Editorial - Is your identity up for grabs?An Echo Press story last month highlighted the dangers people faced by dumping items at a Carlos car wash that included sensitive, personal information, such as Social Security numbers, tax forms and bank statements. Those who casually throw away such things are setting themselves up to be victims of identity theft. The danger is more real than you may guess.
An Echo Press story last month highlighted the dangers people faced by dumping items at a Carlos car wash that included sensitive, personal information, such as Social Security numbers, tax forms and bank statements.
Those who casually throw away such things are setting themselves up to be victims of identity theft. The danger is more real than you may guess.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety sent out a news release last week noting that nearly 3,000 Minnesotans report some type of identity theft annually.
“Identity theft is a traumatizing crime that turns people’s lives upside down and often for years,” said DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman. “We want to help Minnesotans be smart about this crime so they can prevent being victimized and know what they need to do in response to potential or real ID theft.”
Dohman cited the case of a Minnesota resident, Theresa Lorenz. An acquaintance of hers began using her personal information in 2006 to establish and use credit cards and bank accounts, resulting in serious complications to her personal and business finances. In 2009, the acquaintance was convicted in Washington County for felony financial transaction card fraud and placed on probation for five years.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses others’ personally identifying information, such as name, Social Security or credit card numbers without permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Minnesota ranks 35 out of 50 states in identity theft complaints, and the most frequently reported misuse is credit card fraud.
About 10 million individuals in the U.S. are impacted annually by some form of identity theft, costing them $5 billion in efforts to correct their credit and other negative consequences, and that businesses suffer losses of about $50 billion.
What should you do if you become a victim of identity theft? The DPS Office of Justice Programs Website lists four basic steps:
1. Close compromised accounts immediately.
2. File a police report.
3. Place a fraud alert on their credit report.
4. Report the identity theft to the FTC.
To help prevent identity theft, state and national resources recommend:
• Protect your Social Security number – do not carry documents on your person that include the number.
• Do not provide personal information on the phone or Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
• Shred financial and other documents with personal data before discarding.
• Review bank and credit card statements, and phone and utility bills, to identify and report any discrepancies.
• Check your credit report annually.
Identity thieves use all kinds of devious tricks and ploys to get people’s personal information. Don’t make it any easier for them.