Identity Theft Crime Advocate Newsletter

  • By Spokane C.O.P.S.
  • 21 Nov, 2016

Have you given any thought to the steps you can take to minimize your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud before the busyness takes over?

Consider these statistics – Washington state has the 15th highest reported identity theft in the country per the Consumer Sentinel report put out by the Federal Trade Commission in 2015. Additionally, in 2015, $15 billion was stolen from 13.1 million U.S. consumers, per the 2016 Identity Fraud Study released by Javelin Strategy & Research. The study also found that the number of reported identity theft and fraud victims was at its second highest in the last six years.

Here are several steps to consider to minimize your risk:

  • Shred all documents containing personal information.
  • Clean out your purse or wallet. Carry only what you plan to use while you are out and about.
  • Use only one credit card for all purchases. Doing this makes it easier to track all transactions, and your bank or credit card company may offer text alerts for any purchases made online, by phone, or by mail. If you choose to shop with a debit card, monitor your transactions daily so you can dispute purchases you did not make, immediately. Use chip readers whenever possible, as these are encrypted transactions.
  • When shopping online: use your PayPal account, or, if you are using your credit card, be sure you are using a secure website. In the search bar, it will look like this: https:// at the beginning of the URL and have a locked padlock symbol.
  • Guard yourself when purchasing gift cards. If the card is not in a fully sealed package, do not purchase it. Fraudsters collect the card numbers from gift cards, then they wait for the card to be activated and steal the money. The Spokesman Review wrote an article about gift card fraud in the November 6, 2016 issue. Also, ask the store clerk to confirm the amount on the newly activated card. Old-fashioned cash in a card is a thief-proof option as well.
  • When you answer phone calls, do not give the caller personal information in any form – credit/debit card numbers, gift card numbers, bank account numbers, date of birth, social security number, address, etc. – unless you have verified who you are talking to. When in doubt, hang up and call them back at a phone number you verified yourself.
  • Order your credit reports to verify you are the only one using your credit. The website to use is: You can also go through the individual credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

If you find you are a victim of Identity Theft or Fraud you can call: 509-625-3328 or email Samantha Purcell at .  A Spokane C.O.P.S. Crime Victim Advocate is available to answer any questions and assist in the recovery process of identity theft and fraud.

This article is written for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing legal advice.

Spokane C.O.P.S.

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 12 Apr, 2017

By Samantha Purcell, Spokane C.O.P.S. Crime Victim Advocate

April 2017

Imposter Scams

I find I often tire of hearing about scams, frauds, data breaches, and I wonder if everyone else isn’t tiring of it too. What I have concluded is this – I read about these crimes daily so the information seems like old news to me; however, with Americans reporting $744 million dollars lost at the hands of these scammers and fraudsters in 2016, clearly education and awareness remains imperative.

What concerns me the most about the losses of 2016 is the most reported method used: imposter scams over the telephone. In my research, it is painstakingly clear the imposters are good at what they do; whether they are gaining their victim’s trust or threatening them, they are convincing. But the most devastating consequence of most imposter scams is the money is rarely, if ever, recovered. The scammer get the victim to physically get the money and send them money, so convincing the bank or credit card company of a scam is difficult.

            My purpose in writing about imposter scams is to educate anyone reading this on how to identify red flags of an imposter scam, and prevent this from happening to as many people as possible. I also want to implore the reader to share this information with your friends and family; particularly if you know any seniors who you feel would benefit from this information because the imposters tend to target them.


 - You did not initiate the call.

 - Overly persuasive, aggressive, or threatening tone or language.

 - A sense of urgency – the transaction must happen right now.

 - The know too much or too little about you than seems appropriate for the situation.

 - Payment methods of money orders, pre-paid cards, wire transfers, transferring money from your account to a new   account, depositing a check into your account them withdrawing cash to give to someone, or asking for credit card   information.

 - Sounds too good to be true.

 - Free, for a fee.

Here is a list of current phone scams:

 - IRS scams

 - They may claim you owe money that must be paid now or you will be arrested.

 -Tech scams

 - They may say your computer in vulnerable and they can help. They may ask for money (via credit card or money   order), or they ask for remote access of your computer. Either way they may be attempting to steal your money or   your information.

 - Lottery

 - They may claim you have won a lottery in another country. Usually you must pay a fee to claim the prize, or they   may ask for your bank account information to deposit the money in your account.

 -Jury duty scams

 - The imposter claims you have unpaid fines for missing jury duty. The demand payment immediately.

 - Grandparent Scam

 - The imposter claims to be your grandchild. The know enough about your actual grandchild to sound convincing, and   they claim they are in jail and need bail money. They will ask for payment to be made in a variety of formats.

There is another platform used by imposters to scam people out of money or personal information. It is not as common as phone scams, but the damage that can be done is the same. These imposter scams happen online, using email and ads.

Online Scam Red Flags:

 - Email that contain spelling and grammar errors.

 - Ads that offer an unbelievable discount.

 - Email from a friend that contains a link or attachment (known as phishing).

 - Email from a CEO or manager of your company asking for employee information, such as W-2 information. This    request also includes an extreme sense of urgency (known as spear phishing).

 - The phone scam red flags apply to online scams.

Pause, then Post

            The information be share using online platforms is fun – pictures, stories, videos, etc. The most common places: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, and there are others. Here’s the deal, your personal information is as valuable as the cash in your pocket or the credit card in your wallet. Does that seem strange? It did to me, at first, but I have since learned how true it is. The criminals who are committed to stealing from people, by any means possible, are using the information we share on our social media sites to gain enough information about us to use it against us. Posting information about our lives on Facebook is fun and seemingly harmless; however, an imposter scammer may use your Facebook page to find information that will make them sound legit when they call you. We work hard to have good passwords, but many people use names of pets or items they love, so their passwords are easier to remember. Hackers will intentionally glean this information from your social media sites and use it to guess passwords.

            Often people respond to hearing this information saying, “This is scaring me”. My intention is to educate and create awareness, not to scare anyone. The more we know about the tactics of criminals the better we can protect ourselves and our families. Next time you are going to post something on social media – pause, then post. And if your passwords contain information about you I recommend changing them today.

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 17 Mar, 2017
The C.O.P.S. Shop for Northeast Spokane (Located at the Northeast Precinct 5124 E. Market St. Spokane) Now offers Operation Family ID (OFID ).  OFID is a program where volunteers take fingerprints, up to date digitalphotos and other identifying information such as name, height, etc. about children or vulnerable adults with dementia or other disabilities.  This information is incredibly helpful to police in the event someone is lost or abducted.  Police send Amber or Silver Alerts for missing children or adults and dispatch as much relevant information as possible to ensure they are found quickly. Having up to date, accurate information about those we care for can make all the difference in the world in the critical first hours that someone is lost.  

None of this information is kept or stored by Spokane C.O.P.S.  Everything is transferred to the parent or loved one for their storage.  Spokane Police and C.O.P.S. recommends all families bring their children and any other vulnerable adult to a C.O.P.S. Shop regularly to keep up to date information on file.

Your local C.O.P.S. Shops run many, many programs that can benefit you, your family and your neighborhood.  Stop on by and get great information on block watches , neighborhood observation patrols , Latent Fingerprinting for car break ins, safe streets , code enforcement , bicycle registration , Engraving ID information on your property, crime free multi-housing and other great resources that are personalized for your neighborhoods in Spokane. Click Here to find your nearest C.O.P.S. Shop and find out how we can help you keep your loved ones and belongings safe.

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 09 Mar, 2017

Having your car broken into is no fun! You lose your belongings, have to pay for a new window or broken lock, dealwith insurance, clean up broken glass, and the headache and time that come with dealing with those issues. And, of course, you lose your sense of safety.

So what can you do about vehicle prowlings ?

First, Do all you can do a lot to prevent it from happening.  Car prowling and break-ins are crimes of opportunity for thieves. Some common sense prevention can do a lot to decrease the likelihood of you becoming a victim.

Keep it Locked-   It seems simple, keep your car locked to avoid would-be thieves from getting in, but all of us get lulled into feeling like it won't happen to us. If you leave your car, lock it up. It can be tempting if we're running back into the house or another location because we forgot something to just keep the car running or unlocked to make things easier. During these cold temperatures we can be tempted to let our car "warm up" before we get in. Some people feel safe in their neighborhood and that it could never happen to them. But thieves look for easy targets and there is nothing easier than an unlocked car, especially if it is running! Locking your car means that the prowler is going to have to break in, and that means a lot more risk of someone seeing or hearing the break in and calling the police.  Anything that makes a prowler have to work harder or be more noticable might be enough to protect your car or belongings.

Park in a secure location-  The best place to park your car would be in your locked garage, or in a driveway with a locked gate, but that's not always available for a number of reasons. There are still things you can do, however, to keep your car as safe as possible. 

 -Park in a well lit area: Prowlers want to get in and out of your car without being seen. If you are somewhere with a lot  of light they are likely to move on to avoid being caught.

 -Park in high traffic area, or where your car will be visible to many: This goes along with the concept of being in a well lit area, but be somewhere where many people can see your car. This could be because you are on a sidewalk where neighbors commonly walk, or in a place where you and your neighbors can clearly see the car from windows. The same principle applies the easier it is for you and others to see your vehicle, the less likely a prowler will think he can break in without being noticed.

Don't Leave valuables, mail or other items in your car- Whenever you go in take your valuables with you.  Don't leave laptops, cell phones, purses, wallets... really anything you want to keep in your car.  The more a prowler can see in your car, the more the reward for breaking in might exceed the risk.  

Don't just think about traditional items though. Leaving mail in your car can also entice prowlers. Identity theft is rampant, and anything that could help criminals steal your identity are as enticing as electronics or a wallet.  Be careful and safeguard your identity by protecting your documents, bills, and other identifying information.

Don't leave things that could appear to be valuable.  Avoid leaving bags, boxes, or other items that could hold valuables. You may know that the duffel bag in your backseat only has old gym socks, but a prowler could think it has a laptop or other valuables.  Even a bag you leave in your car to collect trash could make a prowler think something valuable is inside. The more that is visible from outside your car the more enticing your car looks as a target.

Prowling is all about risk-reward, use these tips and constantly be thinking about ways to make your car seem more like a risk and less like a reward to protect yourself from being a victim.

But, if you do become a victim of car prowling call Crime Check (456-2233) and report it. Note the incident number, which you will give to your insurance company if you are making a claim. While you are talking to Crime Check, request a fingerprint lift . That’s where your neighborhood C.O.P.S. shop comes in. We have trained volunteers who will attempt a fingerprint lift and get the prints to forensics to help catch the person who did it.

Even if you haven't had a break-in- You can still make use of your local C.O.P.S. shop . If you are seeing a lot of break-ins, let us know. You can request a Neighborhood Observation Patrol (NOP) that will help patrol your area, and we can help you set up a Block Watch or Business Watch as well to minimize your risk.

Always remember that there are actions you can take to minimize your risk of crime. And that’s what we’re here for. Get in touch with us, and consider volunteering at your neighborhood C.O.P.S. shop!


By Spokane C.O.P.S. 10 Jan, 2017

The Club is an excellent theft prevention for your car.  Not only does it make it more difficult for thieves to steal your car, it also acts as a visual deterrent telling thieves to pass your car for an easier target.

C.O.P.S. Northeast has 22 steering wheel clubs available for the following vehicles. If you have one of these vehicles and are interested please contact the shop at 509-625-3343. 

1984-2005 TOYOTA CAMRY

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 22 Dec, 2016

There are few things worse than having your belongings stolen from you. Aside from the fact that our belongings are physical manifestations of all of our hard work and sweat that we put into this world, often belongings have strong sentimental value as well – the lawnmower your mom gave you when you bought your first house or the tools you inherited from your dad. Whatever it may be, property crimes are so much more than the simple value of the items that were stolen or the damage that was done to our property. Our neighborhoods don’t feel as safe and it can severely affect our quality of life. It can too easily feel like property crimes are just a fact of life for us and that we need to give up and accept it. But it doesn’t need to be that way , and it certainly doesn’t mean we need to resign ourselves to watching our property get stolen while we sit idly by. As citizens, there are a myriad of things we can do to help get this situation under control and protect ourselves. And your neighborhood C.O.P.S. shop is here to help.

The first thing you can do to stay safe is get a Block Watch going. That’s because one of the single most important crime deterrents is getting to know your neighbors . Period. When we work as a community and look out for each other, we make it considerably harder for criminals to cause trouble. When you know your neighbors, when you know their schedules, when you have a strong relationship with your block and when your street is full of people looking out for one another, you can drastically reduce your risk of crime. If there was a strange car at your neighbor’s house, for instance, would you notice it? And even if you did, do you have your neighbor’s phone number and are you close enough that you would call them and check in to see if they were expecting company? If you saw a person walking on your street, do you know your neighbors well enough to know if this person lives a few houses down or if this person doesn’t live there at all? These are the things neighbors need to do. That’s what makes us a community, and strong communities are safe communities. Your C.O.P.S. shop can help you work to start a block watch and get your neighbors together. It’s not hard! It just needs someone to want to make it happen. We will even happily come out and talk to your group about safety tips, products, and any other number of things that will help you to stay safe.

Keeping your neighborhood neat and tidy is another thing you can do to stay safe. The Broken Windows Theory is the idea that criminals are attracted - at either the conscious or subconscious level - to areas that look unkempt and run down. Broken windows attract crime. So do overgrown lawns, broken down cars parked in yards, graffiti, and garbage strewn across yards. Things like that tell criminals that no one cares, and that anything goes in that area. Contrarily, neighborhoods that are neat, clean, and tidy tell criminals that people care in this area, and that they better try their shenanigans somewhere else. Your neighborhood COPS shop can help you report code enforcement violations such as these to the Spokane Code Enforcement team.

Other things you can do to minimize your risk of property crime are:

 - Keep things of value locked up. Even walking away and leaving something unattended for a few minutes can attract thievery.

- Keep your garage door closed

- Make sure your house is well-lit at night.

- Keep shrubbery trimmed, and not overgrown. Overgrown bushes and trees provide great hiding spots for criminals.

- Make sure your front door has a working deadbolt

- Ensure all windows and sliding doors have dowels or other device to keep from being forced open

- Let your neighbors know when you go on vacation, but no one else. Don’t put it on social media that you aren’t home.

- Stop by your local COPS shop to borrow an engraver (free of charge) and engrave your personal belongings so if they get stolen, police can return them to you.

- Bring your bicycles in to your neighborhood COPS shop for registration.

- Make sure all exterior doors on your house are solid core doors

For any of these physical features to your house or landscape, you can come in to your neighborhood C.O.P.S. shop and request a CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) evaluation. We’ll have a CPTED-trained volunteer come and look at your house and property with a check list of things to go through that can help minimize your risk of crime.

And don’t forget, you can also go into any C.O.P.S. shop and request a Neighborhood Observation Patrol (NOP). Our volunteers are trained by the Spokane Police Department, and our NOP patrols are always out and about, observing and reporting to help keep you safe. We can patrol your neighborhood to help keep your area crime free.

So, stop by your local C.O.P.S. shop and talk to us about things you can do to stay safe. And get involved! Crime is a community problem and it takes a community to solve it. We’re here to help, so volunteer with us!

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 22 Dec, 2016

Having your car broken into is no fun! You lose your belongings, have to pay for a new window or broken lock, deal with insurance, clean up broken glass, and the headache and time that come with dealing with those issues. And, of course, you lose your sense of safety.

So what can you do about vehicle prowlings ?

First , if you are a victim, call Crime Check (456-2233) and report it. Note the incident number, which you will give to your insurance company if you are making a claim. While you are talking to Crime Check, request a fingerprint lift . That’s where your neighborhood C.O.P.S. shop comes in. We have trained volunteers who will attempt a fingerprint lift and get the prints to forensics to help catch the person who did it.

To avoid becoming a victim in the first place, please consider these:

- Remove anything of value from your car. If possible, don’t just hide it, but actually take it with you. Thieves are looking for items they can sell, so don’t give them that opportunity. Cell phones, laptops, mp3 players, all of those things just invite a thief to break into your car. Get in the habit of looking around every time you leave your car to make sure you didn’t accidentally leave something in sight.

- Remove anything that appears to have value. Things like duffel bags or laptop bags invite thieves. Sure, you knew that laptop bag held just your dog’s veterinary papers in it, but a thief figured it had an expensive laptop . Anything that even seems like it could have value puts you at risk. Even a plastic bag you use for trash could tempt a thief!

- Lock your doors. Often, people will leave doors unlocked as they figure if a thief is going to break in anyhow, it’s better to let them in so no damage is done to the car. But remember: a person opening a door and getting in does not attract attention or get noticed. A person breaking a window does, should someone see it.

- When possible, park in areas that are highly visible and well-lit. You are more likely to get broken into if a thief is aware that no one can see them.

Finally , make use of your local C.O.P.S. shop . If you are seeing a lot of break-ins, let us know. You can request a Neighborhood Observation Patrol (NOP) that will help patrol your area, and we can help you set up a Block Watch or Business Watch as well to minimize your risk.

Always remember that there are actions you can take to minimize your risk of crime. And that’s what we’re here for. Get in touch with us, and consider volunteering at your neighborhood C.O.P.S. shop!


By Spokane C.O.P.S. 02 Dec, 2016

Block Watch is one of the most effective and least costly ways to prevent crime and reduce fear. Block Watch fights the isolation that crime both creates and feeds upon. It forges bonds among residents, helps reduce burglaries and robberies, and improves relations between the police and the communities they serve.

Today, community oriented policing allows the C.O.P.S. shops, police and residents to work together to solve issues involving crime and social concerns in their community. Block Watches are one of the original foundations of community policing and are referred to as the eyes and ears of law enforcement. Members look out for neighbors and their property and report suspicious activities to the police.

However, Block Watches are more than looking out for suspicious activity in neighborhoods. Through community mobilization, citizens form an active partnership in the community. Watches allow individuals the opportunity to discover common interests and goals that they share with their neighbors. The residents work to prevent the possibility of crime in their area and develop a sense of community spirit that encourages more activism.  

The Benefits of Forming an Active Block Watch

·         Having the fast track to reporting crime and unsafe conditions.

·         Notifications about crime trends and scams in your neighborhood.

·         Being a part of community crime prevention.

·         Education on how to protect yourself and your property.

·         Having the means to stop crime in your neighborhood.

How to Start a Block Watch

  • Obtain a Block Watch Representative application from this link or go to your nearest C.O.P.S. shop .
  • Contact your neighbors. Ask them if they would be interested in meeting. Your needs and interests should fit the uniqueness of your area and your neighbors. Stay flexible (meeting locations, frequency, topics, size, etc.).
  • Once your application has been approved, a volunteer from your substation will call you to set up a time and place for your first meeting. A Block Watch Coordinator is available to run this meeting.
  • Notify interested neighbors. Once you and the C.O.P.S. volunteer have decided on a meeting time and place, let your neighbors know. C.O.P.S. volunteers can help develop a flyer for you to distribute, or you can call your neighbors direct.
  • First meeting. At this time the C.O.P.S. volunteer will help people feel at ease, explain the value of Block Watch, and address particular interests and concerns they have about the neighborhood. This will include filling out the Block Map – a list of names, addresses and phone numbers which are reproduced and distributed to each of the member homes. Topics for future meetings can also be explored.


If you are interested in starting a Block Watch in your neighborhood, contact your nearest C.O.P.S. shop or the Spokane C.O.P.S. main office at 509-625-3301.

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 21 Nov, 2016

Have you given any thought to the steps you can take to minimize your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud before the busyness takes over?

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 15 Nov, 2016

From crime rates to code enforcement reporting, the city offers a variety of resources for citizens to utilize. Below are some helpful resources to check out.

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 24 Oct, 2016

We all want to live in communities and neighborhoods that are safe.  Communities that are connected and watch out for each other are the greatest resource to fight crime, and protect each other from harm and property damage.  Everyone can be a community watchdog by simply watching your neighborhood for things that seem out of place, keeping an eye out for signs of abuse or other unsafe behavior, and reporting anything that seems suspicious.  We've compiled a list of resources to show you what you what to watch for and what resources are available to protect your neighborhood. 

  • Elder abuse: It is everyone's job to protect our most vulnerable, including our elderly. Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has a number of resources to help elders in our community. Click Here to get information on reporting abuse to Adult Protective Services as well as resources for housing, long term care and more. 

  • Child abuse:  We should also watch and protect children in our community. DSHS also handles allegations of child abuse.   Click here to get all the information on where to report suspicions of child abuse and get other resources.  Remember, DSHS will investigate to see if actual abuse has taken place, so you should report any suspicions and let DSHS make the determination. 

  • Graffiti: The City of Spokane offers an online tool to report graffiti that has worked in reducing incidents.   Click here to find out more and get a link to their tool. 

  • Child in a hot car: There are far too many stories of children  dying or being seriously injured being left in a hot car, Click Here to get information on what you can do, and what protections you have for being a "Good Samaritan"  

  • Report unsafe driver:  If you suspect someone can no longer operate a car safely you can file a report with the Department of Licensing. Click Here for information on unsafe drivers and how to file a report. 

  • Drunk driver: If you see a car or other vehicle that you suspect may have a drunk driver, don't engage them directly, Click Here to get information on what you can do to keep your streets safe.

  • Abandoned Vehicles: Vehicles left on our streets can be really annoying, but they can also be indications of crimes or other dangerous activity.   Click Here to get information on what to look for with an abandoned car and where you can report it to resolve the issue.

  • Potholes:  Potholes make your neighborhood streets an eyesore, but can also do damage to you and your neighbors' vehicles.   Click Here to find out how you can report potholes and make your streets more accessible and safer.

  • Crime Tipline: Think you've seen a crime? Have information that could help police?  No matter how hard they work police can't be everywhere, if you hear information or see evidence of a crime you can help police solve crimes and make the city, and your neighborhood safer.   Click Here to find out how.

  • Property Drop Off: Having your stolen is really frustrating and awful.  Help out your neighbors and police by returning property that you think might be stolen and letting police and other volunteers work to return the property.   Click Here for information on where you can return items.

  • Join a Neighborhood Observation Patrol (NOP): If you really want to neighborhood safer why not be trained by Spokane Police on how to do it?  Joining a NOP you'll know the best ways to work with police to reduce crime and keep yourself and your neighbors safe. Click Here to find out how to join a NOP. 

  • Code Enforcement Program: Crime isn't the only thing that can affect our neighborhoods negatively.  Graffiti, overgrown weeds, excessive trash and other issues can be real problems for our neighborhoods.   Click Here to find out what a violation is, and how you can report it to improve your neighborhood and make life a little bit better for you and your neighbors.

Better communities begin with all of us doing our part.  Armed with these resources you can be a community watchdog and help your neighborhood work together and be a safer and better place to live. Stronger neighborhoods make a safer, stronger city.

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