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HPD To Target Katrina Debit Card Scammers

September 15, 2005 -- The Houston Police Department Burglary and Theft Division has organized a task force designed to specially address the potential problems associated with the use and misuse of F.E.M.A. and American Red Cross Debit Cards. The task force will be called the Katrina Debit Card Fraud Task Force made up of investigators who have expertise in reactive and proactive cases pertaining to thefts involving debit cards, credit cards and check fraud.

The task force was created to deal with possible abuses related to the extremely large number of relief debit cards and checks being issued in Houston over the past week. This proactive measure is designed to reduce the incidences of cases expected to accompany the usage of debit cards by hurricane survivors and the criminal element that seeks to prey on their circumstances. "Our goal is to make those who are legitimately seeking assistance feel safe and to discourage those who want to take advantage of the situation and the survivors," said HPD Burglary and Theft Lieutenant C. Williams. "We will also be on the look out for folks who are using fraudulent identification in an attempt to obtain checks or cards illegally."

Investigators will be working closely with the representatives from the American Red Cross and F.E.M.A. to identify those seeking to illegally obtain financial assistance. HPD also reminds hurricane survivors they need to watch out possible dangers.

1. Guard your personal information as best as possible. Don't share your Social Security card numbers, birth certificate or date of birth information. Keep your personal information as private as possible.

2. Be aware of your surroundings and what's going on around you. Stay alert to anyone attempting to look over your shoulder to obtain your password while using your credit or debit card.

3. When using your credit/debit card, always block the view of the keyboard with your hand or body and do not enter the PIN number if others can see the screen.

4. Predators are aware Katrina survivors recently received a debit card from FEMA and the American Red Cross, and the amount of money on it.

5. Once your transaction is complete, put the money away and leave immediately. Do not stand there and count your money.

AW/ NJM 9-15-05

For additional information, please contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200.