day to ride!Twenty-two rid- ers entered and participated in over thirty competition classes.The youngest rider was 5-years-old, her mount, a youthful 42-year-old gelding. 37 1st place trophies were presented, along with 38 1st place blue ribbons, 27 2nd place red ribbons, 25 3rd place yellow ribbons, 12 4th place ribbons, 14 5th place ribbons, and 9 6th place ribbons. This year theTown of Southwest Ranches held it first Decem- ber Festival of Lights contest.The town’s Rural Public Arts and Design advisory board and town staff worked together to create this popular new idea. Choosing a winner was a tough choice as all homes entered were beautifully decorated. On Sunday night, De- cember 9th, the three finalists were visited by Santa, his helpers, and an entourage of well-wishers.The winners are: 1st place - Marcos Velez and Nelida Green; 2nd place – Mery andArmando Palma; and 3rd place – Marie Berry. Congratulations to the winners! There are many town, HOA and scholarship fundraiser events planned for the next few months, check the town website for details. BY COUNCIL MEMBER BOB HARTMANN In an age of online shopping, package and ID theft is on the rise SW RANCHES CORNER