Retailers and consumers should be aware that Florida ranks second for receiving complaints about stolen identities and consumer fraud. The areas with the highest volume of complaints were the Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Port St. Lucie areas.
While many people associate identity theft with credit card fraud, the bulk of complaints involve using fraudulent documents or information to obtain government benefits. Examples of this type of fraud could cheat the victim out of social security money, tax refunds, government funded food or other benefits. Scams involving electronic transfers are typically used to commit this type of fraud.
Consumers can reduce their chances of becoming fraud victims by limiting the personal information they make available on the Internet. They should also refrain from responding to fishing expedition email requesting information about bank accounts or passwords. This type of email message also typically mentions an electronic transfer.
Similarly, consumers should only share credit card information on a secure website or call in their payment information. Paying via Paypal can also help reduce distribution of credit card numbers. Consumers should be aware that credit card theft can occur even if the consumer still has his credit card in his possession. The vital information on the credit card is all that is needed to make fraudulent purchases. Review credit card statements regularly for unusual charges and periodically check your credit history to ensure that it remains strong.
Retailers and banks can also do their part to protect against fraud. Employees should request identification before cashing checks or accepting credit cards.
If you learn that you are a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft, immediately close any bank accounts that are affected. Contact your credit card company and follow their procedures. Alert the fraud departments of credit bureaus to your situation and request reports. The Florida Office of Attorney General’s website can provide additional ways to minimize the effects of identity theft and fraud.