COLUMBUS, Ohio —Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently announced that his office’s Identity Theft Unit received nearly 3,500 complaints and helped identity theft victims clear over $1 million in fraudulent debt during the unit’s first three years of existence, according to complaint information.
“Identity theft continues to be a serious problem for many Ohioans,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Victims can experience lower credit scores, rejection for a loan or a job, or even an arrest for a crime they did not commit. Our goal is to give people the direction and assistance they need to resolve the negative effects of identity theft and move on with their lives.”
In September 2012, Attorney General DeWine announced the creation of the Identity Theft Unit, a division of the Consumer Protection Section.
The unit helps victims correct problems typically associated with identity theft. At a victim’s request, a specialist will work with creditors, collectors, credit reporting agencies, law enforcement, and other organizations on the victim’s behalf.
A Trumbull County consumer reported a fraudulent $5,000 online loan taken out in his name. The Identity Theft Unit worked with the online lending company to clear the loan debt and with the credit reporting agencies to ensure the entry was removed from the victim’s credit report.
In another case, a Portage County consumer reported that an unknown person had used his personal information to open online accounts and make over $3,400 in fraudulent charges. The Identity Theft Unit worked with the companies to close all of the accounts and resolve the fraudulent charges.
Attorney General DeWine offers the following tips for avoiding and detecting identity theft:
Check your credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You can pull all three at once, or you can stagger pulling your reports throughout the year.
Monitor your bank accounts. Look for suspicious activity, and if you find any errors, immediately notify your bank or your credit or debit card provider. (The Fair Credit Billing Act allows consumers to dispute credit card fraud within 60 days of receiving the bill containing the disputed charge.)
Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze essentially puts a lock on your credit so that most third parties can’t access your report. This helps stop imposters from opening credit in your name. Contact each credit reporting agency to place a freeze.
If your personal information has been compromised in a data breach, place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion — to place the alert, which will stay on your credit report for 90 days. The alert is free and will make it more difficult for someone to open credit in your name.
Consumers who believe they have been the victim of identity theft should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.