Police: Alert property owners are best defense against home burglaries

Steve Stefanides

Identity theft and local burglaries were the center of conversation as the Marco Island Police Department hosted a theft seminar for residents.

Police Chief Al Schettino reported there has been a spike in the numbers of home burglaries in the last month. Police earlier said they were investigating 11 recent thefts at Marco Island homes.

To put the incidents into focus, the chief gave an historical overview of statistics that saw the total burglaries in 2014 fall to 20, from a 2013 total of 31. The total in 2015, before the outbreak in the last month, was 4.

“I just wanted you all to know we are on top of this and our personnel have been following up on solid leads,” said Schettino. “Our best deterrent to these types of events are with an alert public that calls in activities that they see that are out of the ordinary.”

He also urged those in attendance not to be complacent in securing their homes and vehicles.

Closing garage doors, installing secondary slider security and making a good inventory of serial numbers on electronics will go a long way to helping recover items should they be stolen, the police chief said.

“You are the frontline of protecting your persons and property, and my favorite saying here is when in doubt call us out,” said Schettino.

Marco police joined with the Collier County Identity Theft Task Force in sponsoring a presentation by Carrie Kerskie, the newly appointed executive director of the Hodges University Identity Theft Institute in Naples.

“We receive our share of inquires each week from those that fear their personal information may have been breached,” said Sgt. Nick Ojanovac of the Marco Island Police Department. “Our best weapon against this type of crime is a well-informed public.”

Kerskie shocked attendees when she announced there has been more than 800 million breaches of personal information since 2005. She said identity theft cannot be prevented, but individuals can help minimize their exposure.

“A lot of this information ends up on the ‘dark-web,’ where that information can be sold. Things such as names, addresses, social security numbers, credit card information can all be obtained for a price,” said Kerskie.

Last year the IRS set up a special pilot program for residents of Florida, Georgia, and D.C. That program allows taxpayers to sign up for an Identity Theft Pin Number. This will prevent someone from filing a false income tax claim in your name and receiving a fraudulent refund.

A similar program is available from the Social Security Administration and prevents someone from signing up for benefits or changing personal information and address to divert Social Security checks and other benefits.

Kerskie also urged attendees to monitor credit card activity and check credit reports to ensure others aren’t using their identity to apply for credit.

She also warned about the false claims by companies offering to protect your credit.

“These folks are usually looking to upgrade you and sell other services,” she said. “Credit monitoring only detects changes in a credit report. The better option is a security freeze that clamps down on access to your credit information. In Florida it is a free offering and a temporary lift can be obtained should you need to lift the access to your records.”

She also warned about the use of debit cards. A debit card is linked directly to your money and it could be a serious intrusion into your financial assets. With a credit card, you are protected if you report the fraudulent activity within the time allotment.