Police: Quick action can combat identity theft

A woman’s quick actions after her purse was snatched prevented two suspected thieves from opening an account at a Cricket phone service store with her money, authorities said.


The duo was arrested last week after the woman spotted the suspects at the cellphone store on the same block on which her purse was stolen about an hour before, according to a police news release.

But it was the woman’s quick cancellation of her debit card that prevented its use to open an account, police spokesman J.J. Treviño said.

“If it wasn’t for that I’m sure these individuals probably would have been able to open an account,” Treviño said.

Her quick actions prevented the fraudulent purchase, and authorities say anyone who could be the victim of theft should act just as quickly to protect assets and information.

“Everyone should be aware of what they are doing with their identity nowadays,” Treviño said. “It’s so easy because of the Internet, but just like anything else, you need to be aware of what you have and what you have is kept safe.”

Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Johnny Hernandez said with credit and debit cards, it’s important to have all those numbers written down somewhere and kept away from the actual cards so that if a purse or wallet is stolen, banks and credit companies can be alerted immediately.

Authorities agree that the worst thing any victim of theft involving financial and personal information can do is nothing at all.

“The more time you take to report that card, more damage is going to be done,” he said.

Internal Revenue Service spokeswoman Irma Treviño said that while it’s difficult to not carry credit and debit cards, people should never carry their Social Security cards.

“Be very careful with personal information, and when I say ‘very careful’ I mean not to provide anyone with your Social Security card or credit card accounts,” she said. Nor should information on those cards be given over the phone unless a person made the call and knows the person on the other line.

Irma Treviño and Hernandez both said it’s important to lock Social Security cards and other important personal information in a lock box or secure place.

“Not only Social Security numbers should be kept safe, but also credit card numbers and passwords and bank account information,” Irma Treviño said. “Don’t ever throw away those (bank) slips because they make up other cards, other ways of trying to steal your identity. We cannot give clues to thieves.”

But if personal information is stolen, act quickly.

“You’re going to have a horrible headache for many years, but don’t let it go. As soon as you find out you are a victim of identity theft, you need to report it immediately and follow up. Don’t let it go,” Irma Treviño said.

To report identity theft, call the IRS specialized identity theft unit at (800) 908-4490.

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com

Protect yourself:

When people’s identities are stolen, there are important steps to take.

  • Notify the police or sheriff’s office;
  • Contact driver’s license office;
  • Notify creditors and merchants;
  • Notify your bank;
  • Contact the Social Security Administration;
  • Notify the Federal Trade Commission;
  • Notify the U.S. Passport Agency.

Report the theft to one of three major credit reporting agencies:

  • Equifax: To request a credit report: (800) 685-1111. To report fraud: (800) 525-6285 or write to P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374 or the website: www.equifax.com.
  • Experian: To request a credit report or report fraud: (888) 397-3742 or write to P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013 or website: www.experian.com.
  • Trans Union: To request a credit report: (800) 888-4213. To report fraud: (800) 680-7280; write to P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634; www.transunion.com or email: fvad@transunion.com

SOURCE: Texas Department of Public Safety

Article source: http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/local/article_276fd024-b148-11e2-8fb6-001a4bcf6878.html

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