Unlocked vehicles could lead to big problems

RCMP are cautioning vehicle owners that leaving their vehicles unlocked could result in far more than just a few stolen objects.

By MorinvilleNews.com Staff

Sturgeon County – Morinville RCMP Staff Sergeant Mac Richards is advising residents in all areas policed by the Morinville Detachment to lock their vehicles and take precautions against attracting thieves.

Richards said although thefts from motor vehicles are down in 2011 throughout Sturgeon County, it continues to be an issue.

“In most cases – not all – the vehicles are unlocked,” Richards said. “People are just basically walking up and down the streets early mornings, checking vehicles and the ones that are open, they’re going through. That’s not always the case, but a good portion of them are unlocked.”

Staff Sergeant Richards said it is something vehicle owners can have some impact on by parking vehicles in a locked garage or locking them if no garage is available. But regardless of where the vehicle is parked, owners should remove valuables from the vehicle and ensure that any items left in the vehicle are not visible.

Although Richards said many items stolen from vehicles are small items that people are unlikely to claim through their insurance, some small items that may not seem of great importance could lead to big problems down the road.

RCMP caution residents to remove items that may include personal information, including mail and insurance information. Richards said an up-and-coming crime is the removal of personal information from vehicles to generate credit cards and debit cards that are quickly used and then discarded.

But that piece of mail left on the passenger seat in plain view could lead to more long term financial problems.

“One of the things they’re taking that people aren’t noticing is insurance documents, personal mail – things that people leave in their vehicles, thinking they’re of no value,” Richards said. “When someone can get your name or your kid’s names or credit card numbers, bank account statements – they can start to piece enough together that they can get their own credit card.”

Richards said the technology is there along with the availability of blank cards that can be embossed, allowing thieves to use someone’s personal information to obtain their personal funds.

“You may have only lost a little bit of mail out of your car and not really thing anything about it until two or three months or even six months down the road, he said. “All of a sudden you get a Visa bill and it’s huge. Then you have to go through the hassle of proving this wasn’t you that made the purchases, getting the charges reversed, then dealing with your credit history.”

Richards said his detachment has seen incidents in excess of $20,000 and recently made an arrest of someone alleged to have been gathering personal information for similar purposes.

“Money is easy,” Richards said, noting it is more attractive than stealing items from vehicles. “The other stuff, you have to have a buyer for. They have to try and turn it around. It makes it tougher.”

Richards asks that people call the RCMP whenever they witness suspicious activities in their neighbourhood. Additionally, people who are victims of theft should call the RCMP to report the crime so that police can investigate and so the detachment can have up-to-date information on criminal activity trends in certain areas.

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