Volume 1 Number 7
February 16, 2004









 


 

Federal Trade Commission

IDENTITY THEFT: PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE NATION’S FASTEST GROWING CRIME

Identity Theft is the nation’s fastest growing economic crime.  It can strike over the phone and on the Internet.  Identity thieves troll mailboxes and trashcans for credit card offers, which they use to create phony accounts.  Crooks are now even rigging gas pumps to collect personal and financial information from credit card as consumers fill up.  However, there are steps Floridians can take to protect their identities and prevent their financial information from being exploited.  Consumers must be more than cautious – they must be downright aggressive. 

“Be vigilant when giving out personal and financial information,” Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher said.  “Don’t let greedy scam artists steal your good name.  The results can be disastrous.”

If scammers do gain access to your personal and financial information, they can wreak havoc.  According the Federal Trade Commission, identity thieves could:

·         Go on spending sprees using your credit and debit card account numbers to buy “big-ticket” items, like electronics, which they can easily sell.

·         Open a new credit card account, using your name, date of birth, and SSN. When they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report.

·         Change the mailing address on your credit card account. The imposter then runs up charges on the account. Because the bills are being sent to the new address, it may take some time before you realize there’s a problem.

·         Take out loans or write bad checks against accounts in your name.  When they default, creditors come looking for you.

·         Give your name to the police during an arrest. If they are released and don’t show up for their court date, an arrest warrant could be issued in your name.


The Department of Financial Services has created an online resource on identity theft with links to tips and information on avoiding this kind of crime.  Consumers can log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com and click the “ID Theft” banner to visit the site.  Some of the tips include advising consumers to shred junk mail credit card offers, review all bank and credit card records and check credit reports at least once a year.  When shopping online, deal with licensed and reputable businesses and make sure a physical addresses and phone number is available for inquiries.  Remember, a company based outside the country is outside of our laws.
Above all, never give out personal and financial information in response to unsolicited requests.  Scam artists often pose as bank or creditor representatives who need to “verify” a consumer’s account information.  Genuine representatives never ask their customers to give out this kind of information; they already have it. 
For questions or to file complaints, consumers may call the Department of Financial Services toll-free at 1-800-342-2762 or request assistance online at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.