What started out to be a fun day at the zoo turned into a harsh reminder that crooks who steal identity are closer than you think.
Parkland resident Laura Maize returned to her vehicle from a day at the St. Louis Zoo to find that someone had broken into the family vehicle and taken her purse.
She thought she had pushed it far enough under the seat that it was hidden.
When she talked with police, they told her that they had had several break-in reports from zoo visitors.
Luckily, Maize had left most of her personal information at home. But her checkbook was still in the purse.
Because Maize knows about scammers and their tricky ways, she had known not to put her Social Security number on her checks. Even so, the thief could still make trouble for her, because he or she now had Maize’s bank account and routing numbers.
Immediately, she contacted the bank to close her account and open a new one.
That was a good move. It wasn’t long before someone tried to cash several checks on her account.
Maize kept copies of two checks, which had two names on the account: L & D Home Repair and Larry D. Doss. The address on the check was Forest Place on E. St. Louis. The signature was L. Doss and the checks were made out to two different Schnuck’s stores.
The routing number and account number, however, were the ones on Maize’s old account. Had she not closed the account, she would have had to spend a lot of time clearing up the problem and could have lost money on fines or fees.
Maize was incensed when she thought what could have happened if she had not known what to do after the thief took her checks.
“I worry about people who wouldn’t think to close their account,” she said. “This is why people should never, never put their Social Security number on their checks.
Even though Maize will not be held liable for the checks, she does not plan to just forget about the theft. She has gathered her evidence and plans to bring it to the attention of police and other authorities.
Whether or not the culprit who took Maize’s purse will ever be caught, she wants to make sure others know how to protect themselves.
Purses should not be left in a vehicle where they can be seen or will be easy to find if someone breaks a window. Social Security numbers should not be kept in your wallet or purse, and should not be printed on your checks.
If your checkbook or credit cards are taken, do not waste any time notifying the bank and credit card companies to have those accounts closed.
Some authorities advise people with credit cards to refrain from signing their name on the back of the card, and instead write “ID required,” “ask for identification,” or a similar phrase.
Notify authorities of a theft, even if you don’t think it will be possible to catch the thief. And, stay on top of the ever-increasing schemes concocted by scammers.
The Daily Journal has made a commitment to keep readers abreast of scams that hit our area. If someone tries to make you the victim of a scam, call us at 431-2010 and tell us what happened. We will include your story in our scam alert series to prepare others who may find themselves in the same situation. The Daily Journal will run Scam Alert stories in the paper every Monday.