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Protect Your Good Name
 

 
 
Recent research by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) indicates that more than 200,000 North Carolinians may have been victims of identity theft last year. A typical victim spends on average $800 and 175 hours over 23 months to clean up his or her credit and erase $18,000 in fraudulent charges. Charlotte is the top ID theft location followed by Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro and Fayetteville.  The FTC reports that stolen credit cards and fake official documents accounted for $5 billion in losses to individuals while cost to banks and businesses was as much as $50 billion.
 
     
    

"Identity thieves are striking more and more consumers across the nation, including right here in North Carolina," said Cooper.  "That's why it's so important that we get the word out to consumers on how to protect their good names.  There are steps that every consumer can take to keep their personal financial information from falling into the wrong hands."

Identity theft has skyrocketed in recent years and is now the number one consumer crime in the United States, although the very nature of the crime makes it difficult to provide precise statistics.  "Four out of five victims of identity theft has no idea how, when or where their personal financial information was stolen," explained Chief Stephens.  "The first crime – the theft of someone's personal information – could have occurred days or even months before the victim gets any indication there is a problem.  The second crime – fraudulent use of that stolen information – can happen at different times as well.  People tend not to report these cases to police but we encourage them to do so."

There are some simple steps people can take to minimize the risk of ID theft: 
  • Shred any documents containing personal financial information before tossing away
  • Mail bills from secure location like a post office mailbox
  • Do not carry extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport
  • Consider installing a locking mailbox at home or use a post office box
  • Check credit reports once a year
While minimizing one's risk is the primary focus of the awareness campaign, there's also advice for people who are victims.  "If it happens to you, there are four steps you should take," advises Agent Del Tufo.  "First, contact one of the three major credit reporting bureaus to report the fraud.  Second, contact the creditors for the accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently to close those accounts.  Third, file a police report with the jurisdiction where the crime occurred or contact your local police department to file a report.  And finally, file a complaint with the FTC.  The FTC maintains a database that law enforcement can use to assist with investigations."