Will the Real Ebenezer Scrooge Please Stand Up?

January 6, 2010

As the old saying goes, “buyer beware.”

It should come as little surprise that consumers use
their credit/debit cards from “Black Friday”
(Friday following Thanksgiving) to the day after Christmas
more than any time of the year. It is also the time
of year when cases of larceny and identity theft are
at the highest rates. When you think about it, when
we use our credit cards to purchase goods and services
we are basically handing over account numbers to strangers
so that such transactions can be processed. In the rush
of the Holiday season it can be very easy not to pay
attention to every detail when making a purchase.

Victims of identity theft and credit card fraud often
aren’t aware that they have been wronged until
their next monthly statement arrives. That makes remembering
small details about when the card was used much more
difficult. These details includes information about
the stores, the clerks involved in the transactions
and even information about the victim’s personal
schedule that could provide information as to where
the theft occurred. To make matters worse, many department
stores only have video surveillance capacity for a 30-day
period, if they have it at all. Thus, making a “photo
identification” much more difficult.

Many people are just now getting their statements that
reflect last month’s purchases. If you believe
your debit/credit card has been used fraudulently you
should immediately contact the issuing authority and
notify the banking institution. Law enforcement once
had jurisdictional authority over these matters meaning
that they only investigated the crimes that occurred
in their town. This meant the card holder was re-victimized
as they were forced to travel around the state to file
police reports in each town the card was used illegally.
The legislature changed this requirement and now allows
victims to file a police report where the crime occurred
or to the local police authority in the town in which
they reside.

In my many years of investigating these types of crimes,
the banks or issuing authority would credit you the
amount of money that was fraudulently charged to your
account. The bank now assumes the role of the larceny
victim while you as the credit holder can pursue charges
of identity theft. Some financial institutions will
not pursue charges with the police department and that
is their right as the new owner of the fraudulent charges.
While this may have made you whole financially, your
credit score may have been decimated based on the amount
of charges, past dues while you fought the charges,
overdraft limit protection fees etc.

The legislature recognized the predicament that hard
working, productive citizens were spending countless
hours and dollars correcting a mistake on their credit
reports because of identity theft. Public Act 09-239
An Act Concerning Consumer Privacy and Identity
states in part that upon conviction for identity
theft the court is required to issue
orders necessary to correct public records that contain
false information as a result of this violation.

Here are some simple steps to remember when using your
credit cards:

  • Never click on “remember my password”
    when purchasing on-line.
  • Never give a store clerk your social security number
    for ‘security reasons’.
  • Never let your card out of your sight. There are
    hand held machines that can copy your credit card
    information in an instant.
  • Never treat one occurrence as an isolated incident.
    It’s a crime, REPORT IT!

If you have any questions regarding identity theft,
feel free to contact me at 1-800-842-1421.