December is Identity Theft Protection and Awareness Month

Betty Q. Hixson

OHIO — December is being observed as Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the agency received 4.8 million identity theft and fraud reports in 2020, a 53 percent increase from 2019, with 29 percent being repeat victims.
“Identity theft is the No. 1 type of consumer fraud in the U.S.,” said Ohio Department of Commerce (ODC) Director Sherry Maxfield. “So far, the Federal Trade Commission reports Ohio having more than 33,000 identity theft reports, with 16 percent of those directly related to credit card fraud.”
ODC officials are offering the following tips to protect personal and financial information from online scammers:
• Before providing personal or financial information, verify you are interacting with a reputable, established vendor.
• Check the website security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page, but also read the site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used.
• Credit cards offer a level of fraud protection that you may not get when using debit cards, and their providers will likely notice identity theft activity before you do. Do not allow the website to “remember” your card information.
• Some credit cards offer features that give you additional levels of protection when you shop online. For example, some issuers provide virtual card numbers, which have a 16-digit number generated. Additionally, many credit cards also let you set up account alerts, which can inform you if purchases are made that seem suspicious or are above a certain amount.
If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft or other cyber fraud activity, contact:
√ the FBI’s Cleveland Division at 216-522-1400 or the Internet Crime Complaint Center at;
√ the fraud department at your bank, credit card issuers and any other places where you have accounts; and
√ one of the three major credit reporting agencies to place fraud alerts or freezes on your accounts. Get copies of your credit reports to be sure no one has already tried to get unauthorized credit accounts with your personal information. Confirm the credit reporting agency will alert the other two credit reporting agencies.
To file a complaint against a state-chartered bank, credit union or consumer finance company, call the Division of Financial Institutions’ Office of Consumer Affairs at 866-278-0003.

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December is Identity Theft Protection and Awareness Month

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