Comptroller workshop combats ID theft, fraud epidemic

DECATUR – More than 13 million identities were stolen last year in the United States, according to the Consumer Federation of America.

To help combat one of the fastest-growing crimes in the nation, the Illinois Comptroller’s Office sponsored an “Identity Theft, Frauds and Scams” workshop Wednesday.

The workshop at Homeward Bound was the third and final of a series of presentations by consumer affairs staff member Scott Mills. The first two focused on credit, including scores and credit cards, and budgeting.

“These three topics are probably the most important for the public,” Mills said. “We try to give them tips to make them more aware.”

Wednesday’s presentation included information on social media and tips on how to check for a secure online server and if an ATM or gas station card reader had been altered.

“I think identity theft affects us all,” said Kim Fickes, employment and life skills specialist at Homeward Bound. “We have life skills classes for our clients who live here and I know they have enjoyed these presentations.”

The workshops have handouts with information on different credit websites and credit bureaus as well as what to do if one is a victim.

The series is one of many that Mills often does as part of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s efforts to educate people and prevent identity theft.

“We are often requested by schools, clubs, assisted living, senior centers and organizations from all over to come and talk about identity theft,” said Janet Dobrinsky, director of Consumer Affairs in the comptroller’s office, adding that those most at risk for identity theft are younger people.

“Nowadays, I would say that it’s younger people because of a lot information they put on the Internet. They don’t know if it’s on a secure or insecure server, and then there’s also a lot information they put on social media. Most senior citizens are quite up to date.”

The main reason that continued education on identity theft methods is hackers are continually developing something new. It also takes 33 hours or more on average for a victim to resolve a problem.

“We try to keep up to date on frauds and scams and we do these workshops so that people can protect themselves and tell others how they can do it,” Dobrinsky said.

For more information, or to arrange a customized workshop for a local group, citizens may contact the Consumer Affairs Division at (217) 782-2673.

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