Soaring identity theft problem spurs education forum
Experts say identity theft hit an all-time high last year — and the Canton and Plymouth area is certainly not immune.
That’s why state Rep. Jeff Noble of Plymouth has announced a consumer education forum, featuring representatives of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15, at the Plymouth District Library.
“We’re trying to get as many people as possible informed about this, especially older folks, to keep them from being taken advantage of,” Noble said.
While the elderly can sometimes be more at risk, Noble said identity theft is a crime that can — and does — affect victims of all ages.
Canton police Lt. Michael Steckel cited some of the area’s most common forms of identity theft:
- Criminals are stealing personal information and using it to obtain money by filing fraudulent unemployment claims.
- Every year, numerous residents try to file their tax returns, only to learn that someone already has filed a fraudulent claim in their name.
- Police routinely receive reports of a stolen identity being used to open fraudulent credit card accounts to make purchases or get cash advances.
- Residents have been billed after their personal information was used to pay for cable television or to pay a utility bill, among other services.
“It’s the new crime,” Steckel said — and it’s growing.
According to a report in USA Today, the rate of identity theft soared in 2016, hitting an all-time high. The report said an estimated 15.4 million consumers became victims of identity theft, up from 13.1 million the previous year. The report cited a study by Javelin Strategy & Research.
Fraud losses amounted to $16 billion, while one in every 16 U.S. adults became a victim of identity theft, the report said.
Noble said the forum he is hosting is intended to teach people how to protect themselves as much as possible from identity theft and advise them what steps to take if it does happen.
“Identity theft is a serious issue that can negatively impact your credit and pocketbook,” Noble said. “I want to provide this opportunity for residents to learn how to protect their personal information, both on and offline.”
The forum will focus on warning signs of identity theft scams and offer helpful resources for those who need assistance, Noble said.
Admission is free. The Plymouth District Library is located at 223 S. Main in Plymouth. Anyone looking for more information can contact Noble’s office at 517-373-3816 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.