In "Thieves Expand Their Horizons," I noted that America's "recovery" (wink-wink) had "spawned an illicit interest in a range of items that have not been traditionally targeted by criminal elements," including utility poles, air conditioners, hot air balloons, ammonia tanks, and outdoor furniture. Since then, the list of goods and services (and animals) that have been wrongfully acquired (and likely sold for quick cash at a fraction of their true value) has continued to grow, as the following reports attest:Livestock
"Rustling Costs Ranchers Millions in Poor Economy" (Associated Press)
Even with cattle theft rampant in much of the nation's midsection, Oklahoma rancher Ryan Payne wasn't worried about anyone messing with his cows and calves. By his estimation, his pasture is so far off the beaten path "you need a helicopter to see it."
That changed last month when Payne, 37, checked on his livestock and found a ghoulish scene: Piles of entrails from two Black angus calves he says thieves gutted "like they were deer." They made off with the meat and another 400-pound calf in a heist he estimated cost him $1,800.
"Gosh, times are tough, and maybe people are truly starving and just need the meat," he said. "But it's shocking. I can't believe people can stoop that low."
While the brazenness may be unusual, the theft isn't. High beef prices have made cattle attractive as a quick score for people struggling in the sluggish economy, and other livestock are being taken too. Six thousand lambs were stolen from a feedlot in Texas, and nearly 1,000 hogs have been stolen in recent weeks from farms in Iowa and Minnesota. The thefts add up to millions of dollars in losses for U.S. ranches.Pets
"Dognapping Up in a ‘Ruff’ Economy" (DailyHerald.com)
According to the American Kennel Club, the number of stolen dogs increased by almost 50 percent to 224 cases during the first seven months of 2011, compared with the same period in 2010.
“These are specific cases we could document in which a dog was stolen, not lost,” says AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson. “I’m sure the real number is much higher.”
In the most sinister (and rare) cases, canines are brazenly held for ransom.
In one instance, an Arizona couple demanded $5,000 for the safe return of a beagle puppy. At the rendezvous point where ransom was to be paid, the owner grabbed her pup as cops waited nearby. The couple were arrested and charged with extortion and theft.
More often, dognappers play a waiting game for reward money, says Peterson. “What happens is that criminals take a dog and then wait to see if a reward is offered,” she said. . “And if it is, there’s a phone call or the dog miraculously is returned for the money.”Prescription Drugs
"Pharmacy Robberies on Rise as Addicts Turn to Guns" (Portland Press Herald)
Craving fuels crime
Two armed robberies were enough for Chester Hibbard.
In the summer of 2010, a man wearing a hood and ski goggles entered E.W. Moore & Son, Hibbard's community pharmacy on Main Street in Bingham. He thrust a knife across the counter at Hibbard and two employees and demanded OxyContin.
It had been several years since a robber carrying a gun demanded the same painkiller, and Hibbard wanted the second time to be the last.
So he stopped stocking the drug. And he posted signs to tell everyone -- especially desperate addicts -- "We don't carry OxyContin!"
Hibbard thought the signs were helping -- until last month, when a man wearing a mask entered the pharmacy with a sawed-off shotgun.
He jumped over the counter, told Hibbard, three employees and a customer to get on the floor, and tied their hands. Then he left with money and more than $12,000 worth of prescription drugs, including other narcotic painkillers.
The latest holdup in Bingham was one of the most brazen yet in Maine, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Michael Wardrop told a group of southern Maine police chiefs last month. But, Wardrop said, it's clear that Maine's painkiller addiction is fueling much of the state's crime.
"It's out of control. It's rampant. It's our No. 1 problem," he said.Tailgates
"Thieves Stealing Pickup Truck Tailgates" (Consumerist)
The movie "Gone in 60 Seconds" is a lot more plausible if instead of stealing the whole car, you only focus on one smaller aspect of it. That's what thieves in Oswego, IL are doing, stealing just the tailgates from pickup trucks.
WBBM reports that six times in six months crooks have taken the tailgates off pickup trucks in parking lots in Oswego. They can actually go for a decent chunk of cash. They sell for $4,000 new but the "hot" tailgates can go for $600-$700 and the crooks are still making decent change. Tailgates often get a lot of wear and tear so needing a replacement is not uncommon.Fishing reels
"Business Owners Say Thieves Getting Bolder" (First Coast News)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- First Coast business owners say they're fed up. Thieves are ripping them off and it's hurting their bottom line.
"Getting more common. As the economy gets worse, we're seeing more and more," said Rick Stinson with Strike Zone Fishing.
Stinson said thefts are always a worry when it comes to doing business, but things have gotten worse. He points to a recent theft case at the store when two women made off with a $300 fishing reel. The reel was tagged, causing the alarm to sound when they left the store.
Stinson ran out to stop them, but the women refused and took off in their car. "We work very hard on customer service and then to have somebody come in who we think is shopping and then steal from you, and what are they gonna do? Pawn it?Identities
Watch your wallets, trash, and online transactions -- identity theft is skyrocketing in South Florida.
In the first half of this year, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 20,000 complaints from Floridians whose identities had been stolen -- nearly as many as in all of 2010. More than half of those reporting their Social Security numbers or other personal information had been ripped off and used to commit fraud or theft were in South Florida, with heavy concentrations in parts of Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Hallandale Beach.
"That kind of increase is really shocking,'' said Vance Luce, deputy special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service in South Florida, which investigates identity theft and financial crimes. "The fact that it's on the upturn doesn't surprise me at all, but that's pretty alarming.''
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Sun Sentinel obtained FTC data on identity theft complaints by ZIP codes in Florida, and found they show a huge spike in one type of theft in particular – using another person's Social Security number to file for a fraudulent income tax refund from the IRS.
This season, identify thieves even brazenly targeted local cops with their tax refund scams, said Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti.
"In South Florida, I know of over 30 cases of law enforcement officers whose identities were stolen. When they went to file a legitimate return, they found out that somebody had already done it,'' the sheriff said.
Overall, Lamberti said he isn't surprised by the rising number of stolen identity complaints in South Florida.
"That's what we're hearing from the citizens,'' the sheriff said. "You have a greater probability of becoming a victim of identity theft than any other crime. . .They're even stealing kids' identities now.''
The FTC, which acts as a clearinghouse for consumer complaints nationwide, received more than 11,600 reports of tax or wage fraud in Florida in the first half of this year, compared to 4,524 for all of 2010.
"That is a huge, quantum leap,'' Luce said.Medical services
"Medical Identity Theft a Growing Problem" (Amednews.com)
With 1.5 million victims in the U.S., physicians can take a few simple steps to ensure that patients aren't using someone else's name to get care.
One-third of health care organizations, including physician practices, insurers and pharmacies, have reported catching a patient using the identity of someone else to obtain services, according to a report from the professional services firm PwC.
The report, "Old Data Learns New Tricks," by PwC's Health Research Institute, said the problem -- and consequences -- of medical identity theft could get worse as electronic sharing of patient data increases. Physicians unwittingly could end up using information obtained during a visit with an identity thief in deciding how to treat a patient, for example.
Medical identity theft is still a small percentage of the total amount of identity theft that occurs, but it's the fastest-growing segment, said Jim Koenig, director and leader of PwC's identity theft practice.And...bridges (?!)
"Two Charged with Stealing Lawrence County Bridge" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
State police have arrested two men accused of stealing a privately owned steel bridge from a secluded area in Lawrence County.
Police said that Benjamin Arthur Jones, 24, and Alexander William Jones, 25, used a torch to tear apart the Covert's Crossing Bridge late last month or early this month. The bridge had been in North Beaver Township since at least the early 1900s and was worth an estimated $100,000.
The Joneses, both from New Castle, were being held in the Lawrence County Prison on $25,000 bail, according to court records. They face felony charges of criminal mischief, theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy.