Brighton a Target of Fraud, Police Say
Stolen credit cards and checkbooks are used here because of proximity to freeways, according to Brighton police.
Brighton has been the target for credit card fraud and identity theft at least 30 times so far this year – and easy access to expressways may be the reason.
Lt. Jon Westendorf of the Brighton Police Department says Brighton attracts criminals using stolen credit cards and checkbooks because of its location.
"Brighton is a hub, situated right in the middle of I-96 and US-23. People bring stolen credit cards to our city, use them at four or five establishments and hop back on the freeway," Westendorf said.
Westendorf says there have been 30 cases of fraud so far this year in Brighton, most of them ending in arrests. That's compared to 13 cases of fraud in nearby Milford in 2009.
"We usually catch them. It's not always right away, it could be a year from now, but we usually get them," Westendorf said.
He says that often the criminal will use the stolen credit card or checkbook at several establishments in Brighton, then head to other communities along I-96 or M-59 to make more fraudulent purchases.
When the criminal eventually gets caught, law enforcement has to backtrack through all of the establishments in each community where the stolen credit card or checkbook was used.
Westendorf says this process of "ping-ponging" through the different communities is extremely difficult and time consuming for law enforcement, and the charges eventually brought are very serious.
"All of these types of charges are felonies, and the Livingston County judges are really tough when they handle fraud cases," Westendorf said.
He says that becoming a victim of these crimes is avoidable in many ways. Always keep your receipts from everything, he said, and never throw them away unless they are shredded. It's also a good idea to always take your receipt when asked, whether you want it or not, Westendorf said.
If you're leaving on a trip for the holidays, make sure to have someone get your mail so it doesn't accumulate.
"Many times you'll get pre-approved credit cards in the mail with your name already on them. It doesn't get much easier than that," Westendorf said.
Quick tips for fraud prevention from Lt. Westendorf:
Always take your receipts at the store when asked if you want it.
Don't leave personal information in your vehicle.
Don't throw away receipts unless they are shredded.
Know where your credit cards and checkbooks are at all times.
Don't let your mail build up in the mailbox.