Officials Warn of Increasing Cases of Identity Theft
JACKSON, Tenn. - Officials warn residents that identity theft cases have increased, impacting countless victims across Tennessee.
Sergeant Vatisha Evans, who is a criminal investigator with the Madison County Sheriff's Department, said identity theft can happen anywhere to anyone.
"Right now we get an identity theft case maybe on a daily basis," said Sgt. Evans. "Anytime you pull any card out of your wallet, you're at risk."
Officials said in most cases, victims were targeted after throwing mail, letters and documents containing important personal information into the trash.
"It's a year later or 6 months later when they get their first collection notice in the mail. Junk mail, pre-approval letters of credit card applications, when you get those things in the mail, dispose of them correctly," said Sgt. Evans.
Evans said identities can be stolen while victims are shopping, eating out or getting gas.
Officials said a suspect can create online accounts using basic information such as a victim's name and address.
The information on a debit card alone is enough for thieves to take advantage.
Transactions can be made at local convenience stores, online or over the phone without knowing the debit card's security pin code.
Officials said anyone having access to your personal credit or debit cards could take advantage of the information.
"If the cashier takes it to the back or something to run it, you need to keep an eye on that. We've had fast food restaurants where they've given their credit cards, not realizing until later in the week or maybe when they get their bank statement, their card has been charged twice or someone has gotten a hold of their card and made charges," said Sgt. Evans.
Evans said once an identity has been stolen, thieves usually start by stealing small amounts of cash to see if the account is available. The transactions are typically in small amounts and spread out which makes it hard for the victim to notice the theft.
Experts said you should always try to use cash and get in the habit of checking bank statements and credit reports. A theft could take victims several years to recover from.
If you believe a theft has occurred, report it to local authorities immediately.