A former law enforcement officer hopes his story helps others caught in identity theft.
Larry Russell of Firth retired from the Lancaster Sheriff’s Department more than 30 years ago. He says someone purchased a cell phone on credit, in his name, in Chicago; leaving a $500 dollar bill unpaid, putting a stain on his credit rating.
“You know, all the years that I got to go out and help people with identity theft and with other issues in law enforcement, when it happens to you, it really hits home then,” Russell tells reporters gathered in the Attorney General’s office.
The Attorney General’s office is promoting preventing identity theft prior to National Consumer Protection Week next week. The theme this year is “Protect Your Financial Footprint.”
Credit bureaus, such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, provide a financial history for consumers, including credit limits, loan amounts and payment history. Consumers are entitled to one free copy of their credit report from each of the credit bureaus through annualcreditreport.com. The Attorney General’s office informs consumers to pay attention to two sections: open accounts and inquiries. Open accounts list loans outstanding. Inquiries disclose any attempt to acquire credit under the consumer’s identity.
Phishing via email grows in popularity, according to the Attorney General’s office. Such emails appear legitimate, such as coming from a bank, a governmental office or other trusted source. They provide a link to a website that will attempt to gather personal and financial information needed to rip off someone. A tip: roll the mouse of your computer over the link and it will disclose whether it is legitimate.
Don’t give personal information to websites you cannot verify or over the phone or through the mail. The foreign lottery letter sent through the mail remains a popular rip-off. It promises a fortune if the consumer just sends in money to pay for needed paperwork.
Attorney General Jon Bruning says his office received more than 800 consumer complaints about scams and fraud last year. Bruning urges anyone who believes he suffered identity theft to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-727-6432 or visit the website ago.ne.gov. Consumers also can visit the Better Business Bureau website bbb.org.
Russell understands why consumers who have been ripped off hesitate to seek help.
“People get kind of embarrassed, ‘Gosh, I’ve been taken’ and just don’t realize you really to come forward,” Russell says, who adds that when he sought help from the Attorney General’s office, the problem was resolved in two weeks.
AUDIO: Attorney General Jon Bruning holds news conference on consumer protection. [30 min.]