Friday, October 21, 2011

George Mindling Column - 4-22-2005

Sheriff Has A Top-Notch Identity Theft Program


I won a neat little personal nail file kit because I knew the Federal Trade Commission is the one government agency that acts as a clearinghouse for acts of white-collar crime. Charlotte County Sheriff’s Deputy Gordon Baer gave his excellent presentation on Identity Theft to our homeowner’s association and had been tossing out semi-useful, mainly symbolic rewards for correct answers to his questions to the audience. Everyone enjoyed the interactive presentation that involved the audience in the actual exchange of information. When he got to the one question about which Federal agency acts as a clearinghouse for crime, the audience was stumped. Guesses from the FBI to the Treasury Department were met with a disappointing “Nope! Anybody else?”

I had been on the FTC web page earlier in the day, checking out the page on Identity Theft and what to do about it at: http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/. I forward all of the e-mail “Phishing” attempts I get to uce@ftc.gov. Phishing is the fake e-mail that tries to get you to log on to an official looking website and enter your account information because your account is in dire need of immediate attention. The web site that looks very official is in fact a scam. When in doubt, pick up the telephone and call the financial institution to tell them about the e-mail.

The FTC page at the ID Theft page lists the four steps to take if you think you are a victim of identity theft: First, “Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The fraud alert requests creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will be automatically notified to place fraud alerts, and all three credit reports will be sent to you free of charge.”

Second thing to do is “Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Use the ID Theft Affidavit when disputing new unauthorized accounts.”

Next, “File a police report. Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.” Finally, “File your complaint with the FTC!” The FTC web page actually has a link on step four that will take you through the process.

The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Department Identity Theft program is excellent and should be attended if you get the chance. It’s worth driving across town to attend the presentation. It shouldn’t be missed. Call the Sheriff’s Crime Prevention office at (941)-764-1533 for more information on their community programs.
Visit the FTC web site at http://www.ftc.gov/. Click on the box at the top that’s marked “consumer.” Put that page in your bookmarks or favorites folder. It is a nice page to have handy. We need all the help we can get.

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