Indiana – Identity theft continues to be a significant issue in the Midwest, particularly affecting Hoosiers. As we leave the first month of 2024, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has already received over a thousand reports of identity theft from Hoosiers. This alarming number underscores the growing concern and the need for increased vigilance and preventative measures.
Joannie Wei, the assistant director of the FTC’s Midwest Region Office in Chicago, emphasizes the severity of the issue in Indiana. “This is one of the top issues reported to us from folks in Indiana,” she stated. The most prevalent form of identity theft remains credit card fraud, where scammers access an individual’s credit card information. They then use this information either to open new accounts or to make unauthorized purchases.
However, a worrying trend has emerged recently. According to Wei, “loan and lease fraud” is on the rise. In these cases, identity thieves use stolen information to apply for small business or personal loans under someone else’s name. This form of fraud is notably impacting a different demographic compared to the past decade. Hoosiers aged 30 to 45 are increasingly becoming victims, diverging from the previous trend of the elderly being primarily affected.
To combat this issue, Wei recommends that individuals first consider placing a credit freeze on their accounts. This action can prevent further damage as it restricts access to your credit report, making it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Freezing credit can be done by contacting any of the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.
Regular monitoring of credit reports is another crucial step. Individuals should be vigilant for unfamiliar charges or activities. Additional signs of identity theft include receiving calls from debt collectors about debts that are not yours or noticing that certain bills have stopped arriving, which might indicate that your information has been altered.
For those seeking to stay informed and protect themselves against identity theft, Wei points to identitytheft.gov. This website offers a wealth of resources for both preventing identity theft and recovering if it occurs. By staying informed and taking proactive steps, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of becoming victims of this ever-evolving crime.