OFF THE RECORD: How to fight back against identity theft

For whatever reasons, I've been writing a lot about crime lately.

Two weeks ago, I ranted and roared about the pathetic punks who trashed the innards of my mailbox, hurling letters and bills and junk mail all over Saratoga Road.

Last week, I shared the story of a Suffolk County official in New York who was caught up in a sewer controversy 20-some years ago and was eventually murdered by a girl named Sue. The crime of passion apparently had nothing to do with the sewage issue.

This week? An update on con man Christopher Rocancourt, whose tale I've told before.

If you happened to catch "60 Minutes" on CBS April 14, you saw Rocancourt being interviewed in jail by journalist Steve Kroft. The international con man had the gall to tell Kroft he was just "borrowing" funds from the friendly folks he met along the way. The French phony, who befriended me and my husband while dining in a restaurant in Whistler, B.C., last year, recently pleaded guilty in a British Columbia provincial court to committing fraud in excess of $5,000. For the record, I didn't loan the crook a dime. However entertaining he was, we knew from the get-go that the self-proclaimed international racecar driver was a phony baloney.

Here's a portion of an article that appeared about Christopher Rocancourt's guilty plea in the April 19, 2002, edition of The Globe and Mail:

"The surprise plea was entered in a video appearance before Judge Conni Bagnall a month before Mr. Rocancourt's preliminary trial on a fraud charge was to begin. He has been in jail in Victoria since his arrest 14 months ago in the sleepy suburb of Oak Bay, B.C.

"Mr. Rocancourt is wanted by authorities in New York state on fraud charges connected with a summer stay in the posh East Hampton enclave on Long Island, where he claimed to be a relative of the Rockefellers. He is wanted in Los Angeles for using a false passport, and police in Europe would like to question him about several crimes.

"His whereabouts had been unknown until the RCMP arrested him in Oak Bay. He was charged with bilking a Vancouver businessman of more than $100,000 after masquerading as a wealthy entrepreneur at the Whistler ski resort north of Vancouver.

"Lawyer Susan Wishard said Mr. Rocancourt decided to plead guilty because 'he is also facing extradition and he just wants to get on with things.' Mr. Rocancourt's wife, former playmate Maria Pia Reyes, is also charged with fraud. She remains free on bail in Vancouver, caring for their 5-year-old son, Zeus. She is scheduled to appear in court in June at the same time as her husband."

And now, some more information on how you can protect yourself from fraud. A private investigator acquaintance in New York City passed along this e-mail to me. In light of the mailbox wars and other identity crimes bubbling to the surface on South Whidbey, these are good tips on how to protect yourself from fraud.

"We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed on us by the use of our names, addresses, Social Security numbers, credit, etc. Unfortunately I (the author of this piece who happens to be an attorney) have first-hand knowledge, because my wallet was stolen last month.

"Within a week, the thief(s) ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from the Department of Motor Vehicles to change my driving record information online, and more.

"As everyone always advises, cancel your credit cards immediately ... but the key is having the toll-free numbers and your card numbers handy.

"File a police report in the jurisdiction where your wallet/cards were stolen -- this proves to credit providers you were diligent and is a first step toward an investigation. But here's what is perhaps most important (I never thought to do this): Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

"By the time I was advised to do this, almost two weeks after the theft of my wallet, the damage had been done. But since I called the three credit reporting organizations, no additional damage has been done. It seems to have stopped them in their tracks. The numbers of the credit reporting organizations are:

Equifax: 800-525-6285

Experian (formerly TRW): 888-397-3742

Trans Union: 800-680-7289

Social Security (fraud line): 800-269-0271

"We pass along jokes; we pass along just about everything. Do we think about passing this information along? It could really help someone."

Sue Frause can be reached by e-mail at

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