Madigan warns of ID theft dangers

NORMAL — Identity theft is not only stressful, it can cause long-lasting damage to victims’ financial well-being, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told a group of McLean County police, public officials and social service workers Thursday.

Madigan sponsored an informational meeting on consumer fraud and identity theft at Illinois State University’s Alumni Center.

The event was in advance of Madigan’s appearance at the McLean County Democratic Party’s annual dinner at Bone Student Center. Earlier Thursday, Madigan visited Caterpillar’s Tech Center in Mossville.

The attorney general’s office receives about 200,000 calls annually from people with consumer fraud complaints — a growing number involving identity theft, Madigan said.

Three simple practices can help consumers reduce the risk of having their identity stolen, said Madigan.

Transaction alerts for debit and credit cards let people know when their card has been used. Madigan noted that debit cards carry fewer protections against fraud than credit cards.

“If someone gets a debit card, they have direct access to your money,” said Madigan.

Consumers should closely monitor bank and credit card statements to make sure the expenses related to the accounts are correct. An annual review of credit reports also can catch unauthorized financial transactions, said Madigan.

The placement of a security freeze on credit locks down a consumer’s credit report and “is a very good way to protect yourself from a full-blown identity theft,” said Madigan.

The lock-down can be removed when a consumer wants to apply for new credit but otherwise keeps others from accessing potential credit lines.

Of special interest to guests connected with ISU, Madigan’s staff shared information on student loan scams.

American currently owe $1.2 trillion on student loans, an amount higher than the nation’s outstanding credit card debt, said Madigan. Unscrupulous businesses always look for ways to take advantage of students who are in trouble with their loans, she said.

Presenting information to the group, along with Madigan, were AG staff members Matt Van Hise, who spoke on security breaches and identity theft, and Caitlyn Smith, who talked about financial scams.

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