(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ahead of Data Privacy Day (January 28), Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued on Friday, an update on his office’s Identity Theft Unit, which helps victims correct the effects of identity theft.
In 2016, the Ohio Attorney General’s Identity Theft Unit received 1,057 complaints and helped victims clear more than $890,000 in fraudulent charges, according to complaint information.
“Identity theft can cause significant problems for people, and it can be difficult for individuals to correct those problems on their own,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Our goal is to help people repair the damage caused by identity theft so they can move on with their lives.”
Through the Identity Theft Unit, individuals can seek assistance from advocates who work on the victim’s behalf to contact credit reporting agencies, creditors, collectors, and other organizations that may have information resulting from the identity theft. (A self-help option also is available for individuals who prefer to work on their own.)
In one case, the Identity Theft Unit helped an Ohio man correct an erroneous medical debt that totaled more than $200,000. The man discovered he was being held responsible to pay for out-of-state surgeries he never had. The Identity Theft Unit worked with the hospital to prove the man had never had the surgeries in question and to clear the debt from his name.
Because children in the foster care system may be especially vulnerable to identity theft, Attorney General DeWine also offers the Identity Theft Unit’s assistance to help correct errors discovered on the credit reports of foster youth. In 2016, the Identity Theft Unit resolved 22 complaints involving minors in foster care.
Individuals can help avoid identity theft and protect their personal information by following steps including:
* Carry only the number of credit cards that you need for a specific outing. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place, not in your wallet or purse.
* Don’t give out your personal information unless you initiate the contact.
* If you are doing business online, make sure the website is secure and that your anti-virus, firewall, and security applications are up-to-date.
* Shred any documents that contain personal information before you dispose of them.
* Keep copies of credit cards (front and back) in a safe place so you will be able to call and cancel them if they are stolen.
* Check your credit history at least once a year using www.AnnualCreditReport.com [ http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ ], where you can access a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. If you notice any suspicious activity, contact the appropriate credit reporting agency immediately.
* Review your medical, bank, and credit card statements thoroughly upon receipt and notify the provider or institution right away if you find any problems.
* Consider applying a credit freeze in your name and your child’s name. A credit freeze makes it harder for an imposter to open accounts using your personal information. A new state law [ http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Media/News-Releases/September-2016/Attorney-General-DeWine-Reminds-Ohioans-of-New-Chi ] allows parents and guardians to freeze their child’s credit record.
Attorney General DeWine established the Identity Theft Unit in 2012. The unit is a division of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section.