New York State Police Trooper Timothy T. Pratt was tragically struck by an automobile and killed while he was out of his police cruiser assisting a lost semi truck driver. While hundreds were gathering for his funeral, Bronx resident Stephen J. Calderon had already stolen the dead officer’s identity using it to open a charge account. It was not until store associates became suspicious that authorities with the state police began to investigate.
What Police Discovered?
While officers from throughout New England was gathering for the funeral of Trooper Pratt, his identity had already been stolen by Stephen J. Calderon. This Bronx-resident went to Home Depot where he used a fake ID showing his picture but containing Pratt’s information to open a charge account. Once he opened the account, he purchased a washing machine.
Calderon then drove a short distance to another Home Depot. He quickly accumulated more than the credit line on the card. He did not discover this until he went to check out. Calderon started to put things back which raised suspensions from store employees. One of the store’s employees called Pratt’s daughter while another employee called the police.
Armed with a warrant, troopers went to Calderon’s apartment a few days later. They found several cell phones with names attached to the back of them. Investigations determined that he opened a cell phone for each person whose identity he stole so that if a store tried to contact him, he would know what name to answer with when questioned.
Robert Patnaude with the New York State Police says:
“We see the worst in people, so unfortunately, we expect things like this, and we do what we can to keep it from happening to others.”
How to Protect Your Identity?
The New York Police Department, the police in New York City, says that people should take several steps to make sure that their own identity is not stolen.
Police recommend that all credit card monthly bills and bank statements be checked on a monthly basis. They recommend that everyone memorize any passwords or numbers. Never write them down. They say that no one should ever loan out their credit cards.
Participate in credit cards and financial institutions opt-out programs each year so that they cannot share information with anyone without consent. Opt out of credit card programs where they automatically send new cards without the person requesting one.
They say everyone should shred any bill, bank account information, credit card receipt or anything else containing personal information or identifying numbers. The police say that only after the paper is shredded, should it be discarded in the trash.
Protect any identification numbers very carefully. Do not list them on a form without knowing why the business needs that information. Police say that not providing this information without the need to know helps to protect identities from getting stolen.
Everyone should be very prompt in picking up their mail as thieves go through the mail left in boxes to get identifying information. They recommend that people going on vacation either have a trusted friend pick mail up each day or have the post office hold the mail. They also recommend mailing any letters with identifying information at a post office or in a secured mailbox.
Taking these steps is still not enough. The New York Police recommends that people examine their credit reports at least once a year to make sure that everything looks right. He says that if anything suspicious is found, then the individual should call the company and also send them a letter.
On the same day that New York State Trooper Pratt was being buried, Stephen J. Calderon was using the officer’s identity to open up credit cards in the dead officer’s name. Alert store employees were able to tell the police who discovered that the Bronx man was operating an identity theft ring. New York Police representatives say that everyone should be proactive in protecting their identity.
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