July 25, 2014

Medina
Clear
50°F

Identities can be stolen easily

By CATERINA GUINTA

Staff Intern

A person’s identity can be stolen by doing something as simple as using a computer or checking the mail.

Members of the Medina County Young Professionals got a lesson Thursday on exactly how easy it is.

Using only a computer and having only a man’s name, Fraud Investigator II Kevin Perrin found his middle initial, spouse’s name, various positions in organizations, location of breakfast on April 25, information about when his house was built, who’s name it was in and how many baths it had, property tax amount, value of property, income in 2006 and e-mail address.

The group, men and women in their 20s to 40s who meet for social, educational and professional events, looked around at each other in shock after hearing what Perrin found. Some gasps were audible as Perrin asked the man if his home had a deck or his neighbor had a pool.

To avoid being a victim of identity theft, Perrin warned against putting things in an unsecured mailbox because someone can take mail out and get valuable information. He also advised attendees to shred everything, stop letting mail sit in the mailbox, resist giving personal information over the phone, check accounts on a regular basis, pick up new checks at the bank and resist writing a PIN on the back of a debit card.

Sheriff’s Deputy Kim Detchon holds classes for seniors about identity theft. She mainly teaches them how to protect themselves while on the Internet.

For example, if there’s a closed lock on the bottom of a page, that means the page is secure, she said. Also, if the address bar says “https://” that signals it’s a secure site. Sometimes imposters put out pages that look exactly like a bank’s page, and Detchon said it’s important to look out for those two things.

She also mentioned there is an average of one case of identity theft a week in Medina County.

If a consumer is a victim of identity theft, Perrin suggested putting a fraud alert on his or her accounts by contacting one of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion or Experian. Once the consumer contacts one, that bureau will alert the other two.

While identity theft is nearly impossible to avoid completely, Perrin said it helps to take precautions.

“You can’t stop it,” Perrin said. “But you can try to prevent it.”

Alert vs. freeze

An Equifax Credit Agency representative said the advantage to freezing credit is that no one can access a consumer’s credit without his or her permission. When freezing credit, a consumer receives a PIN to remove the freeze, but there’s a penalty if you lose the PIN.

Placing a freeze on the account doesn’t protect against someone using a person’s existing accounts. But it does stop potential thieves from creating new accounts in a victim’s name, also known as new account fraud.

The disadvantage to freezing an account is that any time the consumer wants to make a big credit purchase, he/she has to unfreeze the account, which takes time. According to Equifax.com, when freezing an account it is useful for the consumer to plan ahead.

“Under the laws of some states, it may take up to three business days to process a request to temporarily lift a security freeze,” according to Equifax.com. “Additionally, you may not be able to request a temporary lift of a security freeze during non-business hours or on weekends.”

FirstMerit fraud analyst Jennifer Herman recommends an extended fraud alert instead of a credit freeze.

“An extended fraud alert can last for seven years and that should be sufficient,” Herman said.

A fraud alert can be renewed and it will warn a consumer if someone is using an account in a suspicious way.

For example, if a consumer used a card in Ohio and 20 minutes later someone is using money from that same account in California, the consumer will be alerted. Fraud alerts will also notify the holder if a new account is opened, Herman said.

“If you have an alert and you are notified that someone is attempting credit, you are contacted by a (phone) number that you provide to the bureau,” Herman explained.

She said the fraud alerts are free, an advantage over credit freezes which have a cost.

But the Ohio legislature recently passed a law that reduces that fee. It allows consumers to freeze their credit with the three credit agencies for $5 each.

According to the Legislation Service Commission’s Web site, the law’s purpose is to “decrease the fee that a consumer credit reporting agency may charge for placing a security freeze on a consumer’s credit report from $10 to a reasonable fee not to exceed $5.”

That means for a complete freeze it’s $15 and it’s another $15 to thaw. If a consumer is an identity theft victim, however, it’s free to freeze.

Foundations Children’s Products

Foundation Children’s Products announced Sept. 4 it’s taking over select assets of Cincinnati-based Brocar Products Inc. Foundations Children’s Products, 7001 Wooster Pike, Montville Township, supplies cribs and child care products to hotels and child care centers. Brocar produces changing stations for public restrooms.

It is unclear how many jobs will be created in Medina as a result of the acquisition, Foundations President Joe Lawlor said in a statement.

“It is undetermined how many manufacturing jobs will be created long term as a result of the acquisition,” he said. “But it is estimated that three to four Medina-based salaried professional positions will be created within the coming months.”

According to the statement, the transition of Brocar’s operations from Cincinnati to Medina is expected to start at the end of the month. The two companies will remain separate, but they are consolidating manufacturing.

Guinta may be reached at 330-721-4046 or cguinta@ohio.net.


Quick Look

To request a 90-day fraud alert: go to www.alerts.equifax.com/AutoFraud_Online/jsp/fraudAlert.jsp or call 888-766-0008 for more information

To request a credit freeze: go to https://freeze.equifax.com/
A fraud alert and credit freeze can be accomplished at any one of the three credit bureaus

To get a free credit report: go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-FACTACT
Consumers can receive one free credit report per year, per credit agency.