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Ask a Trooper: 3 Identity Theft Scams Every Royal Oaker Should Be Aware Of

The following article was written by Michigan State Trooper Mike Sura, who answers questions about Michigan law in a weekly column.

The first thing I will tell you this week is there was no reported cattle rustling in the area.  I think we have caught all the cattle rustlers in the area.  However, 12.6 Million Americans were victimized by Identity Theft in 2012.  This is the second highest total since the Federal Trade Commission began counting victims in 2003.  The identity thieves made off with over $3 billion as well. 

Overall, roughly 1 in 20 consumers were victims of some form of identity theft.  WOW, right.  Did this information get your attention?  These stats are staggering and I don’t feel it is ever a bad time to remind everyone or make those unaware, aware to monitor your checking, credit card, and personal finance accounts.

First, what is identity theft?  Identity Theft occurs when information of a real, living, person, or real entity is, used for some type of criminal gain.  Whether it’s used to hide from authorities, establish bogus residency, or for financial gain.  Identity thieves use a variety of methods to attempt and steal your information.  We know places of business are attacked through computers in an attempt to steal information electronically.  Our financial institutions though work hard to protect our information and keep it safe from cyber-attacks.   The next place to steal information is directly from us whether were aware of it or not. 

One scam commonly used is the thief telephones you claiming to be an investigator.  They ask if you have authorized an expensive purchase.  Naturally you respond “no”, they then ask permission to investigate on your behalf.  To begin the “investigation” they start to solicit personal information.  In the end, the thief is able to make unauthorized purchases on your accounts by the information they’ve obtained.

A second scam is the thief sends an e-mail claiming to be the Internal Revenue Service.  The fake IRS then informs you of an E-Audit.  The fake IRS solicits all your tax information via e-mail. 

A third scam is someone claims to be the police and a family member has been arrested in an out of country or in another state.  They advise that you must post a bond for your family member to be released.  You may even get to talk to the family member briefly to be more convinced.  They then advise you were to send the money in order to free your family member.  They may also in another scenario advise you they are from your bank and need to talk to you about a suspicious purchase.  They begin to solicit information about your account and you.

Now these are just a few scams and tricks but there are things we can do to help protect ourselves.  First, if a government agency or a financial institution contacts you, you do not have to immediately start answering questions.  I know this may sound silly but hang up the phone, go to the phone book, and call the department or bank back.  If they are looking for you they will get you to the correct person.  Do not respond to suspicious e-mails again you can always contact the soliciting agency directly if you believe there is a concern.  Check your credit history once at least once a year.  If you note anything suspicious or unusual do some further checking.  Someone may have stolen your information without you being aware.  Protect and secure your purse and wallet.  Don’t leave your purse or wallet in an unsecured location.  As I have mentioned it only takes a few seconds for someone to walk off with those items.  If you think you have been a victim of identity theft call the police.  Did you know only 1 in 4 people contact the police to report identity theft.  Finally, if the person becomes threatening on the phone give them your security advisor number (810) 227-1051, at the Michigan State Police Brighton Post.  Tell them to contact Sgt. Thompson or Sgt. Sura at the post.  We would be glad to talk with anyone trying to steal your identity.  Maybe together we can start to round up these identity thieves.

If you have a questions or comments please email them to askatrooper12@gmail.com, or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police – Brighton Post, 4337 Buno Road, Brighton, MI  48116.


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