Advice for preventing identity theft
YORKVILLE — The most important way to prevent identity theft is to be proactive, according to representatives of the state comptroller and attorney general’s offices. Rep. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, invited them to speak to seniors in Yorkville and Elburn on Tuesday, April 10.
Hatcher called the turnout in Yorkville like a rock concert. Additional chairs were brought out of storage for the more than 100 area residents in attendance.
Lizveth Mendez, community outreach liaison with Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, said it’s important to be proactive in protecting personal information.
“It’s important for people of all ages to check their credit reports once a year. It’s absolutely free,” she said. She provided a brochure with contact information. To get free reports from all three agencies – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian – visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228.
“Freecreditreport.com is not free,” Mendez said. The website only provides credit reports if the visitor to the site signs up for a service to monitor their credit, for a fee.
“If you find something on your credit report that does not belong to you, it could be a simple mistake or it could be from someone else using your identity,” she said. “The first thing you should do is contact your local police department and file a report.”
Local police departments may not be able to help, but she said it’s important that a report is on the record.
Step two is to contact the credit reporting agency regarding the discrepancy.
Step three is to contact directly the phone company, utility or credit card company that has reported to the agency.
Mendez said it’s also important to contact the attorney general’s office, where a live person answers the phone. The office will assign a case number and send out information that can help clear up that matter.
“We will send out a packet to walk you through the process,” Mendez said.
Two area residents said the office helped them clear up similar matters.
Robert Dulski, manager of programs and consumer affairs for the office of state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, said he was a victim of identity theft as a teenager.
“The most frequent victims are youth and the elderly,” Dulski said.
“And for people who don’t know the process to clear it up, it’s a pain in the butt.”
He and Tom Lydon, also of the comptroller’s office, offered some practical advice, starting with not removing your credit card from your wallet until you are ready to swipe it.
“You don’t know who is behind you in line. Every cell phone has a camera and the person behind you might be taking a picture of your credit card,” Dulski said.
“Take your card out only when it’s time to swipe it and put it away immediately,” he advised.
At a restaurant, instead of just giving the server your card to pay the bill, tell them you want to follow them and swipe it yourself.
“It’s nothing personal,” Lydon said.
When receiving a solicitation phone call, ask the caller for their name and number and tell them you’ll call back. “If they give it to you, they might just be legitimate,” Dulski said, and don’t be afraid to hang up.
He also advised against opening the door for “door knockers” or people collecting just $5 or $10 for a neighbor in trouble. “These people might collect several hundred dollars and there’s no neighbor in trouble. It happens in Chicago neighborhoods a lot.”
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