Federal Fraud Bust Increases Fraud Awareness

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Following the bust of three alleged identity thieves who federal authorities say are responsible for the credit fraud of over 30,000 consumers and millions of dollars, some mid Michigan consumers are taking steps to protect themselves.

Some shoppers in mid Michigan say they plan to check their credit histories given recent events.

Below are steps suggested for your protection, by credit bureau Experian:

  • Step # 1 - Shred pre-approved credit card offers

    If you decide not to accept a pre-approved credit offer, shred it before you throw it away.

  • Step # 2 - Don't display critical information

    Do not print your Social Security number, phone number, date of birth or credit card account number on your checks, and don't give this information to a merchant who wants to write it on your check at the time of purchase.

  • Step # 3 - Secure your mail

    Stealing mail is another way that identity thieves obtain your personal information. Consider buying a lockable mailbox if your current mailbox is unsecured.

  • Step # 4 - Monitor your credit

    Monitor your credit report on a regular basis.

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ID Theft

  • Identity theft is a crime in which the imposter obtains key pieces of information such as Social Security and driver's license numbers to obtain credit, merchandise and services in the name of the victim.

  • The victim is left with a ruined credit history and the time-consuming and complicated task of regaining financial health.

  • It is a dual crime, committed against an individual whose name and good credit history was ruined and against businesses who lost cash and merchandise.

Prevention Tips

  • Carefully destroy papers you don't need, especially those with sensitive or identifying information. Buy and use a good, cross-cut paper shredder.

  • Guard your Social Security Number. Don't carry your social security card with you. That also includes any cards or badges that may include this number on it. Resist giving it out unless necessary. Don't put SSN on checks.

  • Check all three of your credit reports once a year. This is one of the best ways to find out if someone is using your information without your knowledge. In most cases it will cost about $8 for each report unless you are a victim of financial crime or turned down for a job or credit due to your credit report.

    TransUnion: 800-888-4213 (fraud div.- 800-680-7289)
    Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (fraud div.- 888-397-3742)
    Equifax: 800- 685-1111 (fraud div.- 800-525-6285)

  • Block your name from marketing lists- 888-5OPTOUT. This is cut down on the number of pre-approved credit card offers you receive.

  • Guard your personal information. Carry as little as possible in your wallet. Get credit cards with your picture on them. Be alert to shoulder surfers listening for information. Cancel any credit cards you no longer use. That means contacting the company, not just cutting up the card. Keep confidential information in a locked area.

  • Be suspicious of telephone solicitors. Never give out information unless you have initiated the call. You should never need to give a social security number to a sales clerk.

  • Watch what happens to your credit card when you give it to a clerk. The instances of double skimming are on the rise. Double skimming occurs when the clerk not only charges you for your purchase but also runs your card through a computer scanner. Later this information is downloaded on a counterfeit card and used by imposters.

  • Demand that the businesses you frequent take good care of your information and find out how they protect you from ID theft.

Source: www.idtheftcenter.org (Identity Theft Resource Center Web site) contributed to this report.