State Comptroller's Office Warns of Spike in Identity Theft

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By Matthew Searcy
By Randy Livingston

MT. VERNON -- Illinois state leaders are warning about the dangers of identity theft. On Tuesday, officials from the state comptroller's office held a workshop in Jefferson County, educating residents about how to protect themselves.   

Last year, more than 13 million identities were stolen, up more than a million cases from the year before. It's the nation's fastest growing crime.
     
Beth Horton was one of the victims.
     
"I got on the phone with the bank and noticed there was $800 missing from my account," explained Horton.  
 
Her credit card information was stolen at a local gas station.  
 
"I used my debit card and instead of hitting cancel after I did the transaction, I just left the gas station and I think that's where they got the number from," said Horton.  
 
Scott Mills with the state comptroller's office says many of the victims are seniors.  
 
"They just aren't up to date on all the technology and social media," said Mills. "They seem to fall prey to a lot of these scammers." 
 
Once an identity is stolen the victims often run into additional problems. 
 
"The long term effects can be damaging to your credit," explained Mills. "Somebody else could be out there purchasing items, opening new credit cards, new loans, getting new vehicles."
 
But there are ways to protect yourself. Simple plans like changing your Internet passwords every few months, reviewing bank statements carefully and using firewall software to protect computer information can make all the difference.  
     
"You just want to be safe with your identity, where you are buying stuff and where you are using your debit and credit cards," said Mills.  
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