PUBLISHED: 6:01 PM on Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Fraud cases increase as holidays approach
AUGUSTA, Ga. - Stores have started to pull out Christmas items, which means there's more opportunity for thieves to pull credit cards and checks from purses and cars, officials say.

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office is anticipating a higher amount of credit card fraud and other types of financial fraud during the next two months of the holiday shopping season, said Investigator Pat Stahler, a technical crimes investigator.

"We see just a slight increase in identity fraud, but the main thing we see is fraud with the credit cards," he said.

"Each investigator will probably pick up five to 10 cases each," he said.

That load increases further in January and February, as holiday bills roll in and people find their credit cards or checks have been used fraudulently, he said.

"Now is the time of opportunity for criminals," he said.

With unzipped purses left in buggies and cars, there are many opportunities for theft and fraud at retail stores, the investigator said.

Sheriff's investigators have also seen another type of fraud: the flim-flam scam.

Investigator Michael Lanham advised people to be cautious around people offering to share money they've found.

Catching flim-flam artists is a difficult task, and prosecuting them is even tougher, he said.