Location Of Theft in AQUA BLUE
URL Of Linked Article In STEEL BLUE or GREEN
Full Content Of Article In BLACK
Theft Description In Body Of Article in RED

Sunday, November 07, 2010


Fraudulent activity surfaces on Accomack residents' credit

But officials feel laptop's theft hasn't led to misuse of identities

ACCOMAC -- Accomack County has received seven reports of suspected fraudulent activity on residents' existing credit accounts after the Oct. 7 theft from a Las Vegas hotel room of a county-owned laptop containing personal information about thousands of county residents.

Employees in two county offices have fielded a total of 653 calls from people concerned about the theft. The employee who took the computer without permission on a personal vacation to Las Vegas resigned after the incident.
But County Administrator Steve Miner said the reports of fraud likely are not related to data retrieved from the stolen computer.
"Due to the types and circumstances of the activities reported, we have no reason at present to believe that county data has been used for fraudulent purposes," Miner said in an e-mail to the News.
Miner said no lawsuits have been filed as yet against the county, but said several residents have indicated they intend to do so if their identity is used fraudulently.
Several residents who paid for fraud protection services as a result of the theft have asked the county to reimburse them, but Miner said, "We have no established funds with which to reimburse these costs, nor has the Board (of Supervisors) authorized it."
He said it is "highly unlikely" the county can afford to provide protection to all the people affected, citing costs of $15 or more per month for such services.
County Attorney Mark Taylor "has contacted the Las Vegas police to make sure that they are aware that this isn't just a simple laptop theft worth $700," Miner said, adding that the last contact between Taylor and the police department occurred a week to ten days ago.
A Las Vegas Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said this week the case has been suspended because investigators have no further leads.
"There is nothing more we can do," said Officer Barbara Morgan.
She said police were not able to process the crime scene for physical evidence because the victim did not call police to the room where it reportedly took place but instead went to a nearby police station sometime after the theft occurred.
Police examined surveillance video from the Mandalay Bay Hotel, where the county employee was staying, but did not see anyone leave the room with the items reported stolen, which included a backpack as well as the laptop.
The investigation revealed that the room door was not locked during two separate periods when the laptop could have been removed.
Morgan said police will continue to track the computer to see whether it shows up at a pawnshop or elsewhere.
The laptop contained personal information including names and Social Security or driver's license numbers of up to 35,000 county residents. It has since been revealed that the files, which were related to personal property tax rolls, also contained information about some residents of Northampton and other localities.
The information came from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and other agencies, such the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
"We have talked with the DMV and they strongly feel that their staff do not commonly make the mistake of entering the wrong locality when registering vehicles," Miner said.
He listed other possible reasons the files contained information about people who do not own personal property in Accomack County.
Among those reasons are that car dealerships sometimes register cars for customers and could have entered the wrong locality, an error which Commissioner of the Revenue Leslie Savage told Miner is common. The same error could have occurred with boat and recreational vehicle dealers, he said, adding as a third possibility "others with access to the data set or the files from which it was created."
County officials have provided a copy of the stolen data to the DMV, but state DMV officials "do not believe that anyone could perpetrate fraud on affected citizens within the DMV system using this data set," Miner said.
Miner also said once information is in the files, even erroneously, it is impossible for users of the county computer system to totally remove it -- it can only be marked mistaken or dormant -- maintaining a record of all changes.
Additionally, any personal property located in the Trails End community in northern Accomack County as of Jan. 1 each year is counted as taxable in the county, even if the owner is not a permanent resident, Miner said.

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