APD issues warning on financial crimes

ALBANY -- Financial fraud is one of the most frequently reported crimes in Albany, an Albany Police Department official says.

"Forgeries, identity theft and credit card fraud are crimes that have been going on for years," said police Sgt. Michael Persley, head of the financial fraud crime investigations division. "We have an average of 15 fraud cases reported every week."

Fraud comes in many guises, Persley said. There are the computer e-mail scams where people continue to send money to African countries in the hopes they will be repaid with millions.

There are also the closer-to-home frauds where an acquaintance will ask to borrow a financial card and personal identification number. There are also many incident reports every week on acquaintances who borrow a cell phone and never return it.

There are also the frauds where checks are stolen and cashed using counterfeited signatures. Often, the elderly are targeted as victims.

The police continue to urge the public to report the whereabouts of Santennial Elaine Harris, 34, with the last known address of 1408 Colquitt Ave. Harris is wanted in connection with the theft and forgery of checks stolen from a 78-year-old Alzheimer's patient, a police report stated.

The checks were fraudulently cashed in an Albany bank for thousands of dollars, said Phyllis Banks police spokeswoman. As of 5 p.m. Thursday she had not been arrested, Banks added.

Persley spoke at an 11:30 a.m. Thursday news conference in the Law Enforcement Center. The idea was to get the word out to residents that they could easily become victims if they didn't protect themselves.

The conference was part of the Albany Police Department's proactive approach to educating the public to protect themselves against this type of crime, Banks said. Previously the police urged people to lock their vehicle doors and take other measures, such as parking in well-lighted areas to avoid thieves breaking into their vehicles to steal goods.