The breakup of an identity theft ring in the Chicago area serves as a reminder of why it's important for people to check their credit card information for signs of suspicious activity that could ruin their credit score.
A report in the Chicago Sun Times recently featured the arrest of at least seven people, three of whom were sisters, for ringing up more than $300,000 in phony charges from various retailers with their identity theft scheme.
The newspaper added that one of the suspects allegedly obtained patient data while working at a healthcare facility at night. Using the information obtained, the thieves would allegedly obtain credit reports or apply to be added on to cardholder accounts. Apparently, the victims who did not take the time to check their monthly credit card statements were more likely to suffer financial damage from the scheme.
In his announcement, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart also suggested that retailers could be doing more to help crack down on people who open phony credit accounts. This has been one potentially overlooked detail in the nationwide discussion about identity theft and fighting fraud.
"One would hope that when a person immediately opens credit at a store, if they then immediately purchase four plasma TVs, someone might be concerned. No one was," said Dart, who went on to call it "horribly frightening" how easy it was for the suspects to add themselves to a person's credit line.
Given how easy it was for identity thieves to operate in this and other cases, it makes sense to keep close track of all monthly credit statements and to immediately question and report any suspicious transactions. People are also advised to stick to reputable online realtors and to be careful about where they dispose of credit card receipts.
Even those who closely guard their own personal financial data need to keep an eye out for signs of identity theft when considering the possibility that their information could still simply be mishandled or stolen at a healthcare or commercial facility.
Along with carefully storing their data, people are also advised to shred monthly credit card statements and credit offers after reading them, since identity thieves have also been known to go through trash to obtain data.