Protecting Your Good Name – Part I 

You work hard for your money, and these days every dollar counts. But, there are criminals out there trying to take away what you’ve worked so hard to get.Unfortunately, identity theft is on the rise again. More people are trying to steal your good name.At the store, online, on the phone – once your private financial information is out there, it’s vulnerable.”For the first time in five years, identity theft has gone up,” says Jane Carpenter at the Attorney General’s office. “It’s gone up twenty percent across the U.S. So unfortunately, these economic times are fertile ground for identity thieves.”Carpenter says most victims don’t report the crime to police like they should. But she says the most recent data indicates it’s more widespread than people think.”One in every ten Mainers has been a victim of identity theft,” she says.People we talked to who’ve had their identities stolen didn’t want to appear on camera. They felt like they should have known better. “They don’t call the police, they just deal with it with their credit card company,” says Chris Greeley. “Some people are embarrassed to report it – or some people don’t even notice. Many times, a criminal will make small purchases and if you use your credit card a lot you won’t even realize it.”As a Holden police officer and a state representative, Greeley says identity theft in our area is growing. And he says we’re making it easier for criminals by giving out information without even realizing it.Greeley himself almost got caught the other day.”I received an email that looked fraudulent. So I X’ed out of it,” he says.Then a new screen popped up, asking him to log in again to AOL – which he almost did.”Then I immediately would have given them my screen name and password, which of course would have given them access to my credit card information for that account – pretty clever,” he says.As criminals get more creative, they’re branching out into other forms of identity theft.”One of the forms is criminal identity theft,” says Carpenter. “In that, someone uses someone else’s information, and is tried, arrested and convicted under someone else’s name. So we’ve had Mainers that have called and found out they have a criminal history.”Also, medical I.D. theft is on the rise. People get ahold of your information to use your health insurance or prescriptions, putting information on your medical record that doesn’t belong to you.Your name, your address, and your social security number – those are the only tools identity thieves need.”Do you have any idea what somebody could do with that information?” says Greeley. “They could attempt to open up accounts in your name, if you have kids they could get access to your kids information, medical records, who knows what.”Tomorrow, we’ll tell you how you can outsmart the bad guys – and better protect yourself from being a victim of identity theft.