Column – Expressing gratitude for public information and community service

Published 6:27 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023

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Thank you to Jen Jaqua, the creative director of this award-winning publication, for her tireless efforts in reviewing and summarizing all the important news, events and happenings published in the Suffolk News-Herald for the past 150 years. 

For a nonnative Suffolkian like me, who has resided in the city for over two decades and counting, I’ve known or learned a lot of information from Ms. Jaqua’s chronicles or column articles about historic Suffolk, from the 1870s to the present.

 Thank you, Suffolk News-Herald, for being tenacious and persistent in your efforts, through the years, to inform, educate, and entertain us all, most especially the Suffolk residents who have been beneficiaries of (local) news and information and excellent journalism. Kudos to past and current SNH staff writers and management personnel for a job well done! 

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On the other hand, my wife Freny and I thank the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, especially the City of Suffolk Commonwealth Attorney Narendra R. Pleas and Ms. Joan R. Turner, community outreach coordinator, for that Nov. 9 Free Lunch and Learn event at the Suffolk Health and Human Services Building (135 Hall Avenue) in which the former talked about Identity Theft and Identity Fraud to adult or senior Suffolk resident-attendees, who were provided with free boxed lunch and drinks, and informational materials. Her presentation was interesting, informative, and educational, especially for us vulnerable seniors.

In her presentation, Atty. Pleas defined Identity Theft and Identity Fraud as “the fraudulent acquisition (theft) and unlawful use of (fraud) a person’s private identifying information, usually for financial gain, but can also be for some other criminal motive. She enumerated the following personal identifying information that can be stolen from an individual: name, Social Security number, credit card and/or debit card number, date of birth, driver’s license number, passport number, fingerprint, voiceprint and electronic ID number. 

Atty. Pleas briefly talked about the Virginia criminal statutes or laws relating to Identity theft and fraud, penalties (such as jail, fines, forfeiture), restitution, and victim assistance. 

“Be careful what you download,” she said. Your personal information can be stolen at home, when using social media such as Facebook, in your laptop computer through your emails with phishing scams (like unusual sign-in activity), spam email messages, and computer viruses; when on your home phone (landline) or smart (cell) phone, using online shopping, when using unsecured RFID (radio frequency identification) card.

At Home, secure your home, she said. Dumpster divers are real. Do not use a hide-a-key. Dispose of your mail or documents properly. Invest in a shredder. Attend a shred event. 

“It’s safer to use a credit card, not a debit card,” Atty Pleas said. She reminded us of consumer protection. “When shopping online, shop on secured websites, research the website before ordering or shopping, to use a credit card instead of a debit card for online purchases, and to check your credit card bills. 

She cautioned everyone about fake apps, scammers pretending to be from an organization you know, scammers pressuring you to act immediately, and scammers telling you to pay in a specific way. Avoid these, she said.

Who is most likely to steal your identity/information? Scammers and people you know, she said.

To prevent identity theft and fraud, Atty Pleas urged everyone to 

Check your credit report regularly. 

Shred unsolicited credit card applications. 

Monitor your account statements for unauthorized transactions. 

Follow up with creditors if your bills are missing. 

Keep your Social Security card and number in a safe location. 

Never share passwords. 

Always log out of accounts. 

Do not respond to spam emails. 

Clean out your wallet and/or purse often. 

Do not give out personal information over the telephone or by Internet unless you know the person on the other end. 

Use credit cards for purchases instead of debit cards. 

Update your security software. 

Properly dispose of old electronics. 

Use strong passwords. Don’t use a password for everything. 

Set up mobile alerts.

What to do when your identity has been stolen? 

Contact your banks. 

Contact the credit 

Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 

Contact creditors (card issuers and utilities, if needed) 

Contact local law enforcement, city commonwealth attorney’s office, police officers.

Contact the Office of the Attorney General.

Since Sept. 1, 2005, you are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You may request your free credit report online at, by phone at 1-877-322-8228, or through email. Be careful, though, as sites with similar-sounding names will charge a fee. Be vigilant about disputing anything that looks strange.

The National Do Not Call Registry gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls. You can register your home or mobile phone for free. Go to to access the National Do Not Call Registry.