Consumer Alert: Identity Theft - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Consumer Alert: Identity Theft

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Attorney General partners with Better Business Bureau, Consumer Credit Counseling Service and Franklin County Sheriff to crack down on identity theft

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) - Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray today warned that the number of identity theft cases is on the rise, and most Ohioans are not aware of the necessary steps for recovery. Speaking at a news conference in Columbus kicking off National Protect Your Identity Week, Cordray released new statistics that not only show a rise in Ohio incidents but also that victims are often at a loss on how to respond and repair the damage done. 

"At a time of economic disadvantage, Ohioans not only need to take every precaution for protection against identity theft, but also need to know the steps for recovery," said Cordray. "We can only achieve this by working together. Communities, nonprofits, law enforcement and individuals need to have this information in-hand so they can actually make use of the prevention and recovery assistance that's available."

In fiscal year 2009, the Attorney General's Identity Theft Unit responded to nearly 3,500 phone inquiries from Ohioans with identity theft-related issues. Yet only 226 individuals utilized the office's Passport Program, an identity theft recovery tool. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in the United States. In Ohio, 8,237 victims filed identity theft complaints in 2008, up from 7,178, in 2007 and 6,878 in 2006.

"More and more Ohioans are dealing with identity theft issues," said Cordray. "But under-use of programs like Passport indicates that many Ohioans aren't absorbing the information that can guide our recovery from this crime. People may just be hoping it won't happen to them, and that can be a dangerous approach."

The Better Business Bureau has also seen a spike in scams that lead to identity theft.

"Scams that prey on an individual's financial vulnerability are now at an all-time high," said Kip Morse, President of Better Business Bureau servicing Central Ohio. "New scams and bogus advertisements online and on popular social networking sites are popping up each week. Consumers today, more than ever, need to be aware of not only scam prevention but how to recover if they fall victim."

Michael Kappas, President/CEO of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Midwest, strongly advises consumers to pay close attention to their credit reports, which often can be a first indicator of a problem.

"A necessary part of protecting your identity is to understand the rights and responsibilities of being a consumer, especially in the area of protecting personal financial information." said Kappas. "One smart step consumers can take is to monitor their credit report regularly."

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office reports identity theft victims of all ages and demographics.

"Identity theft can affect anyone at any age, all demographics and in any region," said Corporal Zach Scott. "Scammers are not picky about who they target. Your best defense is awareness, and your best recovery effort is to notify law enforcement."

For more information on identity theft or if you think you may be a victim call the Ohio Attorney General's Identity Theft Hotline at 1-888-MY-ID-4-ME (1-888-694-3463).

For the Attorney General's new Identity Theft Repair Kit, click HERE.

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