Illinois Attorney General warns against identity theft in Crystal Lake forum

Attended by more than 40 community leaders, elected officials and law enforcement agents, the roundtable event was intended to address those concerns, such as consumer fraud and identity theft.

“Back in 2006, for the first time ever, identity theft was the No. 1 consumer fraud complaint category,” Madigan said, adding it was only displaced to No. 2 after the 2008 recession hoisted issues of mortgage-related scams to the top spot.

Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, was one of the three elected officials to speak before Madigan’s presentation. He spoke to the room, saying he had a firsthand experience with identity theft.

“I’ve been a victim of identity theft, and what a pain in the neck,” Franks said. “It was scary, time-consuming, mental anguish … it was one of the freakiest times I’ve ever had, so this is so important.”

Given the recent string of security breaches at large companies and franchises such as J.P. Morgan Chase, Jewel-Osco, and Jimmy Johns, Madigan said proactive efforts are becoming increasingly important.

“Identity theft is here, it’s here to stay, and those data breaches are unfortunately also here to stay,” she said. “What is it that we can do?”

Madigan offered four tips: Set up transaction alerts that inform a cardholder when a debit or credit card is used; regularly monitor accounts; receive annual credit reports by means of the site; and put in place credit report security freezes so potential identity thieves are red-flagged when trying to access reports.

The point of Wednesday’s forum, Madigan added, was not only to advise those who were present, but for attendees to spread the word.

Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, said she intended to do just that.

“There were some really good practical uses that were provided today that we should certainly get out,” said Wheeler, who started doing so before the forum ended by tweeting tips as they came.

Since the Attorney General’s office formed its Consumer Protection Division in 2006, Madigan said $26 million has been returned to financial victims.

In today’s world, she added it’s no longer a matter of if, but when someone will be affected by a larger security breach, identity theft or scams.

“We’ve consistently seen that companies are not doing as much as they can and should be doing to protect our information,” she said. “So we really do have to take on some greater responsibility to protect our information and watch our accounts and credit. That’s what this was all about.”

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