Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Criminals Becoming Computer Friendly

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Criminals Becoming Computer Friendly

Article excerpt

There are more than just hackers, sexual predators and stalkers using computers to commit crimes in Oklahoma these days.

And, in many instances, the Internet isn't even involved.

Take counterfeiting, for instance. The craft once involved a typewriter, Polaroid camera, glue and scissors. But it has grown up because of inexpensive, high-quality computer scanners and printers. "One of the things we've seen recently is counterfeit checks," said FBI agent Dan Vogel. "They simply scan the check into their computer and then put phony information on it, even signatures, and then deposit or negotiate the check." Eight people in the Tulsa area were arrested in January after the occupants of a stolen car tipped authorities to a counterfeit check operation there. Vogel said such crooks usually use checks from well-known companies and make them out for less than $1,000 to avoid suspicious bank tellers. John Huntington, an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent who teaches a class on computer crime at Rogers University, says some crooks also try to manufacture money with their computers. "With the way printers are now, it's not that hard," Huntington said. "I know of a kid who scanned in a dollar and made it look close. The quality of printers and scanners is good. But the paper they use is not." State police in New Jersey recently broke up a counterfeiting ring that was manufacturing phony driver's licenses for underage college students. Police found one of the seven suspects with a laptop computer, a digital camera and colored backgrounds used for license photos. Such crimes can occur virtually anywhere but Vogel said the FBI hasn't encountered much of it in Oklahoma. "But I am sure that if someone can do counterfeit checks, they can do driver's licenses. It would not be difficult," Vogel said. Neither is counterfeiting other government documents, such as green cards, work authorization permits and border crossing cards. Officials say fake papers are a virtual necessity for a majority of the 5 million-plus illegal immigrants who live in the United States. But again, Vogel and Huntington say little of that has filtered its way into Oklahoma. "I don't want to say Oklahoma is behind the times," Huntington said. "But I consider this a fledgling thing because as more and more computers become available there will be more and more computer crimes." Vogel said the No. 1 problem facing the FBI in Oklahoma is unscrupulous telemarketers who try to cheat the elderly and vulnerable. "It's a $40 billion industry," Vogel said. "Usually, they are from out of state and the schemes will try to get people to buy overpriced products or send money in to win a prize." Vogel said the telemarketers use computers to keep track of their activities and to make lists of the people they can most easily dupe. …

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