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Hang on to your wallet, theft on the rise as economy takes its toll

If the economy is causing you to keep a closer watch on your bottom line these days, it's also a reason to keep a tighter grip on your wallet. Theft and fraud in the area are up and wallets, purses and credit cards are the targets, according to C...

If the economy is causing you to keep a closer watch on your bottom line these days, it's also a reason to keep a tighter grip on your wallet.

Theft and fraud in the area are up and wallets, purses and credit cards are the targets, according to Cloquet Police Detective Darrin Berg.

"We're dealing with 50 percent more than last year at this time," he said. "We are simply swamped with fraud."

About 60 theft-related reports come in every three days or so, Berg said, from Cloquet up to Duluth, and the bulk of the items stolen also include identification cards, medication and checkbooks.

Soon after many of the credit cards or checks disappear, they are commonly used to fraudulently charge items in the $200-300 range, according to Berg.

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"Positively identifying those committing the crimes can be difficult even when people are captured on video, so doing everything possible to protect yourself is the best strategy," he said.

Shoplifting around Cloquet is also on the rise with officers called to large stores like Walmart and L&M almost daily, Berg said.

The increase does not surprise Berg due to the rise in financial hardship many are experiencing and he notes that most wouldn't be considered career criminals.

"People who normally wouldn't [steal these items] are doing it now and it just seems to be a crime of opportunity," he explained. "If there's a checkbook, purse, or wallet lying around, it's gone."

His advice?

"Stay aware of your valuables at all times, especially when running errands," he said. "Also pay close attention to your credit card and bank statements. You many not even realize that someone has stolen the number on your account."

He also advises people to file a report with police as soon as a theft is discovered, which also helps in dealing with credit card companies.

We all work harder than ever to earn our money. Taking a few added measures these days to avoid being a financial victim will pay dividends.

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If you've been a victim of fraud or theft, call 911.

Lisa Bauman

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