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Consultants provide Andrews Airmen with important information on identity theft prevention, precautions

ANDREWS AFB, Md. -- An Identity Theft workshop was held by human resource consultants from Ceridian at the Air National Guard Readiness Center Headquarters Nov. 1.
''Identity theft is the number one consumer complaint," said Earl Gould, Ceridian consultant on identity theft and prevention.

The work group was held to teach, inform and provide resources to servicemembers on different types of identity theft, means of protecting personal information and guidance on what to do if a person believes they're an identity theft victim.

''In 2005, there were 8.9 million people who had their personal data stolen and used to commit fraud with an average amount of $6,383," said the consultant. ''That number has gone up 300 percent in four years."

Wallet whisking or pickpocketing, skimming or using a miniature credit card reader to copy credit card numbers, dumpster diving, shoulder surfing and phishing or sending fake e-mails to trick a person into sending personal information out are some ways thieves obtain material used to steal identities, said Mr. Gould.

''An identity thief's primary goal is to acquire personal information such as a person's real name, Social Security Number and date of birth, so that he can fraudulently obtain credit, merchandise or services," he said.

There are many different ways a person can protect himself or herself from identity theft.

''Keeping an eye on and guarding your Social Security Number, credit cards, wallet and purse can help prevent it from being stolen," said Mr. Gould. ''Protecting mail and credit card statements by having a secured mailbox that opens with a key can prevent people from opening it and taking what they want; monitoring credit statements, bank accounts and checks for outstanding balances that you didn't incur are also ways to prevent fraud. Avoid sharing personal information on the phone and online with solicitors and using caution when using a public phone and public automated teller machines are good ways of protecting yourself."

There are many different ways of reporting identity theft and fraud if a person believes they are a victim.

''Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus to report identity theft and ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your file," said Mr. Gould. ''Contact the security departments of local and federal authorities, creditors, lenders and merchants with whom you do business and ask for your accounts to be closed. Close bank accounts you believe have been used fraudulently; file a report with local police where identity theft took place or where you reside; file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and keep records of all written correspondence. File an affidavit of forgery or unauthorized use with all companies that have questionable charges. The FTC has a standard affidavit form on its Web site. Consider hiring an attorney to help you facilitate the process, but know that credit card companies will only talk with the victim."
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