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Dunn tops national list for fraud, ID theft complaints

Posted May 3, 2012

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— Nearly 23 years ago, Dunn was named an “All-American city” – one of only 10 cities in the nation to receive the honor. The place once known for its tobacco and logging has now become known for something else – fraud and identity theft.

The Federal Trade Commission released its latest report in February on consumer fraud-related complaints in the U.S. The Dunn metropolitan area ranked No. 4 in the country for consumer fraud complaints per capita and No. 5 nationwide for identity theft complaints.

Dunn ranked No. 1 in the nation for fraud and No. 3 for ID theft in 2010. Other North Carolina towns and cities made the list in 2011 as well.

From North Carolina’s attorney general to local law enforcement, no one can explain for certain why Dunn consistently makes the list. Some speculate that Dunn residents are better about reporting the crimes, while others say they think it's a matter of location.

“It ranks very high on our list of concerns. It not only costs consumers and businesses billions of dollars, but it costs people their good name,” said state Attorney General Roy Cooper. “Sometimes we can catch the criminal, but oftentimes the money is gone."

Dunn police Capt. Jimmy Pope said he attributes some of the crime to the city's location. “(Interstate) 95 runs through. (U.S. Highway) 421 runs through. We’re just miles from Interstate 40. Proximity to highways is probably a part of it,” he said.

Melody Price, the owner of downtown Dunn boutique Frox, said she was a victim of fraud less than two months ago after someone got into her store’s checking account through a PayPal account and stole less than $100. Fraud experts say small amounts of money are typically taken first, and then larger sums are stolen.

Dunn tops national list for fraud, ID theft complaints Dunn tops national list for fraud, ID theft complaints

Price said she noticed that some money had been stolen, so she closed her account before the person could take more.

"I was fortunate, very fortunate. It could have been devastating for my business," she said. "If it works, they can wipe your account out. So, for me, it was frightening."

Despite her bad experience, Price says she finds it very surprising that Dunn is one of the nation’s top cities for fraud. “We’re a wonderful small town, so it’s a shame we’ve had to make a Top 10 list in that regard,” she said.

Cooper says today's technology makes fraud-related crimes easier to commit and harder to solve.

"Technology has been great for the economy. It's been great for education, but it has also been a tool for criminals. They now have more ways to rip you off," he said.

The largest crime category is identity theft, but other types include scams and credit card and health care fraud.

Goldsboro resident Stacey Brausch says she is familiar with fraud in Dunn. Someone stole her identity, including her name and Social Security number, and used it to open a cable TV account in an apartment in Dunn, 52 miles and two counties away from Brausch’s home.

Even though the person misspelled her first name, “Stace," and used a different last name, "Reekie," the cable company still granted the person service.

“They disregarded the signs,” Brausch said, adding that she discovered the fraudulent account was on her credit report as delinquent with an outstanding balance when a recent loan application was denied.

“I felt violated,” she said. “I’m shocked it’s that easy for somebody to be taken advantage of.”

Although Brausch has been cleared by the cable company, she continues to pay in time and aggravation and is still waiting for the delinquent account to clear from her credit report.

“I’m angry about it. I really am,” Brausch said. “It’s very frustrating, because I’m continuously paying for someone else’s wrong doing.”

Authorities say the person who opened the account is long gone and hasn't been caught.

“Changing names, changing addresses, it’s hard to find them,” Pope said.

The North Carolina Department of Justice website lists numerous ways to guard against fraud and ID theft. It also allows consumers to sign up for alerts about the latest scams.

Besides shredding old bank statements, insurance forms, credit applications and anything else that has personal information and account numbers, the attorney general says there are two more important things consumers can do.

First, opt out of receiving pre-approved credit card applications. Also, freeze credit information, which blocks access to credit unless the consumer gives permission. Consumers just need to remember to temporarily unlock it when applying for credit.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • simplelogic May 4, 2012

    I have to wonder how a thief got into someone's bank account through Paypal - which is I think one of the most secure websites out there. Ebay would have MAJOR problems otherwise.

  • not my real name May 4, 2012

    I dont live in Durham, but somehow my debit card number was hijacked and the thief charged almost $300 with China East Airlines, which the bank promptly refunded. I was the 3rd person at that branch last week that had the same thing happen. Check your statements people. I'm extremely careful with my card, but thieves are sneaky and resourceful.

  • not my real name May 4, 2012

    They should rename the town: "DUHH"

  • bngexpress May 4, 2012

    nice advertisement for our state , could this problem be related to our state and federal govt refusing to enforce the immigration laws?

  • Rebelyell55 May 4, 2012

    What does Dunn lack that the others seem to have?

    May 3, 2012 6:40 p.m.
    .....They are in counties that participate in the Federal program for deporting illegal crimminals. Harnett Co. does not, and when they're caught they just let them go.

  • kermit60 May 4, 2012

    Good information. Probably doing my business in Fayetteville from now on.

  • dehd May 4, 2012

    No wonder these NC cities are on the list. Jobs are hard to find and companies are closing and moving to Mexico so they can pay employees to work for nothing. Maybe the ones that are here from Mexico can go back where they came from so Americans can have the jobs and we would not be trying to learn different languages to accomodate them.

  • frazee May 3, 2012

    Benson, North Carolina is at a very big intersection of Interstate 95 AND 40. It also has highways 301, 50, 27, and 242 running through it and they didn't make the list. I wonder why? Fayetteville has I-95, highways 301, 59, 53, 87, 210, 401, and 24 and has a very large mixture of people and didn't make it. What does Dunn lack that the others seem to have?

  • TheConundrum May 3, 2012

    I remember when Dunn was voted an All American City...locals (Sampson, Harnett, Cumberland areas) laughed...a few years before that it was the crack capital of NC. Although I prefer traveling there than Fayetteville or parts of Durham...or the backroads of Johnston county any day.

  • Rebelyell55 May 3, 2012

    Not surprised at all about the stolen ID, where do ya think they're getting them?