Watch your wallet, home, children

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By Lou Elliott Jones

So just as the police and sheriffs are telling me there is a surge in economic crimes in the county, our office gets hit with a credit card scam.

Advertisers are calling and coming into the office after being contacted by someone - with a blocked phone number - saying they are from the "Chiefland Bulletin" and they need credit card information to update their records.

A call to the Levy County Sheriff's Office confirms that one customer has already called them to make a report. Chiefland Police Chief Robert Douglas sends Officer Nick Viaggio over to take a report as the staff quickly calls each customer to warn them about the scam and to remind them to never give that kind of information to a caller.

Our Web site gets a "breaking news" warning, readers get an email, and Twitter followers of News4Levy get a "tweet". Our sister publications and employees off for the day also get calls alerting them. We are urging anyone contacted to report it to authorities.

This is nothing new. Times are hard and it brings out the worst in some people who think your hard-earned cash should belong to them.

Several weeks ago I dealt with a parent whose child had been taken in by a check scam that got the young adult arrested. The family had to cover the worthless check that he cashed at a bank after he received it by overnight mail for an ebay transaction. The charges were dropped against the young man, but still, his family is out thousands of dollars.

A couple of years ago I did battle with a delivery service about charges for items I did not ship. It changed the relationship forever when they said even though I did not use their service I had to pay because my account was used. And since I was denying I shipped the stuff they would close my account. Good riddance.

My credit card company went to bat for me when they got the paperwork with other people's signatures and my credit card number. The credit card company was nice enough to delete the charges and tell the shipping company they got it wrong and would not be paid.

It's always something nowadays. Someone steals information from the web. A former co-worker steals information off your laptop. A neighbor steals checking account info off the mail in your road box.

It makes you long for a cash-only economy. But then, that leaves you open to being accosted by an armed robber wanting your bankroll.

In addition to our office being hit, the sheriff's department is reporting a zooming increase in property crimes, especially burglaries in the past six months. Actually it has been the past year that property crimes have been going up.

All this comes as the sheriff's budget is being cut and the Chiefland Commission tries to hold the line on its police budget.

We need to be more responsible. No longer can we leave our doors unlocked. Don't leave anything of value in your vehicle.

What it means is we all need to look out for ourselves and others. Get to know your neighbors, even if you don't like them.

They may be the folks who, when crime hits, will provide vital information to officers that will help solve the case.

Lou Elliott Jones is the news editor at the Chiefland Citizen. You may reach her at news@chieflandcitizen.com.