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Consumer fraud series: Identity theft

Unassuming parties become victims of consumer fraud every day, all across the nation. Over the next few weeks, we will identify five of the most common types of consumer fraud, as well as discuss how they happen and what you can do to protect against them.

The first, and likely most common type of consumer fraud, is identity theft. In this crime, someone steals your personal information, including name, address, Social Security number, checking account number, or debit or credit card numbers. That person then uses your information to do any number of things. Those can include, but are not limited to, purchasing items using your account, applying for credit card accounts in your name, portraying themselves as you to commit insurance fraud, using your Social Security number to obtain a job, or applying for state or government benefits in your name with a different address. Again, this is only a short list of things that can occur. According to the Federal Trade Commission, as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.

So, how does identity theft happen? Again, there are numerous answers. Some of the seemingly most common ways information is stolen are through online shopping, scanning a card through a machine that has had a skimmer installed, throwing away paperwork containing personal information without first shredding or redacting it, or by simply leaving a purse or wallet unsecured in public areas.

When a person’s information has been stolen, accounts will often begin showing up on credit reports that the consumer does not recognize. Other red flags include receiving mail regarding credit cards that you did not apply for, or having money missing from a bank account that you know you did not spend. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you should first contact both your bank and the credit bureau. Once it has been determined that your identity has been stolen, it is highly advisable to then contact a consumer fraud attorney. Identity theft cases can be extremely complex and sometimes take years to resolve. An attorney can help you take the necessary steps to immediately protect your assets and secure your family’s future.

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